Friday, March 14, 2008

Estimation - Unitization by solution or by components - Study of 2 Practices

Having been with e-Learning domain for around 9 years now, hence with little bit of confidence I can say that estimation techniques have been learnt the hard way and is still being perfected with various models. The maturity levels of gathering emperical data and improving upon the past estimation vs execution effort variances are rarely heard by me in my e-Learning friends circle.

Starting with per hour of learning model to Instruction design based effort multipliers to notional complexity level multipliers and currently looking at effort based estimation, I can say that e-Learning companies are still trying to get the "margin success" a recurring phenomenon.

In the company I work for is no different. Being an IT company delivering e-Learning content design services, it is expected that we too provide hueristic effort estimates like LOC, FP, resource loading chart (in case of a top-down approach) etc as with other technology projects. Any amount of convincing that we are different does not help either of us, since the sales team tuned to sell IT finds it complex to sell e-Learning. However few people who have had success with e-Learning find it an indispensable selling proposition for them to make some quick targets.

So initially we sailed in the same boat with classifying levels of interactive complexity and deriving best estimates by considering the good circumstances. Quick comparison with actual efforts we executed earlier confirmed our estimates are in right track.

Recently, we need to bid for an entire account where there was competition. The focus was submission of costs for various solution features. This broke our foundation with which we we defined levels - "based on interaction complexity efforts". This levels model required a great deal of documentation to make an inclusive list. The manager in me considers it to be a not good usage of effort.

While we mind mapped in our brain storming session, we found that there are various solution features, like PPT conversion, simple page turners, games, 2D Vector illustrations, 2D, 3D animations, 25 different interactivities and each of them can be combined to offer a solution in predictable ways.

The results were astonishing. Across the solutions there was a great overlap of efforts and it is indeed possible to group various solution in multiple price levels.

So instead of saying
  1. "For a given price I will give you Flip book, Drag and Drop, Match the Following and MCSS interactivities", or
  2. "My Instruction Designer would provide you with mandatory course features which is a passive animation and no support/interactive levels", I can now say

"For the given business requirement, I can think of the possible 2 solutions that address the need in the same price band. It is now dependent on the target users preference to choose one solution over another. So we would like to give you our User Research based Design Services."

Would you give your project to me, if I would tell you the above story ?
Well, the result of our submission to our client is still waiting for their consideration.

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