Risk, Opportunity, Uncertainty and Other Random Models: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Risk, Opportunity, Uncertainty and Other Random Models

1st Edition

By Alan R. Jones


292 pages

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Hardback: 9781138065055
pub: 2018-09-20
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315160030
pub: 2018-09-13
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Risk, Opportunity, Uncertainty and Other Random Models (Volume V in the Working Guides to Estimating and Forecasting series) goes part way to debunking the myth that research and development cost are somewhat random, as under certain conditions they can be observed to follow a pattern of behaviour referred to as a Norden-Rayleigh Curve, which unfortunately has to be truncated to stop the myth from becoming a reality! However, there is a practical alternative in relation to a particular form of PERT-Beta Curve.

However, the major emphasis of this volume is the use of Monte Carlo Simulation as a general technique for narrowing down potential outcomes of multiple interacting variables or cost drivers. Perhaps the most common of these in the evaluation of Risk, Opportunity and Uncertainty. The trouble is that many Monte Carlo Simulation tools are ‘black boxes’ and too few estimators and forecasters really appreciate what is happening inside the ‘black box’. This volume aims to resolve that and offers tips into things that might need to be considered to remove some of the uninformed random input that often creates a misinformed misconception of ‘it must be right!’

Monte Carlo Simulation can be used to model variable determine Critical Paths in a schedule, and is key to modelling Waiting Times and cues with random arisings. Supported by a wealth of figures and tables, this is a valuable resource for estimators, engineers, accountants, project risk specialists as well as students of cost engineering.


"In the Working Guides to Estimating and Forecasting Alan has managed to capture the full spectrum of relevant topics with simple explanations, practical examples and academic rigor, while injecting humour into the narrative." Dale Shermon, Chairman, Society of Cost Analysis and Forecasting (SCAF).

"If estimating has always baffled you, this innovative well illustrated and user friendly book will prove a revelation to its mysteries. To confidently forecast, minimise risk and reduce uncertainty we need full disclosure into the science and art of estimating. Thankfully, and at long last the "Working Guides to Estimating & Forecasting" are exactly that, full of practical examples giving clarity, understanding and validity to the techniques. These are comprehensive step by step guides in understanding the principles of estimating using experientially based models to analyse the most appropriate, repeatable, transparent and credible outcomes. Each of the five volumes affords a valuable tool for both corporate reference and an outstanding practical resource for the teaching and training of this elusive and complex subject. I wish I had access to such a thorough reference when I started in this discipline over 15 years ago, I am looking forward to adding this to my library and using it with my team." - Tracey L Clavell, Head of Estimating & Pricing, BAE Systems Australia

"At last, a comprehensive compendium on these engineering math subjects, essential to both the new and established "cost engineer"! As expected the subjects are presented with the author’s usual wit and humour on complex and daunting "mathematically challenging" subjects. As a professional trainer within the MOD Cost Engineering community trying to embed this into my students, I will be recommending this series of books as essential bedtime reading." - Steve Baker, Senior Cost Engineer, DE&S MOD

"Alan has been a highly regarded member of the Cost Estimating and forecasting profession for several years. He is well known for an ability to reduce difficult topics and cost estimating methods down to something that is easily digested. As a master of this communication he would most often be found providing training across the cost estimating and forecasting tools and at all levels of expertise. With this 5-volume set, Working Guides to Estimating and Forecasting, Alan has brought his normal verbal training method into a written form. Within their covers Alan steers away from the usual dry academic script into establishing an almost 1:1 relationship with the reader. For my money a recommendable read for all levels of the Cost Estimating and forecasting profession and those who simply want to understand what is in the ‘blackbox’ just a bit more." - Prof Robert Mills, Margin Engineering, Birmingham City University. MACOSTE, SCAF, ICEAA.

"Finally, a book to fill the gap in cost estimating and forecasting! Although other publications exist in this field, they tend to be light on detail whilst also failing to cover many of the essential aspects of estimating and forecasting. Jones covers all this and more from both a theoretical and practical point of view, regularly drawing on his considerable experience in the defence industry to provide many practical examples to support his comments. Heavily illustrated throughout, and often presented in a humorous fashion, this is a must read for those who want to understand the importance of cost estimating within the broader field of project management." - Dr Paul Blackwell, Lecturer in Management of Projects, The University of Manchester, UK.

