Thursday, January 10, 2008

Historical Information and Project Activities

Historical information is an invaluable input to project activity duration estimating. As a project manager, you can use historical information, in the form of past project data, to make estimates on current similar projects.

For example, on a past project, John's company, Quick-as-a-Wink Computer Consultants, took five days to complete the audio for a two-hour software project. Based on this previous experience, John estimates it will also take five days for audio on the current two-hour software project.

There are many sources of historical information available to a project manager. You can start by checking the following three sources.

1. Project files
Past project files provide a fountain of information for project managers. A company may maintain records of previous project results that are detailed enough to aid in developing future duration estimates.

For example, John needs to know how long it will take to install a hub for a computer network system. John remembers installing a similar hub on a previous project. By retrieving the previous project files, John is able to find the information he needs. Since the first hub took 11 days to install, John will plan for 11 days on the current hub installation project.

2. Commercial duration estimating databases
Historical information is also available commercially through databases. These databases tend to be extremely useful when the activity duration is not driven by the actual work content.

For example, John needs to determine how long it takes a government agency to respond to a request for a license. John can contact a commercial duration estimating database company, which keeps information of this type on file. For a fee, the company will sell the information to John.

3. Project team knowledge
Another source for historical information is individual project team members who have worked on a similar project in the past. They can sometimes provide estimates of how long it took to complete the previous activity.

Remember, historical information can be a powerful tool for project managers. Don't be condemned to repeat the past. Instead, learn from it by using historical information.

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