How to estimate delivery date with unidentified tasks



  • Given a software project which is complete when all of its deliverables are delivered, in which each deliverable has sub-deliverables, in which each sub-deliverable has multiple tasks assigned to it

    It is possible that not all tasks have been identified at the start of the project, and that some sub-deliverables require many more tasks to be completed during the course of the project before the sub-deliverable is complete.

    How does a project manager accurately account for these unknown tasks in the beginning, to provide a more accurate approximation of project completion date?



  • By estimating iteratively.

    Look into the cone of uncertainty.

    At the start of the project, the amount of uncertainty is high, and the cone wide. Thus, your estimate would be 'between 2 and 6 months'.

    Partway through, the uncertainty lessens and the cone thins. One month in, the cone becomes '3 to 4 months'. 3 months (12 weeks) in, it becomes '13-14 weeks'.



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