"Alan Jones provides a useful guidebook and navigation aid for those entering the field of estimating as well as an overview for more experienced practitioners. His humorous asides supplement a thorough explanation of techniques to liven up and illuminate an area which has little attention in the literature, yet is the basis of robust project planning and successful delivery. Alan’s talent for explaining the complicated science and art of estimating in practical terms is testament to his knowledge of the subject and to his experience in teaching and training." - Therese Lawlor-Wright, Principal Lecturer in Project Management at the University of Cumbria

"Alan Jones has created an in depth guide to estimating and forecasting that I have not seen historically. Anyone wishing to improve their awareness in this field should read this and learn from the best." Richard Robinson, Technical Principal for Estimating, Mott MacDonald

"The book series of ‘Working Guides to Estimating and Forecasting’ is an essential read for students, academics and practitioners who interested in developing a good understanding of cost estimating and forecasting from real-life perspectives". Professor Essam Shehab, Professor of Digital Manufacturing and Head of Cost Engineering, Cranfield University, UK.

"In creating the Working Guides to Estimating and Forecasting, Alan has captured the core approaches and techniques required to deliver robust and reliable estimates in a single series. Some of the concepts can be challenging, however, Alan has delivered them to the reader in a very accessible way that supports lifelong learning. Whether you are an apprentice, academic or a seasoned professional, these working guides will enhance your ability to understand the alternative approaches to generating a well-executed, defensible estimate, increasing your ability to support competitive advantage in your organisation." - Professor Andrew Langridge, Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Whole Life Cost Engineering and Cost Data Management, University of Bath, UK.

"Alan Jones’s "Working Guides to Estimating and Forecasting" provides an excellent guide for all levels of cost estimators from the new to the highly experienced. Not only does he cover the underpinning good practice for the field, his books will take you on a journey from cost estimating basics through to how estimating should be used in manufacturing the future – reflecting on a whole life cycle approach. He has written a must-read book for anyone starting cost estimating as well as for those who have been doing estimates for years. Read this book and learn from one of the best." - Linda Newnes, Professor of Cost Engineering, University of Bath, UK.

