The Difference Between Project Planning and Project Estimating

Regardless of the type of industry that you’re operating in, two of your most important jobs as a project manager will always be project planning and project estimating. However, it is far too common for people tend to use these terms interchangeably.

In reality, they are two completely different functions and should be treated as such at all times. Conflating project planning and project estimating will only create a situation where you haven’t done the appropriate amount of work at the start of the project, setting both yourself and your team up for disaster.

What is Project Planning?

Though project planning and project estimating are two completely different parts of the process, one will usually feed directly into the other. Project planning typically breaks a process down into a series of smaller, manageable parts to help not only guide progress throughout the lifecycle of the project, but also to determine the total amount of resources that will be required at any given time.

During the project planning phase, you will take a hard look at your deadlines, the amount of work that is required each day, the total number of people who will be assigned to any one task, certain risks that may develop over time and more. Using this information, you can then begin to create an accurate schedule for the project which will help you delegate these resources in the most productive and effective ways possible. You will look at any preparation work that is needed, whether or not you’re working in a controlled environment, what types of equipment you will need and more during this time.

What is Project Estimating?

Project estimating is the next logical step to take after your project planning phase is completed. Unless you know how many employees you need on a particular task and what tools they’ll need to do their job, for example, you have no way of knowing how much that task will actually cost. Once you’ve broken the entire process down into chunks, you can then begin to assign a hard dollar value to each element. Thus, your project estimation is born. It’s important to note that there will always be some sort of margin of error here due to the imprecise nature of estimates in general.

Project planning and project estimating are two incredibly important functions that are traditionally carried out at the start of a project. By making sure both that you have a concrete plan in place and that your estimates are based on the most accurate, actionable information possible, you’re creating an environment where your team cannot help but succeed in all of its goals.

Key Takeaways:

  • Project plans are typically designed to allow project managers to help control estimated costs during the initial states of any project. They are constantly updated as progress continues based on new developments.
  • Project estimating is a term that typically refers to how much a project will likely cost when everything is said and done.