I have been estimating projects for eleven years, so I’ve collected a lot of data on how long it takes to complete a variety of technical documentation and training development projects.
I track the hours worked on every project. At the end of the project I compare the actual hours worked against what I estimated and put this information in a spreadsheet. If I notice that my estimated hours on projects of similar type are consistently off target then adjust how I estimate that type of project.
However, estimating is not only about knowing the right formula. Over the years I’ve learned what information and what questions to ask to create an accurate estimate.
In the next several blog posts I am going to share the information that I’ve collected these past eleven years. Today, I will get right to the point and provide the formulas that I use for estimating how long a project will take to complete. In other posts here’s what you can expect:
- How to use a dependency calculator
- What are eLearning levels
- How to determine what level of e-learning to use
- Estimating oddball projects – projects with more than one type of deliverable, projects that are only a portion of the entire development process, and projects that don’t fit into any category.
- How to protect your estimate against surprises during development
… and now what you’ve been waiting for – my estimating chart.
|eLearning||Level 1||Includes creating a storyboard, programming, client reviews, and project management. Voiceover is estimated separately.||160 hours per hour of seat time*|
|eLearning||Level 2||Includes creating a storyboard, programming, client reviews, and project management. Voiceover is estimated separately.||226 hours per hour of seat time|
|eLearning||Level 3||Includes creating a storyboard, programming, client reviews, and project management. Voiceover is estimated separately.||333 hours per hour of seat time|
|Classroom Training||Includes a leader guide, participant guide, and PowerPoint presentation.||40 hours per hour of seat time (40 X seat time = total hours for development)|
|Technical Documentation||New – nothing currently existing or more than 50% of existing is changing||Includes only minor edits for graphics (cropping, lightening/darkening, adding callouts), client reviews, and project management. Indexing, parts listing, and creating illustrations is estimated separately.||4 hours per page in the manual.|
|Technical Documentation||Edits – between 25% – 50% changing.||Includes client reviews and project management.||3 hours per page in the manual.|
|Technical Documentation||Edits – less than 25% changing||Includes client reviews and project management.||2 hours per page in the manual.|
*Seat time = how long participants are in the classroom or how long it will take them to complete an online course.
- If eLearning seat time is under an hour add 20% to the total. For example a half hour, level 2 course is figured 226 X .5 + 20% = 135.6 hours.
- Estimating how many pages a new manual will have is tricky. The best way is to ask the client if they have an existing manual that is similar to the one needing to be written. I also ask the subject matter expert for their opinion on a page count range. Eventually, through experience, you will be able to more accurately estimate the number of pages for manuals.
- Do not short change yourself on documents with a lot of images. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way. Images still require time for edits/cropping, adding titles, cross referencing, adding callouts, formatting within the text, etc.