Effective Work Breakdown Structures / Project Estimating and Cost Management

As I said in my last review, I’m currently working up a tool to make it easier to create estimates. As part of my work I’ve been reading various bits of literature. Today Amazon delivered two books. At around 100 modestly sized pages each, they don’t take long to read.

Effective Work Breakdown Structures by Gregory T. Haugan was my first stop.

Haugan writes clearly. WBSes are one of the foundations of project management in the PMI/PMBOK tradition. Ideally, Haugan writes, a WBS aims to capture all of the work that will be done.

Not just the product — that’s a Bill of Materials or sometimes Product Breakdown Structure. Not the money spent or people assigned — that’s a Resource Breakdown Structure. Not the order in which tasks are arranged — that’s a plan or network diagram.

WBSes are important because I’m looking at bottom-up estimations. WBSes, which group all aspects of a project’s outputs hierarchically, lend themselves to being used in this kind of estimation.

I can see how this book would be a useful reference for a project manager (as descriptions of WBSes can sometimes be quite vague). I found it interesting though — as I don’t expect I will be imposing much rigidity on the users of my software — not immediately applicable.

Project Estimating and Cost Management by Parviz F. Rad was less satisfying.

I had purchased this one hoping to find a fuller treatment of estimation techniques but only got a fairly perfunctory coverage of a few. As I noted on my last review, the best book on estimation I’ve so far come across has been Steve McConnell’s Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art (unreviewed). Rad’s book however includes guidance on using estimates to perform a cost-control function. That’s beyond the scope of what I am working on, so I have neither read nor reviewed that here.

For a person completely unversed in estimation, Rad’s book is possibly useful. Personally I found it to be a very shallow treatment. I can’t recommend it.

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