Table of Contents

Foreword, 1 Introduction and Objectives, 1.1 Why write this book? Who might find it useful? Why Five Volumes?, 1.1.1 Why write this series? Who might find it useful?, 1.1.2 Why Five Volumes?, 1.2 Features you'll find in this book and others in this series, 1.2.1 Chapter Context, 1.2.2 The Lighter Side (humour), 1.2.3 Quotations, 1.2.4 Definitions, 1.2.5 Discussions and Explanations with a Mathematical Slant for Formula-philes, 1.2.6 Discussions and Explanations without a Mathematical Slant for Formula-phobes, 1.2.7 Caveat Augur, 1.2.8 Worked Examples, 1.2.9 Useful Microsoft Excel Functions and Facilities, 1.2.10 References to Authoritative Sources, 1.2.11 Chapter Reviews, 1.3 Overview of Chapters in this Volume, 1.4 Elsewhere in the 'Working Guide to Estimating & Forecasting' Series, 1.4.1 Volume I: Principles, Process and Practice of Professional Number Juggling, 1.4.2 Volume II: Probability, Statistics and other Frightening Stuff, 1.4.3 Volume III: Best Fit Lines & Curves, and some Mathe-Magical Transformations, 1.4.4 Volume IV: Learning, Unlearning and Re-Learning Curves, 1.4.5 Volume V: Risk, Opportunity, Uncertainty and Other Random Models, 1.5 Final Thoughts and Musings on this Volume and Series, References, , 2 Norden-Rayleigh Curves for Solution Development, 2.1 Norden-Rayleigh Curves: Who, What, Where, When and Why?, 2.1.1 Probability Density Function and Cumulative Distribution Function, 2.1.2 Truncation Options, 2.1.3 How does a Norden-Rayleigh Curve differ from the Rayleigh Distribution?, 2.1.4 Some Practical Limitations of the Norden-Rayleigh Curve, 2.2 Breaking the Norden-Rayleigh ‘Rules’, 2.2.1 Additional Objectives: Phased Development (or the ‘Camelling’), 2.2.2 Correcting an overly optimistic view of the problem complexity: The Square Rule, 2.2.3 Schedule Slippage due to Resource Ramp-up Delays: The Pro Rata Product Rule, 2.2.4 Schedule Slippage due to Premature Resource Reduction, 2.3 Beta Distribution: A Practical Alternative to Norden-Rayleigh, 2.3.1 PERT-Beta Distribution: a Viable Alternative to Norden-Rayleigh? 2.3.2 Resource Profiles with Norden-Rayleigh Curves and Beta Distribution PDFs, 2.4 Triangular Distribution: Another Alternative to Norden-Rayleigh, 2.5 Truncated Weibull Distributions and their Beta Equivalents, 2.5.1 Truncated Weibull Distributions for Solution Development, 2.5.2 General Beta Distributions for Solution Development, 2.6 Estimates to Completion with Norden-Rayleigh Curves, 2.6.1 Guess and Iterate Technique, 2.6.2 Norden-Rayleigh Curve Fitting with Microsoft Excel Solver, 2.6.3 Linear Transformation and Regression, 2.6.4 Exploiting Weibull Distribution's Double Log Linearisation Constraint, 2.6.5 Estimates to Completion - Review and Conclusion, 2.7 Chapter Review, References, , 3 Monte Carlo Simulation and Other Random Thoughts, 3.1 Monte Carlo Simulation: Who, What, Why, Where, When and How, 3.1.1 Origins of Monte Carlo Simulation: Myth and Mirth, 3.1.2 Relevance to Estimators and Planners, 3.1.3 Key Principle: Input Variables with an Uncertain Future, 3.1.4 Common Pitfalls to Avoid, 3.1.5 Is our Monte Carlo Output Normal?, 3.1.6 Monte Carlo Simulation: A Model of Accurate Imprecision, 3.1.7 What if we don't know what the true Input Distribution Functions are?, 3.2 Monte Carlo Simulation and Correlation, 3.2.1 Independent Random Uncertain Events - How Real is That?, 3.2.2 Modelling Semi-Independent Uncertain Events (Bees and Hedgehogs), 3.2.3 Chain-Linked Correlation Models, 3.2.4 Hub-Linked Correlation Models, 3.2.5 Using a Hub-Linked Model to Drive a Background Isometric Correlation, 3.2.6 Which Way Should We Go?, 3.2.7 A Word of Warning about Negative Correlation in Monte Carlo Simulation, 3.3 Modelling and Analysis of Risk Opportunity and Uncertainty, 3.3.1 Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff, 3.3.2 Modelling Risk Opportunity and Uncertainty in a Single Model, 3.3.3 Mitigating Risks, Realising Opportunities and Contingency Planning, 3.3.4 Getting our Risks, Opportunities and Uncertainties in a Tangle, 3.3.5 Dealing with High Probability Risks, 3.3.6 Beware of False Prophets: Dealing with Low Probability High Impact Risks, 3.3.7 Using Risk or Opportunity to Model Extreme Values of Uncertainty, 3.3.8 Modelling Probabilities of Occurrence, 3.3.9 Other Random Techniques for Evaluating Risk Opportunity and Uncertainty, 3.4 ROU Analysis: Choosing Appropriate Values with Confidence, 3.4.1 Monte Carlo Risk and Opportunity Analysis is Fundamentally Flawed!, 3.5 Chapter Review, References, , 4 Risk, Opportunity & Uncertainty: A Holistic Perspective, 4.1 Top-Down Approach to Risk Opportunity and Uncertainty, 4.1.1 Top-down Metrics, 4.1.2 Marching Army Technique: Cost-Schedule Related Variability, 4.1.3 Assumption Uplift Factors: Cost Variability Independent of Schedule Variability, 4.1.4 Lateral Shift Factors: Schedule Variability Independent of Cost Variability, 4.1.5 An Integrated Top-down Approach, 4.2 Bridging into the Unknown: Slipping and Sliding Technique, 4.3 Using an Estimate Maturity Assessment as a Guide to ROU Maturity, 4.4 Chapter Review, References, , 5 Factored Value Technique for Risks and Opportunities, 5.1 The Wrong Way, 5.2 A Slightly Better Way, 5.3 The Best Way, 5.4 Chapter Review, References, , 6 Introduction to Critical Path & Schedule Risk Analysis, 6.1 What is Critical Path Analysis?, 6.2 Finding a Critical Path Using Binary Activity Paths in Microsoft Excel, 6.3 Using Binary Paths to Find the Latest Start & Finish Times, and Float, 6.4 Using a Critical Path to Manage Cost and Schedule, 6.5 Modelling Variable Critical Paths Using Monte Carlo Simulation, 6.6 Chapter Review, References, , 7 Finally, After a Long Wait … Queueing Theory, 7.1 Types of Queues and Service Discipline, 7.2 Memoryless Queues, 7.3 Simple Single Channel Queues (M/M/1 and M/G/1), 7.3.1 Example of Queueing Theory in Action M/M/1 or M/G/1, 7.4 Multiple Channel Queues (M/M/c), 7.4.1 Example of Queueing Theory in Action M/M/c or M/G/c, 7.5 How Do We Spot a Poisson Process?, 7.6 When is Weibull Viable?, 7.7 Can we have a Poisson Process with an Increasing / Decreasing Trend?, 7.8 Chapter Review, References, Epilogue, , Glossary of Estimating Terms, Index

