How To Plan A Software Project

How To Plan A Software Project in 5 Simple Steps

Knowing How to Plan a Software Project is the most important part of the entire project management equation. Once this software project planning is done well, half the battle is won. An effective software project planning reduces projects risk of scope & timeline slippage, improves governance and communication, ensures that the project is guided and tracked well to be delivered on-time and on-budget.

Software Project Planning in 5 Simple Steps

Software project planning is an extended area which spans across various aspects ofthe project starting from the pre-commencement planning to scoping and scheduling, from resource planning to delivery planning and from project quality to performance monitoring.

Software project planning can be done in following 5 steps:

1. Define project scope and clear objectives: One need to clearly define project details like project objectives, business and technical requirements, deliverables, acceptance criteria and quality standards. For larger and complex projects it is always recommended to have a project charter mentioning all those details in a well documented form.

2. Project Estimation: Once the scope and objective is clear, ones need to do project estimations in the context of Time, Cost and Resource. There are many ways to estimate a software projects like Work Breakdown Structure method, Function Point, Lines of Code or even top down approach based on past experience and expert knowledge. Once can use any method as suitable to arrive as the estimated timeline. Based on that resource allocation should be done and finally the costing.

3. Schedule Development: After the project estimation is done, one need to draw an activity chart to mark efforts needed against each activity, resource required and inter-dependencies. This is typically called as Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). One very popular way to represent WBS graphically is Gantt Chart which can be produced using various project management software like Microsoft Project or even excel.

At this stage proper resource identification and planning needs to be done so that the project is staffed well and resources are optimized. A resource distribution with proper resource ramp-up and ramp-down needs to be created.

4. Change Management and Risk Mitigation: If there is one challenge that runs across any software projects in any industry is Change. People in general hate change and thus is becomes very critical to address this and have workable strategies to facilitate Change. This could be in the form of training, education, workshops, communication etc. One must also identify potential risks and devise its mitigation plan. Identification of risk at an early stage line planning leads to better risk handling.

5. Performance Monitoring: Planning happens throughout the project lifecycle and it iterative in nature. A proper project performance reporting and monitoring approach/plan needs to be established to continuously track the project progress against timeline, cost, resource and risk.

Software Project Planning is essentially important and is normally ignored or not prioritized in order to get on with the project. But, it must not be forgotten that “Failing to Plan is Planning to fail”.

Top 3 Myths ofHow To Plan A Software Project

Software Project Planning is a matured and very established part of project management. All the popular project management practices like PMBOK, PRINCE etc gives due consideration and details out entire software project planning process. However, still many project managers and sponsors do not give software project planning much importance and it is always taken for granted.

A quick look around across software companies could reveal that loads of software projects are suffering from scope creep, timeline slippage / extended timelines, over or under staffing, budget overrun which intern leads to dissatisfied customers and reduced project margins affective companies bottom-line.

Following are some of the commons misunderstandings and Myths of How to plan a software project.

My project is not complex or sizable, I do not need to spend much time in project planning.

Many small time organizations and surprisingly bigger organizations also take for granted a detailed software project planningphase when the project is not sizable or complex. They take a shortcut and do not dwell into detailed software project planning phase.

No matter whether a software project is small or big, simple or complex, one must do a detailed software project planning considering over all the project areas. Its not a matter of how much time is being spent in Software planning? Quantity has never been a winning factor, it’s the Quality and depth of software project planning that makes a project successful.

Software Project Planning is about getting a detailed WBS/Gantt Chart

In software industry two of the most widely used and sometime over used words are Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and Gantt Chart. And most often than not, these words are misunderstood as project planning and used interchangeably.

We have seen many project managers usually developing a detailed Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and kick-start the project. A WBS is just a project scheduling and timeline tool and noting more. It established various project activities, their interdependencies, efforts required for each activity and resources required. A WBS does not account for major part of the Software Project Planning like risk, project organization, resource planning, governance, communication etc.

I am an experienced project manager and this project is just another one

This is a syndrome, which is very rampant in senior project managers. Well to be honest, no two software projects are similar in nature. Even if the underlying technology is same a project could be diversely different as they have different objectives, expectations, environment, resources, risks, and scenarios. Well some aspects can always be leveraged from experience and past projects but the software planning for a new project should be done with ground zero.

Software project planning is essential element and key to project success. We truly wish that you will avoid these common myths on How to Plan a Software Project.

The Basics of How To Plan A Software Project?

Software projects are unique in nature as it’s a mix of People, Process and Technology. This mix makes it tricky and special at the same time. Thus planning and managing a Software Project is about getting right balance between People, Process and Technology to achieve project objectives.

Software Project Planning is the process of planning all the project related process well laid-out and integrated. Planning ensures that various project activities are planned, coordinated and integrated well so that the project can run smoothly and delivered to stakeholders expectations.

Good Software Project Planning

Good software project planning helps in following:

• Establish and document clear project scope, objectives, deliverables, quality standards, timeline and clients acceptance criteria
• Establishing and facilitating communication across the project team and stakeholders
• Identifies and establishes project activities and their interdependencies
• Identifies project risks and its establish its mitigation plan
• Identify, plan and resource distribution
• Over all governance of the project and establishing the way it gets measured and reported

The Steps Involved in Software Project Planning

Now let’s analyze various steps of Software Project Planning so the basics of How to plan a software project are established. Typically Software Project Planning would have the following steps:

1. Define and document project scope and project objectives

2. Identify, define and sequence project activities with clear entry and exit criteria

3. Establish detailed project schedule with activities, efforts, timeline and resource estimation

4. Establishing the software project costs and budget

5. Establish project organization chart and roles and responsibilities. Resource identification and planning are essential elements here and must be done to ensure project is smoothly run

6. Establishing project quality standards to be followed throughout the project life cycle

7. Risk management and mitigation planning. Identifying project risk at the planning stage really takes out risk to a larger extent. When the risk is identified, its mitigation plan is easily formulated and executed.

8. Establish the way the software project performance is monitored, measured and reported is essential to track project’s success against the planned baseline

9. Once all that is done, one needs to plan for “Change” and people hate change thus establishing right approach to change is critical to a software project adoption

10. Project Rollout Planning, this step of software project planning and it details out the way in which the project will be rolled-out

11. Governance planning marks the end of the software project planning. This deal with the way the project will be covered and communicated throughout the project lifecycle.

One must also plan the post implementation phase and establish the sustenance plan based on the support required.

Software project planning is an art more than a science. It must be given due consideration before a project is kicked-off. We all must remember “If we fail to plan, we plan to fail”. We wish you good luck in your software project planning and truly hope that you are in a better place to understand How to Plan a Software Project.