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We are trying to put some statistics together internally to get a better handle on how long it takes to complete pre-project work for business improvement projects. This work includes work corresponds roughly to the "Starting-Up A Project Phase" from PRINCE2 and the "Starting the Project" part of the project lifecycle described in PMBOK. During this phase we are defining scope, high-level description of the project product(s) and high-level identification of resources so that we can develop documentation comparable to a project charter or project brief. We want to put stats together so that we can try to better time-box this phase.

Given that all projects are different, are there any official statistics or anecdotes for how much time should be spent on pre-project work compared to actual project work? We would use this information to help us gauge whether or not our processes are more/less time consuming than they should be at a high level (e.g. if there is enough opinion out there that for a hypothetical 10 month project you should spend 2 months prior to this doing pre-project work, we would revisit our processes if our pre-project work took on average 5 months to complete).

  • Edited second paragraph to clarify the end use of the answers to this question. – Doug B Jun 6 '12 at 12:31
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Unfortunately no, there are no 'typical' times - at least in the sense you're asking.

As you correctly pointed out, each project is different, but beyond that, each team is different as well so that's going to factor into the time as well. Is it a co-located or dispersed team, are the team members on just this project or multiple projects (dividing attention), what's the priority of the project, etc. Each of these factors is going to play into how long it takes to get up and running as they will determine response and communication time (both internal & external).

While you won't find generic 'typical' times, what you WILL be able to find after a few projects are typical times for 'your' company. And that's all that really matters.

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    I totally agree with Trevor, he perfectly states what I was about to answer: after a few projects (you realize that there) are typical times for 'your' company. – Tiago Cardoso Jun 5 '12 at 16:16
  • We are in the process of getting these statistics, but are trying to get benchmarks to compare these against. I edited my question in an attempt to clarify. – Doug B Jun 6 '12 at 12:31
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One thing to keep in mind is that your methodology will impact the amount of upfront time. A waterfall approach will have a lot more upfront as you seek to reduce risk and uncertainty. An agile approach will begin on deliverables sooner, reducing the upfront time.

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