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The Beginners Guide to Analogous Estimating in Project Management

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The Beginners Guide to Analogous Estimating in Project Management
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The Beginners Guide to Analogous Estimating in Project Management

Estimation might not be the most glamorous aspect of project management, but it’s undoubtedly one of vital importance.

Whether you’re renovating a house, planning a wedding, or managing a corporate project, having an accurate estimate can mean the difference between success and unexpected hiccups.

And that’s where analogous estimating comes into play.

But what is analogous estimating, and why should it matter to you?

Instead of starting from scratch, you look at similar projects you’ve completed before, learn from them, and apply those insights to your current project. It’s not about reinventing the wheel but understanding how the wheel turns, so to speak.

Now, this might sound simple on the surface, but like any skilled craft, it’s nuanced and requires a deep understanding.

This is not about cut-and-paste solutions but about finding genuine parallels that can guide a project to success. It’s a tool wielded by skilled project managers, not only in technical fields but also in creative, educational, and even personal endeavors.

In the sections that follow, we’ll explore analogous estimating in detail, without the fog of technical jargon or tired clichés.

Whether you’re a seasoned project manager, a student, or simply curious about how things get planned, there’s something here for you.

What is Analogous Estimating

What is Analogous Estimating?

Analogous estimating is a technique that harkens back to the age-old principle of learning from the past.

It’s about looking at the similarities between previous projects and the one you’re currently planning, drawing insights, and applying them to create a more accurate estimate of the time, cost, and resources required.

Think of it as using an analogy or comparison between projects.

If you know how long it took to complete a past project that’s similar to the new one you’re tackling, you can use that information as a benchmark for your current project. This can apply to aspects like cost, time, or any other variable that needs estimating.

It’s not as simple as just matching up identical projects, though.
It requires a careful analysis of what makes projects similar and an understanding of how those similarities can translate into accurate forecasts. It’s about discerning patterns, not just copying numbers – no two projects will ever be exactly the same.

Analogous estimating fits snugly within the project management toolbox.

It’s a part of the initiation and planning stages, where understanding scope and allocating resources is key. What sets it apart from other estimation techniques is its reliance on experience and historical data, rather than complex mathematical models or pure speculation.

Comparison with Other Estimation Techniques

While analogous estimating might sound like other techniques, it’s unique in its application.

Here’s how it stands out:

  • Versus Parametric Estimating: Parametric estimating relies on statistical modeling and detailed mathematical formulas. Analogous estimating, on the other hand, is more qualitative, relying on the project manager’s experience and judgment.
  • Versus Bottom-Up Estimating: Bottom-up estimating breaks the project down into tiny pieces and estimates each one separately. Analogous estimating looks at the project more holistically, using the experience of similar projects as a guide.
  • Versus Expert Judgment: Sometimes, projects rely on the subjective opinion of an expert. While expert judgment might inform analogous estimating, the latter is more structured, using tangible data from past projects.

It’s neither too rigid nor too loose, providing a balanced approach that can be incredibly valuable for project managers across various fields and industries.

The Science and Art Behind Analogous Cost Estimating

The Science and Art Behind Analogous Cost Estimating

In any project, big or small, cost estimation holds a place of critical importance.

Get it wrong, and you’re faced with budget overruns, project delays, and a lot of stressful boardroom meetings. It’s both an art and a science, relying on past experiences to forge a pathway into the future.

The science of analogous cost estimating lies in the collection, analysis, and application of historical data. But it’s not merely a cold, mechanical process.

There’s an art to selecting the right analogies, understanding the nuances, and applying them creatively to the new project. It involves intuition, judgment, and a keen sense of how things fit together.

For example, imagine you’re planning a concert.

You’ve organized similar events in the past but in different venues.

You can’t simply copy-paste the old budget; you need to analyze what makes the previous concerts comparable to the new one, and then artfully adjust the estimates to reflect the unique features of the new venue.

Variables in this instance include venue and staffing costs as well as the fee negotiated with different bands.

Analogous estimating is often preferred in situations where detailed information is scarce or where the project’s nature doesn’t allow for extensive breakdown and analysis. The analogy cost estimating method is flexible and adaptive, making it suitable for projects where uncertainty is high, or timelines are tight.

If we take software development as an example, project managers might not have the luxury of time for a detailed breakdown of every task.

Analogous estimating can be a valuable tool to quickly gauge the costs based on previous similar projects, allowing the team to move forward without unnecessary delays.

Steps to Perform Analogous Estimating in Project Management

Steps to Perform Analogous Estimating in Project Management

Understanding the mechanics of analogous estimating will make your budget and resource planning a simpler task.

Here’s a detailed guide to help you perform analogous estimating effectively:

1. Identify Similar Projects or Activities:

Before anything else, you need to identify the past projects or activities that are similar to the current project you’re estimating. This might require delving into historical data, talking to seasoned team members, or using a project management system that maintains a record of past projects.

2. Gather Historical Data:

Once you’ve identified the similar projects, you need to gather all relevant historical data. This might include cost, time, resources, and other key metrics used in those projects.

3. Adjust for Differences:

No two projects are exactly the same. Analyze the differences between the past projects and the current one.