About the Author

Alan R. Jones is Principal Consultant at Estimata Limited, aconsultancy service specialising in Estimating Skills Training. He is a Certified Cost Estimator/Analyst (US) and Certified Cost Engineer (CCE) (UK). Prior to setting up his own business, he enjoyed a 40-year career in the UK aerospace and defence industry as an estimatorAlan is a Fellow of the Association of Cost Engineers and a member of the International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association. Historically (some four decades ago), Alan was a graduate in Mathematics from Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, and was an MBA Prize-winner at the Henley Management College.

About the Series

Working Guides to Estimating & Forecasting

As engineering and construction projects get bigger, more ambitious and increasingly complex, the ability of organizations to work with realistic estimates of cost, risk or schedule has become fundamental.

And working with estimates requires technical and mathematical skills from the estimator but it also requires an understanding of the processes, the constraints, and the context by those making investment and planning decisions. You can only forecast the future with confidence if you understand the limitations of your forecast.

The Working Guides to Estimating introduce, explain and illustrate the variety and breadth of numerical techniques and models that are commonly used to build estimates. Alan Jones defines the formulae that underpin many of the techniques; offers justification and explanations, for those whose job it is to interpret the estimates; advice on pitfalls and shortcomings and worked examples. These are often tabular in form to allow you to reproduce the examples in Microsoft Excel. Graphical or pictorial figures are also frequently used to draw attention to particular points as the author advocates that you should always draw a picture before and after analysing data.

The five volumes in the Series provide expert applied advice for estimators, engineers, accountants, project risk specialists as well as students of cost engineering, based on the author’s thirty-something years’ experience as an estimator, project planner and controller.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Project Management
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Construction / Estimating


Download Resources

This complimentary eResource is provided to assist users of the Working Guides to Estimating and Forecasting series of books in recreating the tables and figures from the published books (printed or electronic). It is supplementary to, and is not intended to replace, the material in the published books. The files are available to download in their original colour format.

This material is copyrighted by the author and is provided solely as an aid to learning. Neither the author nor the publisher accepts any liability for its subsequent use or adaptation for any other purpose other than for which it was originally intended.

The figures and tables are provided in either interactive Microsoft Excel spreadsheet files, complete in general with the original calculation formulae, or as static images, where the reader may prefer to view those examples in full colour that were created in Microsoft PowerPoint. Any tables originally created in Microsoft Word have been converted and included in the Microsoft Excel files to reduce the number of download options for the users.

CAVEAT AUGUR: Whilst the author considers it to be good practice to lock calculation cells etc and to protect worksheets and workbooks, this has not been done here; the spreadsheets have been left unlocked and unprotected. Neither have the worksheet examples been independently Validated and Verified, as is also good practice.