Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

There is a certain amount of anxiety on projects (more on larger projects) to be “within budget”, depending on the commitment levels and where you are in the scope definition and price assessment process. The repercussions of being "off", or "over-budget" can range from mildly unpleasant to severe; hence, the anxiety. Estimating costs and allocating resources is a skill that project professionals diligently strive to hone because it is the back bone of a successful project run. Others, like me, that are relatively inexperienced with this skill rely on experience or mentors to share their knowledge. I found some resources that provide perspective and tips on how to professionally and successfully estimate project costs and resources.

It is useful to think of “budget” as what you have to spend, and an “Estimate" as what the specific scope of work should cost. It has been my experience that these terms are used interchangeably, but the distinction is an important one. Before you can provide any reasonable estimate, you must clarify the scope first (Stener, 2010). Common sense right? Maybe, but budget-and-scope or estimate-and-scope mismatches happen all the time. I would expect that more change orders, disputes and claims on projects come from "missed scope", or "misunderstanding of what was included", than any other recurring project problem (Stener, 2010).

Big Dog, Little Dog: Performance Juxtaposition: Don Clark

I found Don Clark’s blog early in my Instructional Design program and have been following the feed for some time now. I relate to his writing style because it is straightforward and he tells me clearly what I need to know. (The “skinny”) He provides a detailed write up about estimating costs that can provide the instructional designer with several “at a glance” estimates for individual instructional design tasks. These figures are useful for putting together some preliminary estimates.

SEER software by Galorath

My instructional design background is rooted in Information technology, and I naturally gravitate to software that can help with difficult tasks. SEER is a project management software tool that is a little different than many that are on the market today. Rather than allowing you to simply document and chart your project, it can help you with project cost, effort and duration estimates. There is a great deal of information on this site, including white papers and case studies. It appears that you have to go through a sales representative to get a pricing schedule. I would love to know if anyone has experience with this tool.

Articulate Message Board

Lastly, I found a general discussion on the Articulate forum about the time it takes to create a course. Granted, this is referencing Articulate as the tool of choice but still contains some useful input from many different professionals. It is a virtual melting pot of “experience speak”. 

My web research kept turning up references to an article that Dr. Karl Kapp and Robyn Defelice wrote for the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) , but all of the links noted are pointing to an invalid location. Apparently the article was revised and moved. If anyone has the new link, do let me know because it clearly contained some invaluable information regarding estimating the cost of one hour of training development.


Stener. (2010, June 18). [Web log message].  Retrieved from


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  2. Julie,

    That is too funny I have been keeping an eye on Don Clark's blog as well. I love all the different templates provided to help get us started. That’s where I really need the help. Once I have a starting point I'm quick to change things to fit what I need, but looking at a blank page is so depressing for me. Good to know you see the value in this blog as well.