Cost Estimating

Cost Estimating Overview

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Cost EstimateCost Estimating is the process of developing a cost estimate. Cost estimating involves collecting and analyzing historical data and applying quantitative models, techniques, tools, and databases to predict a program’s future cost. More simply, cost estimating combines science and art to predict the future cost of something based on known historical data that are adjusted to reflect new materials, technology, software languages, and development teams. A cost estimate is the product of cost estimating.

A cost estimate is necessary for government acquisition programs for many reasons: to support decisions about funding one program over another, to develop annual budget requests, to evaluate resource requirements at key decision points, and to develop performance measurement baselines. Moreover, having a realistic estimate of projected costs makes for effective resource allocation, and it increases the probability of a program’s success.

There are primarily two (2) main cost estimate categories:

  1. Life-Cycle Cost Estimate (LCCE) that may include Independent Cost Estimate (ICE), independent cost assessments, or Total Ownership Costs (TOC), and
  2. Business Case Analysis (BCA) that may include an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) or economic analyses.

See: GAO’s 12 Step Cost Estimating Process

The following topics should be know by Program Personnel and Program Managers (PM) about Cost Estimating. They  include:

Cost estimating requires good organizational skills, in order to pull together disparate data for each cost element and to package it in a meaningful way. It also requires engineering and mathematical skills, to fully understand the quality of the data available. Excellent communication skills are also important for clarifying the technical aspects of a program with technical specialists. If the program has no technical baseline description, or if the cost estimating team must develop one, it is essential that the team have access to the Subject Matter Experts (SME); PM, system and software engineers, test and evaluation analysts—who are familiar with the program or a program like it. 

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