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The Anatomy of an Estimate: How We Scope

By: Rochelle Currier

We are frequently asked by clients, “how did you get to the estimate we received for our project?” First and foremost, we refer to our over fifteen years of experience and 1,200+ Salesforce implementations. But creating an estimate takes more than experience and historical data.

In an effort to address the “how” and be as transparent as possible, we have created the illustration below showing the key components that factor into our standard estimates. We’ll break down the various components and detail how they impact the hours scoped.


Known Knowns (GREEN)

Let’s start in the bullseye. This area of the circle is directly related to the size of your project. The amount of labor required for a project depends on many factors including the size of your organization, the number of stakeholders, and the number of process areas (programs, events, fundraising, memberships, and so on). 


So how do we gather the estimate requirements?

These “Known Knowns” are vetted during the sales discovery process, which is a series of conversations with our team during the initial sales cycle. One of our Account Executives will guide you through this process and work with our technical experts to explore your current processes and what you hope to gain from a new or improved system. These assessments are non-billable, consultative discussions where we ask pointed questions that will help us determine what the green section of the circle includes. This process typically takes anywhere from 5 to 20 hours and includes Q&A, research, consultant review, deployment calendar composition, solution selection, resource allocation, and other considerations.

When we combine this discovery with our historical knowledge, we have an exhaustive list of typical use cases that serve as measures from which we build a more specific estimate. For example, a data migration from Access with 30 tables and under 60k records typically takes 35 to 65 hours to migrate (depending on the complexity).

Where a client falls in the range of these use cases is determined by six variables:

  • The uniqueness of the requirements (are there out-of-the-box features and integrations that cover this use case or will customization be required?)
  • The complexity of the requirements (how many layers need to be peeled back to design and build a system that meets your needs?)
  • The number of requirements (is your project large or small?)
  • The level of uncertainty about workflows on the client’s end (how well are your processes defined?)
  • The time constraints imposed by you as our client (does it need to be done sooner rather than later?)
  • The accessibility of your team (do you have limited staff, limited availability, or limited experience?)

Once the configuration and data migration estimate is established, we extrapolate the hours needed for requirements gathering, system design, project management, and training based on averages calculated from over 800 previous projects. We also estimate the approximate project length and number of consultants needed based on the size of the project and your desired timeline.

At this point, we can get a sense of the project's diameter (architecture/project complexity). The diameter helps us extrapolate the next two levels (yellow and red) which represent project variances. Project variances are the portion of the project labor that we simply can’t confirm during the assessment process.


Known Unknowns (YELLOW)

The “Known Unknowns” are the yellow part of the target and can be unpredictable. As a result, we will build a project variance at 15% to allow for expansion to fit the breadth of the project accordingly. Every project will have a requirements-gathering stage to help uncover these Known Unknowns. The more use cases we unearth during our initial assessment, the more Known Unknowns we can see. For example, we may know there are departments or processes that need to be addressed, but we and/or the client may not know the complexity yet. While we’ve accounted for the time it will take to further address those Known Unknowns, we can’t confirm what they are in their entirety. This is evaluated in the requirements gathering period. 


Unknown Unknowns (RED)

“Unknown Unknowns”, the red section, stem from specific business requirements that don’t arise until after the sales discovery and requirements gathering phases. Sometimes the client was completely unaware of an Unknown Unknown, or the project itself may have revealed a new need. That’s okay. It happens. It is for this reason that our agreements allow for addendums - to account for the use cases that were not initially addressed. In some cases, the Unknown Unknowns can be addressed within the agreement by leveraging the project variance.


Hourly Rate

Market rate is established after we perform a yearly comparison for companies with similar tenure, qualifications, size, awards, and certifications. Discounts are applied to all nonprofit organizations and are secured for the length of the agreement.


Accuracy of the estimate

Considering all these variables, we have a very high accuracy rate when it comes to scoping our implementations. Some of this comes from our fifteen years of experience in the space, but most is due to preparation and having a solid system with tested processes in place. To see just how accurate our estimates are, reach out to us for a complimentary consultation.


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