Take the Guesswork out of Creating Accurate Estimates

October 31, 2019 Yoni Barkan

As a former Solutions Engineer for Appirio, I know that a lot of the art of estimating lies with the experience of the estimator. But the science of estimating is greatly enhanced by the quality of the tools. At Appirio, we scope and estimate projects constantly. Finding a way to improve the process was imperative.  Our solution, Estimator, takes the guesswork out of creating accurate estimates.  

In our last article, we looked at how Estimator helps companies getting scope right. Now that you have scoped your project - having carefully selected what’s in and what’s out – it's time to create your timeline, add your resources, and price the estimate. 

Timelines are a tricky thing. Some companies, like us, rely heavily on them – others don’t want to provide customers with that level of detail. But we have found that visualizing the project or program – even if you are giving estimated dates – provides something concrete for the customer to see and understand.  This can lead to a significant increase in close rates and successful project delivery. 

Most companies use Excel or Google Sheets for this and while there are some collaboration elements built into those tools, there is no comparison with the power of Chatter and Salesforce. Having the detailed estimates and timelines in your system of record ensures that everyone is perfectly clear on the details and status of the estimate. Questions can be asked in the right context and everyone can see the history of those conversations. 

Quick Timeline Builder 

With Estimator, just like with scope templates, you can create timeline templates and save them in a timeline library. This is a huge, time-saving feature - the last thing you want to do is keep recreating project timelines. If you have a specialty, or a variety of delivery models, you can save multiple timelines in the library. Thus, enabling you to start from what you know and with the timeline that has proved to be most accurate for the current type of project you’re estimating. 

Once the timeline has been selected, you can easily make ad hoc adjustments to the duration, define the phases, add milestones, and even color-code phases and milestones to visualize the key elements of the timeline. If needed, you can even export the timeline. 

Take the guesswork out of adding resources 

After the timeline has been defined, you can assign roles to the project. The template could contain the baseline set of resources required and then you can adjust as you see fit. Within Estimator you can manage all your rate cards, so when you define what roles you need for a project, you are automatically calculating the rates and costs.  The best part of this is that we integrate Estimator with your current PSA solution. So, you don’t have to duplicate rate cards. However, if you don’t have a PSA solution in place, Estimator can become your master for that data. 

When all roles have been added to the timeline, you can easily see the difference between actual and needed hours. This is my favorite part – we have a window that shows the Capacity Needed vs. Actual (what’s been added to the timeline) making it so easy to compare against the level of effort defined in the scope and what you have allocated on your timeline.  Once you have that, it is easy to adjust and ensure you are planning for the right coverage. 

At the top of each timeline, you can see the total pricing, the breakdown of costs and the calculated As Sold Margin.  Add travel and expenses, discounts or change the contract type (Fixed Fee deals have different pricing models than Time and Materials). With all of this information in one place, you can provide fast and accurate estimates. 

There is so much more we could talk about! I won’t get into the details here and now, but you can have multiple timelines on an estimate and use that to define the phases of a large program, or you can create different timelines and staffing models. We use this to show customers how different delivery models can impact the pricing and overall time frame of a project. With templates, you can create timelines that represent small, medium and large projects so that you can create ROMs (Rough Order of Magnitude) in seconds.  

Like you, we know the importance of creating accurate estimates fast. Estimator was developed by estimators for estimators to help take the guesswork out of creating accurate estimates.  

Want to learn more? Schedule a demo with us. We can show you how Estimator takes the guesswork out of creating accurate estimates.  

Going to Dreamforce this year? Come visit us in Moscone South at Booth #1512 or at Trailhead in Moscone West. 

About the Author

Yoni Barkan

Yoni Barkan is Appirio’s VP of Products and Innovation and loves to explore new ways to leverage cloud solutions to close the experience gap. Yoni’s work has been focused within the CRM space since 2003 and includes projects ranging from education to manufacturing to government. He spent many years documenting scope, building timelines, allocating resources and pricing projects with Estimator. Yoni now lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn (the land of strollers and dogs), with his two children, lovely wife, and cuddly little 85-pound pit bull. He was born, raised, and educated in California. (Go Bears!)

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