Projects Should Start With a Plan Not a Story

Let’s say that you’ve just been assigned a new project. It is just the kind of project you would like to do. It looks like the business folks are on board and ready to provide support and, most importantly, funding. What now? Where do you begin?

You could start identifying the people you’ll need to get the work done. Gather a few of them together and start writing stories. This is a common approach and a really bad idea!

Regardless of the development approach you’re following — agile development, waterfall development and everything in between — you need to begin with a high-level definition of the project.

Start With a Project Plan

Project plans are all too often ignored. I’m not talking about Microsoft Project or some other way of generating gantt charts. Nor am I referring to creating a master task list.

A project plan is a high-level definition of the project and a description of the work to be done. A good project plan should answer basic who, what, when, where, why and how questions. Here is a sampling of questions that a good project plan should answer:


  • are the key stakeholders? The sponsor? The customers?
  • will do the work?
  • is responsible and accountable for what?


  • is the project supposed to accomplish?
  • kind of work tasks must be performed to produce the deliverables?
  • resources (facilities, tools) will be needed to do the work?


  • are the key milestones due?
  • will the work be done?
  • are the key resources needed?


  • will the work be done?
  • will the team members be situated?
  • are the end users located?


  • are the stakeholders asking for this project to be done?
  • is the existing solution/approach unacceptable?
  • is the project needed now?


  • will the deliverables be produced?
  • much funding has been allocated for the project?
  • much time are the stakeholders and end users willing to devote to the project?

If you don’t have the answers to these kinds of questions, you can’t possibly write stories, assign tasks and begin building the software. Do yourself a favor and start your next project with a project plan. Make sense?

Updated: April 3, 2011 — 10:24 pm