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Time is Money: The Importance and Desired Attributes of Schedule Basis of Estimates

Earned Value Management Track



“Time is Money” is a maxim made popular by Benjamin Franklin. It reflects the long understood importance of schedule requirements and their impact on cost.

While the importance of cost basis of estimates (BoE) have gained in popularity among industry communities, schedule BoEs are, at least equally, if not more important as cost, but have yet to reach the same level of understanding of importance within the industry.

A simple search for “Cost Estimating Handbook” returned approximately 152,000 results. From that search, best practices were reviewed within industries common to NASA (DoD, DoE, GAO, MDA, etc.). Each “handbook” reads very similarly; in order to achieve a high quality cost estimate the following steps should be followed: 1. Define Purpose, 2. Define Requirements, 3. Define Program Structure (WBS), 4. Define Plan (Schedule), 5. Define Budget, and 6. Execute. When a similar search was conducted for guidelines and/or handbooks relating to schedule estimation, two (2) results were returned, both from an industry blog stating handbooks of this nature do not exist. In contrast, several of the industry examples reviewed did mention the process/practice of schedule estimation, but contained merely sentences of information. This led to the question, if all the industry best practices state that defining a schedule needs to be done prior to developing the cost estimate, why are there no similar amounts of information on developing a schedule estimate as there are cost? Given this lack of relative industry guidance, are adequate schedule estimates really being created prior to cost estimates?

The purpose for this presentation is to highlight the importance of developing quality schedule BoEs, attributes of quality schedule BOEs, correlation effects to cost estimation, and significance of aligning both estimates.   Below are the areas of discussion our presentation will address.

  • Developing a quality schedule BOE upfront provides a roadmap for not only how long a program will take (duration) to be successful, but also the manner (resources) by which it will arrive at its goal.
  • Constructing a schedule BoE is completed in layers, reliant on credible duration and resource estimates in order to produce a BoE of high fidelity.
  • Estimating task duration is similar to cost estimates, typically based on historical references, but often lacks documentation to validate actual task durations and/or resources utilized.
  • Defining task logic in terms of predecessors/successors and critical path drives resource allocation throughout a program’s lifecycle.
  • Developing a budget based on a defined schedule estimate increases the fidelity of the cost estimation process.
  • Generating a quality BoEs (Cost or Schedule) cannot be completed in a vacuum; it requires input from various areas, it requires cost, schedule and risk functions to be intertwined throughout the entire BoE development process.
  • Producing a quality BoE is the foundation for program success, but it also enhances a program’s capabilities to utilize tools like Joint Confidence Level (JCL) assessments as effective programmatic tools.


Justin Hornback
Reed Integration, Inc.
Justin Hornback is program manager of Reed Integration, Inc.’s support of NASA’s Independent Program Assessment Office (IPAO), within the Office of Evaluation (OoE), enabling the independent review of NASA’s program and project life-cycle milestones to ensure the highest probability of mission success within schedules and budgets. Prior to joining Reed Integration, Inc., Justin provided program management, cost estimating, and technical support for various US Navy small boat programs (SEALION, Stiletto) and risk management for multiple NASA programs (IRVE-3, SPLASH, Environmental Responsible Aviation) through his work at Booz Allen. He co-led a risk and cost management effort to identify, analyze, and report risks to Aircraft Carriers deployment schedules and Air-wing integration. Prior to work at Booz Allen Hamilton, Justin was the overhaul risk manager during refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) of Nimitz Class Aircraft Carriers at Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News Shipbuilding. As the risk manager, Justin was responsible for identifying, managing, and mitigating program risks that threatened the ability of the RCOH program to achieve cost, schedule, and technical performance objectives.   Prior to being the risk manager, Justin qualified and performed duties of a shift refueling engineer, such as directing operations during removal, handling, and installation of nuclear fuel during refueling of Aircraft Carriers and submarines.

Justin Hornback received his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2002. He obtained his MBA from the College of William and Mary in 2010. He is a Certified Cost Estimator/Analyst (CCEA) and Project Management Professional (PMP).

Justin resides in Norfolk, VA with his wife Becky, and their two year old daughter Anna. He enjoys running, watching college football, and playing soccer.