Many years back, I was given an assignment to estimate a project. I put my best efforts to ensure that the estimates are as accurate as possible. Then I consulted with the manager, who was a veteran in the industry, well into his 60s.

He reviewed the estimates quickly and asked “Geordee, have you erred on the safer side?”

I said, “No!”

“Well. Go and change the estimates. Err on the safer side.”

I wasn’t very happy with that then.

Recently a colleague described an incident. The client asked him to increase the estimates, just to ensure that quality is not compromised due to potential delays in the project. The client was willing to err on the safer side. And this is just one such story I have heard.

Earlier vendors were the ones keen to err on the safer side. Now the competition has pushed them to take risks, customers are showing willingess to err on the safer side.

Is it acceptable to always err on the safer side? No. When the quality of output is of extreme important, I usually suggest to err on the safer side. Or, when the risks are clearly known it is acceptable to commit error - on the safer side, of course.

Probably due to my education in Civil Engineering, I appreciate this better. We never mess with the factor of safety.