Top Down Estimating in Primavera P6

Top-Down Estimating (Top-Down Estimation) in Primavera P6

Top-down estimating (or top-down estimation) is a useful technique that relies on the information provided by similar past projects. Unlike bottom-up estimating (or bottom-up estimation), it provides a quick but rough estimation. Upper-level management often takes advantage of using the top-down estimation to forecast the total cost of a project based on the experiences of people who involved in a similar project. Top-down estimating is a useful technique when you need cost estimates in the early phases of a project. You can use it when there is little information regarding the deliverables. In this method, it is possible to make estimations quickly with fewer resources and effort. It is also used to evaluate the project proposal at the strategic level. Oracle Primavera P6 allows you to make a top-down estimation and bottom-up estimation. In this article, we will demonstrate how to make top-down estimating in Primavera P6 Professional.

Top-Down Estimating vs Bottom-Up Estimating

Professionals working in the field of project management often mix up bottom-up and top-down estimating concepts. Many of them think that they are the same, however, they are different. Unlike top-down estimating, project teamwork at the task level of WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) to perform a bottom-up estimate. In the early phases, top-down estimating is used to predicting the cost or duration of a project. Over time, detailed bottom-up estimates replace the original top-down estimate.

Top-Down Estimating in Primavera P6

Estimating is known as the practice of predicting the cost and time required to deliver the project deliverables. Since top-down estimating is used when there is little information available for the project, the estimating process is supported by experience from an expert.

There are some techniques used in conjunction with top-down estimating. For example, apportion method is a top-down estimating technique that calculates the cost of individual tasks as a percentage of the total project cost (direct costs and indirect costs).

For better understanding, let’s review the simple example below.

We have a Block Valve Station project as shown in Figure 1.

A sample Block Valve Station project Top Down Estimation

A sample Block Valve Station project Figure 1

We will open the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) window by selecting Project | WBS from the main top drop-down menu, Figure 2.

Project | WBS

Project | WBS Figure 2

Now we will add Est Weight and At Completion Total Cost columns as shown in Figure 3.

“Est Weight” and “At Completion Total Cost”

 Figure 3

Est Weight of Construction is 8 (Civil:2, Mechanical: 3.5, Electrical: 3), Testing is 1, Landscaping is 0.5. Total is 9.5 but we will insert 10 Est Weight for the Block Valve Station, Figure 4

Est Weight for the Block Valve Station

Est Weight for the Block Valve Station Figure 4

We will insert 0.5 Est Weight for the Project Management activity from the “Activities” window.
In the “Activities” window, we will add “Est Weight”, Budgeted Labor Units, Budgeted Labor Cost, and Budgeted Total Cost columns, Figure 5.

“Activities” window

“Activities” window Figure 5

Now we will distribute the total “Est Weight” of each WBS, to its activities. All our weights should be distributed among deliverables and activities, Figure 6.

“Est Weight” of Activities Top Down Estimation

“Est Weight” of Activities Figure 6

We will insert a labor resource and unit price($100/hr) for the resource, Figure 7

Labor Resource

Labor Resource Figure 7

After assigning the “LABOR” resource to the activities, we will perform the Top-down estimate. We will select Tools | Top Down Estimation from the main top drop-down menu, Figure 8.

Tools | Top Down Estimation

Tools | Top Down Estimation Figure 8

In the “Top Down Estimation” window, we will select the project top level WBS for the WBS box. The resource is “LABOR” and we will budget 500 Hour effort for all project. Figure 9.

Top Down Estimation Window

Top-Down Estimation Window

Then, we will select “Apply” and see how our 500-hour effort is distributed among activities and associated deliverables, Figure 10
oracle primavera p6 tutorial top down estimationFigure 10

We can also see the unit and cost distribution at WBS level, Figure 11

oracle primavera p6 top down estimating example
Figure 11

Let’s assume that our budgeted 500-hour effort will increase 20 percent due to the weather conditions. We will calculate the impact of this increase by inserting 20 % to the “Apply adjustment” box in the “Top Down Estimation” window, Figure 12.
Oracle Primavera P6 TutorialFigure 12

As shown in Figure 13, budgeted units and costs are increased 20 percent based on our adjustment.

top down estimating , top down estimation , bottom up estimating , bottom up estimation in primavera p6Figure 13

Now we will save this estimate for future references. In the “Top Down Estimation” window, we will click “Save As” and fill the “Estimate Name” box, Figure 14
top down estimating , top down estimation in primavera p6

Figure 14

We can see the history by clicking the “History” button in the “Top Down Estimation” window.


Top-down estimation is a quick method for estimating the total project cost than other techniques that require more detailed information.  Consensus methods, ratio methods, apportion methods, and function point methods can be used in conjunction with top down estimating.

Top-down estimating is also used to determine the duration of the project. It is the opposite of bottom up estimating. Although it is a fast and efficient method, it has some disadvantages. It provides a less accurate estimation than other estimating techniques. Bad estimation always results in disputes and problems within a project.

Primavera P6 Professional enables to make Top-Down Estimating for activities and deliverables. By using the Primavera P6 top-down estimating feature, planners can easily distribute the proposed cost of their projects among both deliverables and activities. It is possible to analyze the impacts of percentage adjustments and save the estimate for future reference.

In this article, we discussed the top-down estimation technique and demonstrated how to perform it by using Primavera P6. We hope that it will be useful for project control engineers. If you want to share your experiences or add something related to top down and bottom up estimation, you can use the comments section below.

See Also

Construction Claim Management

External References


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