  • Are there differences in scope?
  • Has the market changed?
  • Are there different regulations to consider?

Adjust the historical data accordingly.

4. Apply Expert Judgment:

Analogous estimating often relies heavily on expert judgment. If you’re a seasoned project manager, your insights might suffice. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to consult with experts within your organization who have been through similar projects before.

5. Calculate the Estimate:

Using the adjusted historical data and expert judgment, calculate the estimate for the current project. It could be a cost estimate, a time estimate, or something else entirely, depending on your project needs.

6. Document Your Process:

This is often overlooked but is vital for future estimating. Documenting how you arrived at your estimate — including the historical data used, adjustments made, and expert opinions consulted — can be invaluable for future projects.

Common Issues and How to Avoid Them:

  • Over-reliance on Historical Data: Don’t assume that because something happened in the past, it will happen exactly the same way now. Markets change, technologies evolve, and regulations shift. Be aware of these changes as you apply historical data.
  • Ignoring Expert Insights: If you have access to experts who’ve been through similar projects, use them. Their insights can add nuance to your estimates, helping you avoid errors that might be hidden in the raw data.
  • Failing to Document: As mentioned earlier, documentation is key. Future you, or future project managers in your organization, will thank you for leaving a clear trail of how you arrived at your estimate.

Like any tool, its effectiveness depends on how it’s used. By understanding and following these steps, and by being mindful of common pitfalls, you can make the most of analogous estimating in your project management efforts.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Analogous Estimating

Advantages and Disadvantages of Analogous Estimating

Diving deeper into the nuanced world of analogous estimating, one soon recognizes that, like all methods, it comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Depending on the project scenario and available data, this technique can either be the shining knight or the Achilles’ heel of your estimation process.


  • Quick and Cost-Effective: Analogous estimating is, above all, efficient. When you’re pressed for time and need an estimate fast, pulling data from similar past projects can save both time and resources. For instance, if you’ve run three marketing campaigns in the past year, using their average cost to estimate the fourth can be both swift and surprisingly accurate.
  • Less Data Dependency: Unlike some methods that require a wealth of data to generate an estimate, analogous estimating can work with limited data. It’s ideal for industries where projects might not have many antecedents or when delving into new, uncharted territories.
  • Flexible and Adaptive: Analogous estimating doesn’t chain you to a rigid structure. Instead, it allows for adjustments based on expert judgment. Think of a software developer drawing upon personal experience to provide estimates on coding time based on past similar tasks.


  • Accuracy Concerns: This method is sometimes criticized for its potential lack of precision. If the historical data or past projects aren’t closely related to the current project, estimates can go astray. Let’s say you’re launching a new, more complex product but only have data from simpler projects—using analogous estimating might set you up for budgetary surprises.
  • Over-reliance on Expert Judgment: While expert judgment can be a boon, it’s a double-edged sword. Over-relying on it can introduce biases. For example, a manager with a string of successful projects might underestimate potential challenges, letting optimism bias creep in.
  • May Not Reflect Unique Challenges: Every project, no matter how similar to past endeavors, has its own set of challenges. Analogous estimating, if not executed judiciously, can overlook these unique factors. Consider the subtle yet impactful differences between two mobile app development projects for different operating systems.

No tool is without its flaws.

The trick lies in understanding when to deploy which tool. Analogous estimating is undeniably powerful, but it’s essential to approach it with a discerning, informed perspective. Embrace its advantages in the right scenarios and be wary of its pitfalls to ensure you’re leveraging its full potential.

Analogous Estimation in Project Management

Analogous Estimation in Project Management

Analogous estimating is not a fleeting trend in the field of project management.

It is a foundational tool, deeply embedded in the methodologies and practices that govern both general project management and the specific area of Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

In the broader context of project management, analogous estimating often acts as a quick compass. Project managers of all types frequently turn to this method during the early stages of a project. It provides a high-level, ballpark estimate that sets the direction without having to delve into minutiae.

For instance, a construction project manager might use analogous estimating to gauge the overall cost of a new building based on similar previous projects, adjusting for location, materials, and labor.

Turning to PMP certification, analogous estimating becomes even more pertinent.

Within the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), a guide that lays down the framework for project management best practices, analogous estimating is highlighted as a valuable technique in the cost management knowledge area. It’s often utilized in the ‘Estimate Costs’ process where it facilitates rapid, experienced-based estimations.

Here’s a brief look at hour PMP and analogous estimation coexist:

  • Estimate Costs Process: Analogous estimating is often the go-to technique during the ‘Estimate Costs’ process of a project under PMP guidelines. By allowing rapid, experience-based estimation, it helps in formulating a preliminary budget without needing extensive details.
  • Integration with Other Techniques: In the PMP context, analogous estimating doesn’t stand alone. It’s frequently integrated with other estimating techniques, such as parametric estimating, to provide a more refined and tailored estimate.
  • Skill Development: For professionals pursuing PMP certification, the understanding and application of analogous estimating is a skill that showcases their ability to synthesize historical data with expert judgment. It speaks to their readiness to handle complex projects with discernment and agility.
  • Limitations and Discernment: While powerful, analogous estimating within the PMP framework isn’t without its limitations. It requires a seasoned understanding of when and where to apply this method. A clear grasp of the project’s uniqueness and a critical evaluation of the available historical data are essential to leverage this method effectively.

