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What is Expert Judgment in Project Management?

Although it may feel like being a project manager is more like being a jack of all trades, expert judgment is often essential to project success and completion. As the PMBOK 6th edition notes, project managers “frequently rely on expert judgment to perform well.”

Expert judgment definition - What is expert judgment in project management?

Expert judgment is a technique in the project planning process that refers to a judgment made based on skill, expertise, or specialized knowledge in a particular area. The expertise can be based on an individual’s training or educational background, career experience, or knowledge of the product/market. 

This expertise can come from: 

  • A member of the project team 
  • A project stakeholder 
  • Consultants 
  • Subject matter experts 
  • The project manager, etc.

Expert judgment can help when forming strategies around threat and risk response. It can also be helpful in identifying project opportunities. While expert judgment estimation is useful in the planning process, it is not a technique that is without flaws.

Firstly, any number of biases can influence the judgment. In “Expert Judgment in Project Management: Narrowing the Theory-Practice Gap” (Szwed, 2016), the author identifies overconfidence as “one of the most common forms of cognitive bias in experts.” 

Additionally, expert judgment does not always rely on empirical evidence, making it inherently flawed as it pertains to fact-based decision-making.

Expert judgment techniques

Below is an accepted framework for eliciting expert judgment, outlined by Szwed, which includes seven steps.

  1. Frame the problem
  2. Plan the elicitation
  3. Select the experts
  4. Train the experts
  5. Elicit judgments
  6. Analyze/Aggregate judgment
  7. Document/communicate results

In his article titled “Practical Guidelines for Expert-Judgment-Based Software Effort Estimation” (Jørgensen, 2005) the author recommends asking for justification from experts and choosing experts with experience on similar projects. 

Creating a list of known experts available to offer their skills can also make it easier to elicit judgments. If possible, expert judgment should be used alongside other forms of information and data to arrive at an aggregate judgment.