See instructions below on how to use the calculator. ## Evaluating complexityIn any decision-making process, of which estimating is an example, we evaluate the risks associated with each possible decision. For example, when I decide to build a new house and apply for a mortgage, potential lenders evaluate the risk of the investment. They estimate the probability that I will be able to repay the loan. In this estimate, they may include such risks as the likelihood that the government will change the tax laws and disallow the deduction for interest payments. If this happens, what is the chance that I will still be able to repay the loan? They consider the likelihood that property taxes will increase or insurance costs will go up. For complex decisions of this type, it is possible to use probability calculations for each of the risk factors and look at the effect of the accumulation of risk factors on the ability to repay a loan or to make money on an investment. In determining the risks involved in completing a publications project on time and on budget, some years ago my organization developed a simple assessment tool that we call a Dependencies Calculator. The Dependencies Calculator uses straightforward linear relationships that are weighted according to level of importance to allow a project manager to assess the risks involved with a project. The Calculator asks the project manager to assess dependencies, or factors, that may influence the success of a project or make it easier or more difficult to perform. To assess a dependency, the project manager rates the dependency on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the best case and 5 is the worst case. For example, if the project manager knows that the technical team on the current project rarely completes its reviews on time and review comments are often incomplete or indecipherable, then he or she may choose a factor of 4 or 5 on the scale for the review dependency. This means that the problems associated with publications reviews in the organization are likely to increase the difficulty of completing this project in comparison with other projects in which reviews are handled in a timely and professional manner. Deciding that, in terms of reviews, the current project is about average for his or her organization, the manager would choose a 3 on the scale. The 3, as the center point of an odd-numbered scale, represents the average project for a particular organization. A 1 or 2 represents a better than average project; a 3 or 4 represents a worse than average project. The first five dependencies in the Dependencies Calculator are labeled external dependencies because they describe risks outside of the publications organization and the project manager's sphere of control. The external dependencies are - product stability/completeness
- information availability
- prototype availability of the product
- availability of subject-matter experts
- effectiveness of reviews (information inspections)
The four internal dependencies are those that may be within the project manager's ability to influence. The internal dependencies represent the publications staff's - technical experience
- writing and document design experience
- audience understanding
- team experience
The following table lists each dependency and provides an interpretation of its meaning. Let us look at an example of the application of the dependencies to a project. At Fateful Software Company, the publications project manager, Eleanor, knows that they produce user guides at an average of 5 hours per page at the company's standard level of quality. However, user guide projects vary. Some are easier to complete; others are more difficult than average.
Eleanor uses the Dependencies Calculator to decide on the direction and degree of variance from the norm. After studying the risk factors, Eleanor details the current project as shown in the following table.
In summary, Eleanor's choice of dependencies ratings looks like this:
Product stability = 4 When Eleanor runs the Dependencies Calculator, she finds the current project to be somewhat more than 10 percent more difficult than average. Since 5 hours per page for user guides is average at Fateful, Eleanor estimates that the current project will take 5.6 hours per page. Guideline: Develop a dependencies calculator of your own to reflect the situations that are likely to affect the difficulty of getting a project done in your organization. ## Using the Dependencies CalculatorTo calculate the hours per page (hrs/pg) for the current project:
Multiply the average hrs/pg by the total composite risk factor. To calculate the total composite risk factor: - Using the 5-point scale, rate each dependency.
- For the product-stability dependency (the first factor in Figure 8.19), find
the composite score in the table below for the risk level, or factor, you have
selected.
Composite scores for the product-stability dependency
Factor Composite score 1 0.80 2 0.90 3 1.00 4 1.10 5 1.20
Note: The composite scores for product stability are twice the scores for the other dependencies. This indicates that product stability is weighted more heavily than each of the other eight dependencies. - For each of the remaining dependencies listed in Figure 8.19, find the
composite scores in the table below.
Composite scores for all other dependencies
Factor Composite score 1 0.90 2 0.95 3 1.00 4 1.05 5 1.10 - Multiply all nine composite scores by each other. For example, for Eleanor's
current project the multiplication appears as follows:
1.10 x 1.10 x 1.00 x 0.95 x 0.90 x 0.95 x 1.05 x 1.00 x 1.00 =1.135 - Multiply the composite score by the average hrs/pg. In Eleanor's example,
multiplication appears as follows:
Project hrs/pg = 5.00 x 1.135 = 5.7
For the nine dependencies, each composite score represents an increase or decrease in difficulty of 5 percent from the average. When the rating factor equals 3, the composite score is 1, indicating no change from the average. For product stability, the increments above and below the average are 10 percent. Note that a project that is perfectly average would have ratings all equal to 3 and composite scores all equal to 1.00. Multiplying nine 1.00s by each other yield a product of 1.00. Multiplying this total composite score by the average hrs/pg yields a current hrs/pg exactly the same as the average. The Dependencies Calculator is based purely on empirical data, the many years of experience I have had estimating projects and comparing actual project data with the original estimates. To find the right mix of dependencies and factors for your organization will also require trial and error. I suggest that you experiment with the values presented here and make modifications as you learn more about the factors that affect the complexity of your projects. If you want to change the composite scores, always be certain that the midpoint (factor = 3) is 1.00. The increments above and below 1.00 need not be equal, but if they are not equal, the relationship among the scores will no longer be linear. Be careful about assuming nonlinear relationships without carefully testing the results. The nine project dependencies have worked well for years in helping us to assess difficulty of performing a particular project. However, you may find it advantageous to develop your own list of dependencies. If you elect to do so, look closely at the risks that exist in your organization. What influences project success? Why do some projects go over budget and schedule? Why do others finish on time? What is the difference? Guideline: Use the dependencies calculator to evaluate the composite risk factors of your project. ## Calculating total project hoursArmed with a dependencies calculation of the relative complexity of the current project and your early indicator of the size of the project, calculating the total hours required to complete the project is now a simple matter. The total hours required to complete the project equals the number of pages in the document times the calculated hours per page (complexity metric). For example, Eleanor, the Fateful project manager, calculated the hours per page for her current project to be 5.7. Based on the Information Plan, she and her planning team believed that the user guide for the new product would resemble a user guide created for a similar project 2 years earlier. That guide was 168 pages long. Using her previous experience, the team then looked at the functionality of the new project and compared it with the older one. They found that marketing had suggested that the new product would have more functionality than previous projects. The early indicators, then, suggested an increase of about 15 percent. Using this information, they calculated the size of the new user guide to be 192 pages, or 15 percent larger than the old user guide. Then, Eleanor multiplied 192 pages by the complexity factor of 5.7. She found that she could estimate that it would take 1,092 hours to complete the current project. The total of 1,092 hours would include all the time required for project management, writing, research, editing, illustrations, and production of the camera-ready copy, as well as the time required to see the book through printing and into the correct distribution channels. From the book, Managing Your Documentation Projects, by JoAnn Hackos. |

## Dependencies Calculator |

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