Article - Top 20 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Your Estimates


The science of project management tells us that there are three common constraints to any project: scope, time and budget. Having said that, throughout my project management career, I preferred to work with a PM Pentagon model (see Figure 1) and treat constraints as “degrees of freedom”.

Figure 1


Here is what I did every time I was supposed to present our clients with time, budget or human resource estimates. Usually the estimates presented rarely met customer expectations (budget was too high, duration was too long, etc.) So, the thing to do is for the project manager is to point to each corner of the pentagon and to ask the questions presented in Tables 1 and 2.

Table 1


Table 2


The idea here is that every question you ask is like a door leading to a room with a whole bunch of other doors presenting you with options to deliver a project in a reasonable manner.

And what questions do you ask during your project negotiations?

About the Author

Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP – president and founder of Thinktank Consulting is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker in the areas of project/portfolio management, scope definition, process improvement and corporate training. Jamal Moustafaev has done work for private-sector companies and government organizations in Canada, US, Asia, Europe and Middle East.  Read Jamal’s Blog @

Jamal is an author of two very popular books: Delivering Exceptional Project Results: A Practical Guide to Project Selection, Scoping, Estimation and Management and Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects.