Creating a Competency Assessment for Cost Estimators

By Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo, CDT, CCE, MScPM, MRICS

Jakarta, Indonesia


This paper describes a work in progress, having started in Q1 2011. It represents the work completed over the past 6 months to develop a competency based assessment instrument against which to assess professional cost estimators. The need for building competency derives from the growing problems producing valid, credible and reliable cost estimates. In this paper, the author explores other global competency based assessment models and using those as a template, and mapping published work by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) and credible academic research on measuring output competency, he has produced a partially complete competency assessment.  The paper concludes by seeking other interested professionals to join in this open source effort and makes several recommendations as to what individuals and those professional associations, who purport to represent us, can to do to further raise the professional standing of cost estimating as an honorable and respected career path objective.  Specifically, this paper is calling on organizations such as AACE to modify their Codes of Professional Conduct to enable professionals to “push back” when clients or management want us to produce cost estimates we know are faulty or unsubstantiated.


Cost estimating, especially at the early phases of a project, when business decisions are being made and project funding is being allocated, requires accurate and reliable cost estimates being essential to enable decision makers to determine which projects are viable and which are not. Unfortunately, the credibility of capital cost estimating has become a farce. (Butts, 2009i, 2010ii, FMI, 2006iii) And with the USA, both Federal and many states, along with many European countries on the verge of bankruptcy, the farce has the potential to become a financial tragedy. There are many reasons for this, some within our control as professional practitioners, some outside, but the fact remains, the practice of cost estimating has a serious credibility and image problem and unless we take action to remedy this, we will continue to generate estimates which border on being a misfeasance at best, possibly a nonfeasance under many circumstances and under a worst case scenario, a malfeasance, bordering on fraud.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 2012 AACEi Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas, USA.  It is republished here with author’s permission. 

About the Author

Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo


Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo, CDT, CCE (#1240), MScPM, MRICS, is Senior Technical Advisor (Project Management) to PT Mitratata Citragraha. (PTMC), Jakarta, Indonesia. www.build-project-management-competency.com. He is also an adjunct professor, Project and Program Management, at the Center for Advanced Studies in Project, Program and Portfolio Management (www.casr3pm.edu.sn) and develops and teaches graduate level curricula in Asset and Project Management for Western Australia University, Perth. www.blendedlearning.ecm.uwa.edu.au  For 17+ years, he has been providing Project Management training and consulting throughout South and Eastern Asia, the Middle East and Europe.  He is also active in the Global Project Management Community, serving as an Advocate for and on behalf of the global practitioner. He does so by playing an active professional role in the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International, (AACE); Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) and the Construction Management Association of America, (CMAA). He also sat on the Board of Directors of the Global Alliance for Project Performance Standards (GAPPS), www.globalpmstandards.org, Sydney, Australia and is active as a regional leader in the International Guild of Project Controls. http://www.planningplanet.com/guild  He has spent 18 of the last 35 years working on large, highly technical international projects, including such prestigious projects as the Alyeska Pipeline and the Distant Early Warning Site (DEW Line) upgrades in Alaska.  Most recently, he worked as a Senior Project Cost and Scheduling Consultant for Caltex Minas Field in Sumatra and Project Manager for the Taman Rasuna Apartment Complex for Bakrie Brothers in Jakarta.  His current client list includes AT&T, Ericsson, Nokia, Lucent, General Motors, Siemens, Chevron, Conoco-Philips, Unocal, BP, Dames and Moore, SNC Lavalin, Freeport McMoran, Petronas, Pertamina, UN Projects Office, World Bank Institute and many other multi-national companies and NGO organizations.  Dr. Giammalvo holds an undergraduate degree in Construction Management, his Master of Science in Project Management through the George Washington University and was awarded his PhD in Project and Program Management through the Institute Superieur De Gestion Industrielle (ISGI) and Ecole Superieure De Commerce De Lille (ESC-Lille- now SKEMA School of Management) under the supervision of Dr. Christophe Bredillet, CCE, IPMA A Level.  Paul can be contacted at [email protected].