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Practical Project Initiation: A Handbook with Tools by Karl E Wiegers

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How Big Is Your Buffer?

As a general guideline, the total project schedule reserve should be five to ten percent of the sum of the estimated duration of all project activities (Wysocki and McGary 2003). Note that this is not five to ten percent of the overall project schedule; that’s not enough slack. The higher number is appropriate for especially complex projects or those that involve unusual risks, uncertain or churning requirements, or bleeding-edge technologies.

To estimate an appropriate contingency buffer for your project, first identify areas of uncertainty that could lead to poor estimates. These might be the most technically challenging or innovative parts of the project, tasks that use unfamiliar techniques or technologies, or poorly ...

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