“How much is it going to cost us?”
If you’ve ever pitched or led a project, you’ve probably heard that question before—along with others about what resources are required and how long the project will take. And if you aren't prepared, answering this question can feel like a shot in the dark, especially during the initial planning phase.
While project estimation can feel like a guessing game, it doesn’t have to be one. After all, accurate estimations are the foundation of project success (in addition to well-managed stakeholder expectations). That’s where a project estimation template comes in.
Project estimation is the process of estimating the time, cost, and resources required to complete a project. A streamlined project estimation process is part of any good resource management strategy, and typically takes place during the initial project planning phase.
Accurate project estimates help you—and your stakeholders—understand what a project requires before you kick the project off. That way, you can feel confident you have everything you need to successfully run and complete the project, from the right resources to the correct project budget. Plus, accurate estimates help set expectations for everyone involved, cutting down on miscommunication and misunderstandings.Read: Six techniques for accurate project estimation
A project estimation template is a reusable resource you can use to accurately create estimations at the beginning of your project planning process. Project estimation templates serve as a guide to creating accurate estimates—all you have to do is copy the template and fill in information relevant to your specific project.
Since you can duplicate project estimation templates and reuse them, they help standardize your project estimation process. With a template, you can feel confident you’re using the same variables when creating your estimates, no matter the project.
Let’s run through why this type of template is about to become your favorite part of the project planning process—and how to use it.
Projects aren’t static. They’re living entities, changing and evolving over time. While no project is set in stone, providing an estimation of the resources, cost, and time required for a project during the initial planning stage can help keep your team on track, manage stakeholder expectations, and mitigate risk.
Static estimation templates, like those created in Excel and Google Sheets, offer bare-bones functionality. Sure, you’ll be able to enter estimated costs and hours to create a basic project estimate—but that’s pretty much it. Plus, it’s easy to accidentally overwrite versions in those types of tools, running the risk you’ll end up working in an incorrect version.
To accurately (and easily) create project estimates, you need a tool that works where you do. By creating a project estimation template in a digital project management tool, you can reduce the time you spend switching between tools and feel confident your team has all the project details they need—right where work happens.
A few other benefits of using a digital project estimation template include:
See all the resources you’ll need to complete a project—including the required team members, a projected cost estimation, and total project scope or hours.
Collaborate and communicate directly in the tool—tag team members for approval, attach relevant documents, or assign tasks to team members right where estimation takes place.
Get buy-in from internal and external stakeholders early, plus set project expectations so everyone is aligned when you kick off the project.
Use the project estimation template as a loose project timeline to determine project duration during the planning phase.
Easily duplicate the template for similar projects in the future, saving upfront work and creating a standardized process for estimating project resources.
Outline the resources needed for an internal project or use the template to clarify and breakdown costs when outsourcing.
Use the template as a jumping off point for your project post-mortem, to compare your budget estimate with actual costs.
Project estimations aren’t one size fits all—meaning you’ll need to adjust them depending on the project you’re estimating for—and that’s ok. Your basic project estimation template will serve as a framework for similar projects, so the most important thing is to focus on including basic information that will scale across projects.
At its most basic, your project estimation template should include:
Information on necessary project resources, such as a detailed description of what resources you need.
The total cost of resources, accounting for variables like labor cost, hourly rates, and estimated hours.
The estimated start and end dates associated with each resource, such as the length of deliverable creation.
The total cost of the project when you account for all expenses.
Custom fields. Custom fields are the best way to tag, sort, and filter work. Create unique custom fields for any information you need to track—from priority and status to email or phone number. Use custom fields to sort and schedule your to-dos so you know what to work on first. Plus, share custom fields across tasks and projects to ensure consistency across your organization.
List View. List View is a grid-style view that makes it easy to see all of your project’s information at a glance. Like a to-do list or a spreadsheet, List View displays all of your tasks at once so you can not only see task titles and due dates, but also view any relevant custom fields like Priority, Status, or more. Unlock effortless collaboration by giving your entire team visibility into who’s doing what by when.
Start dates. Sometimes you don’t just need to track when a to-do is due—you also need to know when you should start working on it. Start times and dates give your team members a clear sense of how long each task should take to complete. Use start dates to set, track, and manage work to align your team's objectives and prevent dependencies from falling through the cracks.
Adding tasks to multiple projects. The nature of work is cross-functional. Teams need to be able to work effectively across departments. But if each department has their own filing system, work gets stalled and siloed. Asana makes it easy to track and manage tasks across multiple projects. This doesn't just reduce duplicative work and increase cross-team visibility. It also helps your team see tasks in context, view who’s working on what, and keep your team and tasks connected.
Google Workplace. Attach files directly to tasks in Asana with the Google Workplace file chooser, which is built into the Asana task pane. Easily attach any My Drive file with just a few clicks.
Zoom. Asana and Zoom are partnering up to help teams have more purposeful and focused meetings. The Zoom + Asana integration makes it easy to prepare for meetings, hold actionable conversations, and access information once the call is over. Meetings begin in Asana, where shared meeting agendas provide visibility and context about what will be discussed. During the meeting, team members can quickly create tasks within Zoom, so details and action items don’t get lost. And once the meeting is over, the Zoom + Asana integration pulls meeting transcripts and recordings into Asana, so all collaborators and stakeholders can review the meeting as needed.
OneDrive. Attach files directly to tasks in Asana with the Microsoft OneDrive file chooser, which is built into the Asana task pane. Easily attach files from Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more.
Slack. Turn ideas, work requests, and action items from Slack into trackable tasks and comments in Asana. Go from quick questions and action items to tasks with assignees and due dates. Easily capture work so requests and to-dos don’t get lost in Slack.
Once you’ve set up your baseline project estimation template, you can easily duplicate it and use it as a framework for estimating new projects. Here’s how:
Make a master list of all the costs associated with your project. During the initial project planning phase, meet with your team members and external and internal stakeholders to discuss the resources needed for the project to be successful.
Add all the needed project resources to your project estimation template, separating them by category (such as project phase) if appropriate.
Fill out the template with additional information for each line item, like the number of hours required, the type of resource, and the total resource cost.
Calculate the total cost of the project, as well as the duration of the project and the resources needed, using the above information.
Regroup with your team and stakeholders to discuss the project and the cost.
Move forward with the project or adjust as needed.
A project estimation template is a useful tool for anyone who routinely creates project scopes or estimates. Whether you’re looking to scope out an internal project, estimate the cost of outsourcing work, or put together a proposal for a potential client, project estimation templates can help you understand the time, cost, and resources required to complete a project.
Your project estimation template will serve as a framework for estimating similar projects going forward, so include basic information that will stay relevant across projects. A basic project estimation template should include information about necessary project resources—such as what resources you need, the estimated project timeline, and resource-specific costs.
You should create your project estimation template during the initial stages of project planning, before you’ve officially kicked off your project. First, gather stakeholders (internal and external), as well as your project team members, to discuss the project. Then, create a master list of all the resources—and associated details, like cost or hours required—that you need to successfully complete the project. Putting together your estimation at the beginning of your project planning process will help get your team on the same page, so you can move forward with aligned expectations.
Accurate project estimates are critical—they set the foundation for your project in the planning stage and ensure all team members are aligned on scope and project expectations. To learn more about how to accurately estimate your project, check out our article on project estimation techniques.
No matter your best intentions, you need more than motivation to knock out your to-dos. An action item template—where you decide the who, what, and when of every task—can help you organize your workflows and get more done.