Plans, Guesses and Illusions

illusionDoes the software project you’re currently working on have a plan? It doesn’t have to be an elaborate gantt chart — frankly, gantt charts are pretty worthless though they force us to think through a variety of project issues. It doesn’t have to be a massive missive either — no one reads those things anyway.

A project plan can be as simple as a list of things to do — preferably prioritized — and a target completion date — preferably with a few interim milestones. Of course, a plan needs some thought and analysis. It has to be defensible should someone challenge its contents. If it can’t be defended, it’s not a plan, it’s just a guess.

If there is no plan — not even a guess — the project is operating with an illusion. Maybe a feature will make it into the release and maybe it won’t. Maybe a target date will be met and maybe it won’t. It’s surprising that many projects don’t even have basic project plans — they are operating under illusions.

Here are a small number of basic questions that every software project team should be able to answer. Can your team answer them?

  1. What value will this project deliver to the business?
  2. What are the primary goals of the project?
  3. Who needs to be involved as part of the project team?
  4. What are the constraints on the project team?
  5. What will success look like?
  6. When does the work need to be completed?
  7. What major risks or challenges does the team face?
  8. Does the software need to integrate with any other systems?
  9. Is the team dependent on anyone outside the team or outside the company?
  10. Who are the primary users of the software?

This is pretty basic stuff yet many software project teams don’t have the answers. Don’t operate with guesses and illusions. Put together a basic plan.

And one more thing — allow the plan to change as you and the team learn more about the problem and solution spaces. You want to be agile, right?

photo credit: williamcromar via photopin cc

Updated: August 29, 2013 — 9:55 pm