For those pursuing PMP or working within its guidelines, mastering analogous estimating can be likened to learning an essential language of the trade. It brings together historical data with expert judgment, creating a fusion that resonates with both logic and intuition.

Tools and Techniques for Analogous Estimate

Tools and Techniques for Analogous Estimate

Analogous estimating, although rooted in human judgment and historical data, is being transformed by technology. The integration of modern tools has not only streamlined the process but also enhanced the accuracy and efficiency of analogous estimates.

Here, we’ll explore some general tools and techniques, without endorsing any specific products.

  • Historical Data Repositories: Modern project management tools allow teams to build extensive repositories of historical data from past projects. These databases can be easily accessed and filtered to find comparable projects, making the process of analogous estimating more accurate and time-efficient.
  • Data Analytics and Visualization Tools: With the advent of sophisticated data analytics, project managers can now visualize historical data and trends. This helps in drawing more nuanced comparisons, transforming raw numbers into insightful visuals.
  • Collaboration Platforms: Collaborative tools facilitate seamless communication between experts and stakeholders involved in the estimation process. By fostering a collaborative environment, these platforms enhance the collective wisdom applied to analogous estimating.
  • AI and Machine Learning: Although in its early stages, the incorporation of AI and machine learning into analogous estimating holds promising potential. By learning from historical data and previous estimating decisions, these systems can potentially provide more refined and intelligent estimates.
  • Customizable Templates: Many modern project management tools offer templates that can be customized to include key factors specific to the industry or organization. These templates assist in creating uniform and streamlined analogous estimates.
  • Accessibility and Scalability: Cloud-based solutions enable teams to access historical data and tools from anywhere, allowing for more flexible and scalable analogous estimating processes.

While technology is enhancing the way we approach analogous estimating, it’s essential to remember that tools are only as effective as the people using them.

Training, understanding the project’s unique requirements, and the judicious application of these tools will always be vital components of successful analogous estimating.

Examples of Analogous Estimation in Project Management

Examples of Analogous Estimation in Project Management

We’ve put together some examples which underscore the adaptability and relevance of analogous estimating, showing how it is tailored to the unique demands of each project.

Let’s explore these instances to understand the practicality and applicability of this method across different fields.

  • Construction Industry: Imagine a construction firm that has recently completed a 10-story office building in New York. They are now planning to build a similar 15-story building in Chicago. Using analogous estimating, they might gauge the overall cost and timeline by scaling up the previous project’s data, considering location differences, materials, and labor.
  • Software Development: A tech company that has created a mobile application for one client may be tasked with developing a similar app for another client with a few additional features. They could apply analogous estimating to determine the cost and time required, based on the previous app development and then adding considerations for the new features.
  • Event Planning: A professional event planner who has organized a series of successful corporate retreats for small businesses may use analogous estimating when planning a retreat for a larger corporation. By analyzing the cost, resources, and time needed for previous retreats, they can form an estimate for the new event, adjusting for the size and specific requirements of the client.
  • Healthcare Project: Suppose a hospital has recently launched a new patient registration system in one of its branches. When planning to implement a similar system in another branch, project managers can use analogous estimating. They would consider the first project’s costs and duration, then adapt the estimates to reflect differences in branch size, technology, or regulations.
  • Educational Program Rollout: An educational institution planning to expand a successful literacy program from elementary schools to middle schools might use analogous estimating. They would analyze the existing program’s costs and outcomes, then create estimates for the new project, taking into account the differences in age group, curriculum, and resources.
  • Agricultural Project: Consider a farming cooperative that has recently implemented a new irrigation system in one region. When planning to introduce this system to another region with similar climate and soil conditions, analogous estimating can be applied. The previous project’s data would guide the new estimates, with adjustments for differences in scale or local regulations.
  • Manufacturing Expansion: A manufacturing company looking to replicate a successful product line in a new market might utilize analogous estimating. Based on the existing production costs, marketing strategies, and sales figures, they could forecast the new market’s demands and costs, adjusting for local preferences, competition, and regulations.

These examples demonstrate that analogous estimating is a versatile and practical tool across various industries and project types.

The analysis of past successes and failures, and considering the unique aspects of each new project, analogous estimating offers a powerful method for creating informed, flexible, and adaptable project plans. Whether in construction, technology, healthcare, or beyond, the fundamental principles remain consistent, yet always tailored to the unique demands of each project.


Analogous estimating stands as a testament to the fusion of experience, judgment, historical data, and adaptability in the field of project management. From construction projects to the world of software development, this method has found its footing, proving its efficacy time and time again.

It thrives on creativity, intuition, and expertise.

Stay open to learning, be aware of the common myths, and don’t shy away from innovation in your approach. It’s a method of estimation that works if you are working within the PMP framework or handling projects in other domains, the wisdom of analogous estimating lies in its adaptability and alignment with your unique project needs.


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