Estimating Customizations for Microsoft Dynamics NAV (Navision)
While over 86,000 companies worldwide and over 1.3 million users have come to value the ease with which Microsoft Dynamics NAV or Navision can be customized, there is the ongoing challenging of estimating the time and effort required to deliver customizations at least cost.
Most clients and partners adopt a fairly casual approach to eliciting requirements, determining the business value, and estimating the time and effort required of both the client and partner to complete and test customizations. This often results in estimates that are overly optimistic and deliver less business value at greater cost than a client had initially expected or anticipated.
It is important to understand how clients and partners can bring greater visibility and accountability to the estimating process. To improve the accuracy of estimates a client should insist on transparency from their partner. This means that as size and complexity of a project increases a partner organization should help clients understand what they can confidently estimate and what they cannot estimate without additional analysis. It is important for a client to understand that the best approach to improve estimating confidence is to perform a small analysis project up front to reduce the degree of risk and uncertainty that would otherise exist in an initial set of estimates.
It is also important for estimates involving projects or customizations of any size or complexity to get a second set of eyes. Peer or manager review of estimates is extremely helpful to identify estimates that are either too high or too low. It is often through reviewing estimates that additional options or solutions are uncovered to deliver the necessary business value at reduced cost.
Despite everyone's best efforts it is common for priorities or requirements to change. It is critical that a consistent process exists for reprioritizing and updating estimates as additional information is uncovered. There is no excuse for a partner exceeding an estimate without a client having been previously alerted to the issues of time or effort. While estimating customizations will never be an exact science it should at least be a transparent process from start to finish so that clients possess the necessary information to determine the best way to achieve their desired results.
Finally clients and partners should periodically revisit the accuracy of estimates against actuals. If a partner organization consistently under estimates work this would represent a systematic failure that has to be addressed through some form of corrective action.
The best estimates will always be delivered in a collaborative environment where both the client and partner are committed to understanding how to work together to achieve maximum results at least cost.