How to remove project management deviations
Managing projects (and doing it successfully) means achieving a good planning of tasks and avoiding or fixing possible deviations in time. Below, you will find a good way to decrease its likelihood of occurrence and its impact. Keep on reading and learn how to eliminate project management deviations.
What do we call project management deviations and how can we identify them?
Deviations are changes in estimated times and costs that occur during the management of a project. They can occur in different ways, due to situations that originate in the customer (for example: due to new functionalities required), in the development team (perhaps due to technological problems) or in the market (due to changes in regulations, customers or competitors).
When the requirements are not clear, they are interpreted incorrectly or an unforeseen event related to the market arises, the need to pivot or modify the expected result appears; for example, adding new functionality or removing obsolete features. Due to this, deviations are generated in planning, both in terms of time and costs.
This occurs more frequently in a development with a structured life cycle (Waterfall). In such cases, the entire system is first analyzed, then designed, and then coded and implemented. If a deviation occurs in one of the last phases, the cost is very great, because it is necessary to go back to the initial phases for the affected module.
Keys to remove these deviations
To prevent this situation, the agile philosophy was born and, especially, the Scrum methodology. This aims to analyze and develop the product, as the project progresses. You plan in detail only what you are going to do in the coming weeks. Therefore, the biggest detour you could have is limited to the next iteration, which is generally two or three weeks long (not an entire phase, as in the case of Waterfall).
On the one hand, there is the client, who is not only the sponsor that finances the project, but is also the product owner, the person who knows the product and knows what is needed. On the other hand, there is the development team that is going to carry out this project. With a series of user stories (way of defining the requirements), the product owner determines what he wants to develop, but not when to develop it or how to do it. This generates a certain amount of product backlogs, features or system characteristics that must be developed.
The fundamental steps in project management
Although this is not about strictly defining Scrum, we’ll highlight here what is more important in relation to how to organize yourself to avoid deviations.
- The organization. Before starting an iteration, a planning meeting is held. In this meeting, the most important product backlogs are taken and downgraded to the level of detail to introduce them in the iteration, thus forming a series of sprint backlogs (product backlogs within a sprint). Here you decide which tasks to run in the next few weeks (based on the time that has been defined for the iteration). A short period of time is set so that any distractions that may arise are easier to correct; the action area is delimited and, therefore, the deviation.
- Planning. The refining is a meeting that takes place within an ongoing sprint to refine future requirements. A series of product backlogs are selected and they are downloaded to the level of detail, to be worked on during the next iteration (not the current iteration). At this time, future deviations may arise, since detailing the next tasks serves to know how long each one will really take and decide how and when it will be solved (in which future sprint), and if this has an impact on the project times. As the deviation is for the future, there is time to analyze the impact and take corrective measures.
- The results. After the iteration, a sprint review is carried out. A demo of the product is made to demonstrate how far it has come and show what was obtained as a product of the finished sprint. Here a detour could also appear, if a problem or missing is detected. Again we would be anticipating, because it is not yet the time to correct what has been detected.
In short, you can control changes and deviations no matter what development life cycle you use. However, if you employ a structured development lifecycle, the likelihood of deviations occurring is significantly higher, as is the level of difficulty in mitigating their impact. On the other hand, with an agile life cycle, you will save time and money, avoiding as many detours as possible.
In short, to eliminate project management deviations, the agile methodology proposes to concentrate on what is most important and to advance step by step. Constantly and with maximum transparency, bringing the product to the market as soon as possible.