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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Estimating the time to create a training course

The Question

I received this email asking how to estimate the time it takes to create a software training course:


I have a strong background in software development and training development and delivery. My training has always been around soft skills, business processes, and employee orientations.

I recently joined a software company as the Training Manager and I’ve been tasked with “figure out how we should do user training for our product”. I’ve purchased and read your book, User Training for Busy Programmers and it’s been very helpful already in translating my current knowledge of software development and non-software training into what I need to do for software user training.

I was wondering if you have any thoughts or resources around estimating the time it takes to develop user training following the process you outline in the book?

Thank you,


The (somewhat disappointing) Answer

Here's my reply:


Years ago I asked this question on several of the most popular training and technical writing mailing lists. I also tried equating the time it took to develop training and documentation to things like function point counting, number of screens, number of keystrokes and clicks. None of it worked.

Seriously. The conclusion I arrived at is that there is way to predict the time to develop training and documentation, that is more accurate than your own experience.

Since you have experience developing training in business processes, you're not far off from being able to accurately estimate time to develop training for software. Because at the end of the day, a software class is (or should be) nothing more than a business process class that features a new tool. So when you're trying to estimate development and delivery time for a software class, ask yourself how long it would take to develop and deliver the class if you approached it as teaching a new business process, which just happens to use a new tool.

Sorry I couldn't give a more concrete answer. This is a question the continually challenges me, and I'd be happy to hear of any resources you find that help with it.


William Rice

A Plea for Help

I want to hear what you have to say about estimating the time it takes to develop a software training class. Do you have any objective, quantitative methods that work for you? Or like me, must you rely on intuition and experience? How accurate are your estimates?

This topic is ripe for conversation. Leave a comment, and keep the dialog moving!