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The main mistakes people make when planning a project

It is proven that 65% of computer projects are delayed between 25 and 50%, and that the probability increases proportionally to the size of the project. Do you know what is the difference between a well-planned project and one that is not? Have you committed any of the classic mistakes when planning a project? Here there are some tips for good planning.

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A badly planned project is not only one that does not end on the scheduled date, but one which actual cost exceeds the one budgeted by more than 10%, or else that the benefits or the quality thereof are lower than expected.

 

A well-planned project is the one that does not suffer major delays (or they are perfectly justifiable), which real costs are more or less according to the planned, and the product delivered meets the desired benefits and quality.

Needless to ask, what kind of project would you like to plan? In another article I explained how to manage a project well. Now I will tell you how you should plan it correctly.

Let’s start by reviewing something that should be obvious, but it is not so much: there is no good, fast and cheap system. You can get two or three characteristics, never all of them. A picture is worth a thousand words:

The first advice is that you must make a plan which is realistic in times, costs and quality requirements.

If a client, internal or external, instructs you to plan a development with certain characteristics, you must determine what is the cost and the deadline to carry out that system. If that client adjusts the term, then you must eliminate some features. If, on the other hand, he wants to reduce the cost, you must sacrifice some quality requirements or functionalities to cover. Do you follow me?

Having clarified this, you have to know that every computer project is based on four pillars or dimensions:

  1. People

  2. Process

  3. Product

  4. Technology

A mistake in the calculation of any of these dimensions will shake the entire planning. This means, if you do not take into account these aspects, the most probable thing will be that what you plan does not have too many possibilities of getting to be fulfilled.

1.- People

It is the crucial factor in every planning. If the project team consists of inexperienced or poorly motivated or committed personnel, it is probable that they will not be able to comply with the plan, neither in quality nor in time.

If you are limited in budget, form a mixed team, with highly qualified personnel and staff of less seniority, but totally committed to the project.

2.- Process

We understand by “process” to the methodology to carry out the project. To perform a successful planning, you must plan taking into account the following:

  • Choose an appropriate life cycle according to each type of project. Agile methodologies being popular does not necessary means that a development can not be carried out using some other life cycle, such as an evolutionary prototyping model for a research project, in which uncertainty is a crucial factor.

  • The risk management must be part of the plan, so that you have a contingency plan to mitigate any deviations that may arise.

  • Devote considerable time within the plan to the quality control stage if you want to avoid later delays and meet the quality requirements of the project.

  • Perform a detailed planning of the project costs and provide mechanisms to control its evolution and compliance. Remember that a successful planning is one that also meets the costs, not just the times.

3.- Product

The most important thing in this aspect is for you to commit yourself with the client to understand without a doubt what he wants and needs. It is also equally important, at the same time, that you commit the client to the project. You will need his full support and collaboration.

 

Divide your project in stages and do not plan beyond the already known terrain. The planning of the next stage always has to depend on the result of the preceding one. Agile methodologies facilitate this type of development.

 

Try not to create projects too long, since it is much more likely that significant deviations will occur or that the circumstances of the market, the product or the business will change, directly affecting the planning carried out.

 

Provide visibility throughout the entire project. The planning has to have periodic milestones that allow to check the progress.

 

4.- Technology

It refers to the set of tools to carry out the development..

You must plan keeping in mind what architecture and set of technologies are going to be used to build the product to be developed. Try not to open too many research fronts, since this is a black hole for the times of a project. You must reduce the uncertainty to the minimum expression.

 

Finally, keep in mind that even if you have a great team, if you have done bad planning, there is no way you can fulfill it.

Planning is the first step. The next challenge is to make that planning happen. It will depend on the team of people you lead, and you, as a project manager, are responsible for taking them on the right path.

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