“How much will this cost?”
“How long will it take?”
Don’t you love these questions? Especially when you’re asked before you had a chance to get enough information to provide a proper answer.
So how do you answer these? …and be comfortable with your answer, as you may very well have to deliver on it!
I see a few ways to answer these:
- “Not sure… I’ll get back to you.” Safe answer, but be sure to get back with an answer, whatever it is, even if it is a referral to someone else.
- Give a ballpark. Make sure you’re range is wide enough to cover your butt, but note that they’ll specifically remember the lower end.
- Give a “wag”. If your ballpark’s range is too big, then it’s a wag (“wild ass guess”). Make sure you use that term, and say why you’re using it.
- Give a “researched” answer based on information obtained through research.
- Give an “experienced” answer based on direct experience (yours or your team’s). This is the best one, as it takes into account people, methodologies, tools, etc. that you know.
What you need to do is get the conversation going, to get the information you need to properly answer the questions. You’ll need details about this, that and the other thing. The less experience or knowledge you have at doing the work you have to estimate, the more detailed breakdown you should do. If you can’t break it down, then you need to add assumptions on which your estimate is based. The problem is that the more assumptions you add, the more restrictive your proposal may become.
You will get the details you need through a fairly elaborate line of questioning that cover a wide range of areas, such as: business goals, executive support, performance goals, subject-matter, availability of existing useable materials, target audience(s), learner’s location, level of details, learning outcomes, learning strategies, expected level of interactivity and engagement, expected/required length of the training, timeframe, availability of SMEs, number of review cycles, etc. …and, of course, the client’s values.
As there are many factors to consider, I usually recommended a two-part approach: do a first [smaller] project to scope the second [much bigger] project. I’ll dig more into scoping in follow-up posts…
So here’s a takeaway point: keep track of the effort spent during your projects, in the same way you estimated it in the first place! This way you’ll start collecting data on which you’ll be able to base your future estimates!