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Task Duration Checklist


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Task Duration Checklist If you plan to start a new project, it’s important for you to make correct estimations to define task durations. In this Task Duration Checklist there’re valuable suggestions and tips that can help you plan, estimate and control durations of your project’s tasks.

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1. Plan before Estimating.

Before you start estimating task duration hours some preliminary steps should be taken. Such steps help generate important information that will serve as the basis for making meaningful time estimates and schedules. The following steps are essential to project management:

  • Use a scope statement document to review stakeholder requirements and define what is inside and outside of your project.
  • Confirm a work breakdown structure (WBS) that you can use to make separate task lists.
  • View details per task (task name, description, assignment).
  • Clarify task dependencies.
  • Identify risks including Critical Path (the longest consecutive path for completion) and task variations.

2. Estimate Task Duration.

  • Task duration estimation by PERT. Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) allows calculating a weighted average that conflates the three varieties of estimate, such as Optimistic Duration (O), Pessimistic Duration (P) and Most Likely Duration (ML). There is a PERT equation that lets derive a weighted average by the following formula: [(O + 4 x ML + P) / 6]. PERT also takes into accounts such parameters as Task variance and Normal distribution. However, the first three parameters are usually enough to make necessary estimations with task duration time.
  • Expert Advice. When you try to estimate task duration, you need to remember that there is always an option to involve external or out-house support. For example, in your brand new project you’re going to use a unique technology and you do not have enough in-house capacities and human resources to estimate time necessary for evaluating and implementing this technology. In such a case you can look for consultants and professionals who can make independent investigations and tests of your new technology and provide expert advice and conclusions. This information will be helpful for you to design correct formats and formulas.
  • Lessons Learned Technique. Perhaps, you’ve already run some projects that are similar to your current project. Or maybe you’ve read about success experience and practices of other people who schedule their projects and tasks by doing some work and using certain techniques. In such cases you can investigate the methods previously used in completed projects and adopt experience of others to your new project.
  • Nominal Group Technique. This method for estimating task duration in projects can be used in cases your team members clearly perceive your current project, realize the amount of work they need to do to delivery this project, and share one and the same understanding of the task nature. Here’s how this technique works:
    • Each member of the group is asked to provide his/her own vision on task duration estimates. For example, Peter, a member of your team, believes that the duration of every typical task in the project is equal to 4 hours. Meanwhile, Serge, another team member, thinks that the duration is equal to 6 hours. Both members provide nominal estimates. In such a way, you’ll need to talk to all the teammates and gather their nominal time estimates.
    • All the nominal estimates should be aggregated and combined into a single chart. Then in this graph document you’ll need to group the estimates by two sections. The first section includes estimates with the longest durations; the second section includes estimates with the shortest durations.
    • Now you need to conduct a meeting with your team to present the chart. During this meeting you will discuss both sections of the chart with your team and ask every team member why he/she thinks the first or second group of duration estimates should be used in the current project.
    • Such a meeting can be conducted several times until all of you choose the most suitable estimates. Brainstorming and group discussions are two popular decision making methods that can be used during your team meetings.

3. Control Task Duration.

  • Tracking schedules and timesheets. Task durations are embedded into schedules and timesheets that you need to track. In a typical schedule there’re tasks with such columns as Name and Duration. You can add a new column that shows time deviations and variances. In such a way you can track schedules and see which tasks have time deviations and delays. You can control schedules and task duration in Microsoft Project software.
  • Delegation. Delegating tasks is a great way of task duration control. It allows you to re-allocate tasks that are performed with delays and to re-define durations even if your project is in progress. You can start delegating a certain task if the following conditions are met:
    • Time-related characteristics (due date, deadline, expected completion date and the like) of this task prove a delay.
    • Team members assigned to the task have no sufficient skills, knowledge and expertise to ...

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