When it comes to estimating an engineering project, you want to give your client the most accurate information that you can, and be able to give an estimate that meets their needs. This means creating a game plan and making sure that you have the success criteria of the project already laid out. You want to make sure you stick to the schedule but that’s not the only determining factor of success. In order to ensure that your clients are happy with the estimate and with the completion of the project, here are some tips and techniques that may help.
- Make sure that you understand what is behind the project, what you can and cannot do and ensure that you meet that balance. You may have a large amount of freedom on some parts, while others are very specific and give you limited ability to be creative. Make sure you know the definition of quality to the client and then exceed it.
- Be cautious in making commitments. If you cannot do something, then don’t tell the client that you can, or give time estimates that you know will create a lot of pressure. Negotiate with the client on commitments and always make sure that you have enough time to fulfill them.
- Don’t just make a plan, actually write it down or type it out and print it with HP toner. Writing will give you the ability to reason things out, analyze problems, determine possible outcomes and create contingency plans. Writing down a plan will minimize the number of surprises that you’ll have to deal with later on. Also, breaking each step down into smaller steps will allow you to track progress much more effectively.
- Create a process for repetitive tasks. If you are going to be completing a certain type of task regularly, then developing a process and a worksheet for that type of job will be hugely beneficial. It may take some extra time at the beginning, but you will save time every single time you work on a similar task down the road.
- Make sure that you create a time slot for improving your process and after you have worked on the project for a while, take another look and make sure that you are still on track. Make sure that you don’t need to adjust your schedule and make quality control a priority at certain stages of the project.
- Estimate based upon the amount of labor that is required for a project, not by the number of days, weeks or months you think it will take. This seems like it could be the same, but it’s not. Estimate the number of labor hours that will be necessary to complete the project and then translate that into calendar time.
- Make sure that you allow for training. You may have people on your team that are unsure how to complete a certain task and if you don’t factor in the time that you will spend training them, you will go over your time estimate and be off schedule. Also, make sure that you allow for time to learn any new tools or software that you will be using on this project.
- Don’t be afraid to use some of the tools that are out there. There are tools and software that use actual project experience in their databases so that you can create the most accurate estimate possible. Tools like Estimate Pro and others can make a huge difference in your business if estimating is something you do regularly.
- Make sure that you don’t get ahead of yourself. Mark off projects that are complete only when they actually are, not when they are close. You never know what last minute things might hold up progress, and always make sure that you use accurate numbers to track progress. Also, make sure that you stress to your team how important it is to have accurate reporting, and ensure they can report actual numbers without fear.
- Finally, have a contingency plan for everything. Your budget, schedule and other parts of your plan should have contingencies at least after major sections, if not built into smaller sections as well. Make sure that whatever surprise you face isn’t really a surprise at all.
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