Shifting from Blind Optimism to Realistic Assessments

As a newbie engineer at the beginning of my career, I was confident about my project estimates. 

Trusting in my abilities, I thought I could whip up anything in record time. 

However, after repeatedly failing to meet my estimates —a common phenomenon in the tech industry— I realized I needed more caution. 

I delved into the study of estimation techniques, fine-tuned my processes, and drew on the collective intelligence of my team to generate better predictions.

Overambitious Estimates

I vividly recall one instance when my ambitious estimate, which I was quite proud of, met with resounding disapproval. 

My boss’s face turned red when I informed him that our next-gen ERP project would require over two years to complete. 

Despite our painstaking efforts to break down tasks, allocate resources, and factor in risks tied to novel technologies and uncertainties, this forecast was a tough pill for a project initially scheduled to span only six months.

The Four Variables Framework

After navigating several more projects, I employed an estimation framework centered around four variables: time, cost, quality, and scope. 

Tweaking one variable, such as time, would inevitably affect another, like quality or scope. 

This framework aided me in striking a balance between these factors and establishing more grounded project expectations.

My Go-To Rule for Estimations Today

With over two decades of experience, I’ve formulated a straightforward rule for project estimations. 

This rule acknowledges the inherent unpredictability of tech projects and helps realign expectations accordingly. 

I simply multiply any estimate I come up with by 2. For those in their first five years of experience, I suggest multiplying their estimates by 4.


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Leo Celis