Whenever I take my son and daughter for a long drive, one question they always ask me in between is are we there yet? How much more time it will take?
If you are a business stakeholder sponsoring a project one of the questions you will ask your project or program manager is that are we there yet? When can we go live?
How many projects today we execute are in the state where you can say that it will take approximately this much more time to complete? If the question is simple and all the project/program managers know this answer then every PM should be able to answer this right. Still, why don’t we get an answer?
Let us take our travel scenario. If you are travelling from Place A to Place B, then you would know approximately the distance between these 2 places. and i am sure you will know the speed in which you are driving and how much covered in what time. When someone asks you a question, how much more time it will take you will probably be able to say, we will be there in an hour or hour and a half. This may not be accurate, but atleast you will able to reach there in that time, unless there is a traffic jam or you completely under estimated the distance to cover (which is very unlikely today with google or bing maps).
So, what are all the things that helped us in calculating the time to reach? Distance between 2 places, Average speed in which you are travelling, Distance covered, Time taken to cover the distance, Remaining Distance etc, Expected # of stops in between, Approx. time for a stop …
Definitely not rocket science. huh?
If it is possible in a travel, what is stopping us as project or program managers to do the same with our projects?
Of course, calculating the size is not easy in project management. Infact, there is no way you will be able to get the exact size. But, you can always get the size in some approximate number (Story Points, Use Case Points, Function Points, Gut Feel Number).
If you have a team which delivers, as a Project or Program Manager, one should be able to know how much they are delivering. Over a period one should be able to judge the team’s velocity (Average Speed) and the average time it takes to complete a Story/Feature.
Oh! We dont estimate, We follow Kanban. Great, you can always calculate the cycle time. Over a period, you will know the Cycle Time for different feature categories.
If you know the average velocity/cycle time (Speed), and if you know the features completed (distance covered), you will be able to say what is remaining and how much more time (approximately) you will take to complete the remaining work.
Agile methodologies were created to help the customers and provide business value. It doesnt mean that because we follow agile, we cannot or should not provide the needed information to business. Finally business needs to know where do we stand and how much more time is required to complete any work. One may not be accurate, but atleast should be able to give more or less correct information.
Prakash, you are from services business and it may happen in services business. Not in our environment. Be Honest. I have worked with different kinds of companies across the globe and i am sure we all know the reality.
It is very important to create the project management ecosystem irrespective of whether you follow traditional, iterative, agile or any kind of methodologies. If your project or program manager is not capable or interested in creating/providing the ecosystem, it is time for you to look for a new person. Dont expect the PMO to create a ecosystem for you. You cannot train people to do all these. It is like training a experienced developer how to program. If someone is interested, he would have learnt it by himself, anyways.
Check this article from Johanna Rothman’s blog Are We There Yet?: Creating Project Dashboards to Display Progress
The other argument, i generally hear from people is that this project was estimated by someone else and there is no way in the world this can be executed in that time. Sure, i understand what you are saying. Everyone is human. People make mistakes. But, as soon as a project comes to a Manager it becomes his/her responsibility. You may not be able to deliver something within the time frame what the other person has estimated. But at least you should be in a position to say how much more time it would require to deliver. Is that really that difficult?
If you are a manager and your organization is not supporting you to do all this, then it is time for you to look for a new job. It is upto you whether you want to be a Project/Program Manager or a Post Man/Cowboy.
If you are a developer, you take pride in being a good developer writing high quality code. If you are a Project/Program Manager, you take pride in being a manager doing all what is required.