Time Estimation Methodology
11 March 2019
by Daniel-Jean Simard


We all do Time Estimation during our daily lives for tasks we do on a regular basis. When you focus more on business processes, Time Estimation is obviously an integral part of Managing Projects.

(Quick note: This document is by no mean a training on the methodology but a high-level description so that you can understand the essence. Also, this is one version of a Time Estimation Methodology and there are several out there following different approaches with different flavours. You are free to pick and choose and even combine.)



“Our goal here is to make you consider certain aspects which, in time, we tend to forget or take for granted in our estimates.”

You will find when reading this memorandum that it tends to be more geared toward project management and you will be correct in that assumption.

Also, you will notice that we will mention Risk Management which, even though we will not go into details here (refer to my recent blog about Risk Management Methodology), has to be considered when estimating time and effort.



Yes, we know … Time Estimation is kind of obvious. And you are correct! So, as the expression says … let’s “Cut to the chase!”, shall we?



In a business environment, we are quite often faced with outside pressure to make things go faster, to make it cheaper, to sell it as being more affordable, and this is just to name a few. So, when you’re in the Program Management Office, for example, you’re always struggling with these concerns. (Keep an eye open for my next blog about Project Management Office.)

Bottom line is that there’s no magic! Any projects out there must be managed, and a key factor is “How long will it take” so that you can meet your goals. The point is to be REALISTIC in your Time Estimates. As a business, you will make the decision to either cut certain tasks or absorb some cost, for example. Also, this is time ESTIMATION and NOT FORECASTING … there is a difference and we will discuss this separately.

Here is what you should take into consideration when you estimate efforts:

The Items are in sequence and some are cumulative while others are just add-on; this will all be explained in the sections below. And we’d like to point out that we are not taking into consideration here the concept of a Pricing Model with Billable, Chargeable, Expenses and such.

On another note, you will see us referring to the GOLDEN RULES, well that’s just a term to refer to a best practice based on Emyode’s experience in the field.


Before we begin going through each section, here are the five mandatory elements to consider for a successful Estimation.


Time Estimation Sequence Element

OK so let’s begin:



  • If you estimate by HOUR, always Round to the nearest Half an Hour. If you estimate by DAYS, always Round up to the nearest Quarter of a day.
  • DO NOT consider Overtime as a factor. This is calculated separately.
  • DO NOT forget to estimate for EACH resource assigned to the project.




  • Make sure you consider EACH resource since NOT ALL will be involved at the same time and not at the same percentage.  The actual effort estimated previously should have taken into consideration the number of resources.




  • Adding 10% is pretty standard.


  • NONE – Well that is… no risk at all. That would be for User Stories which are more Administrative for example.
  • LOW – add 15%: Some information is still to be validated.
  • MEDIUM – add 20%: Using a new “version” of the environment, untested Hardware, vague deliverable; when at least 2 outside vendors are involved or 3 teams are impacted.
  • HIGH – add 25%: New Software or New Hardware, Critical Environment; Multiple Sites involved; Time Zone involved.


PROJECT MANAGEMENT (HR):  Lastly don’t forget Project Management. Now keep in mind we are not referring to PROGRAM Management which would have to be added Over and Above following the same Golden Rules. So, in this case, focus on the tasks a PM does, namely, but obviously not limited to resource assignment, scheduling, prioritization, coordination with internal and external teams, status reporting and so on. Keep in mind that at the Start and the End of any projects there is a larger demand on the Project Manager.



Overall a 20% should be added using the BASE EFFORT Estimate. Do not include the Overtime, Buffer or any other Additional Estimates you may have added.



Time Estimation is a very wide subject with several dependencies depending on your organization, what kind of services you’re offering, how the organization view projects, and so on and so forth. The goal here was just to describe a few principals to keep in mind when estimating efforts regardless of any financial aspects.

Have fun estimating!

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