Should you ever trust your project plan?
Keeping your developer out of the ditch and your project on track.
- Keven M.Thibeault
Should you ever trust your project plan? In our experience the answer is NO WAY. You are guaranteed a surprise every time. So let’s tackle the obvious. Chances are your team will either overestimate or underestimate some or all of the following
- The time needed for requirements, design, and team reviews
- The level of support from business owners and users
- The complexity of integration with other platforms
- The quality of your data
- The effort and time needed to test
- The time needed to develop the code
- The readiness of your production systems
- The capabilities of your development team
- The strength of your vendor’s products
- The features your users really want or need
Planning how long it takes to build your application, (and its related cost) is incredibly challenging indeed. The development world continues to change and we have to adapt how we plan our projects accordingly.
The enormous pace of change in development today has disrupted how software products are built and invalidated most conventional planning methods and historical comparisons. Chances are your plan is off by a factor 50% or more in either direction.
And this is not always a bad thing by the way. The good news is that many tasks now often take far less time to execute, including design, development, and deployment. Our insatiable demand for technology has forever shaped how technology is supplied to us. Market forces have shrunk and commoditized nearly every facet of application development.
Dedicated servers can now be provisioned in hours or even minutes with companies such as Rack Space, Godaddy, and Grid. Code sharing sites with sample snippets like Sitepoint and PHPBuilder allow developers to search, cut, paste, and configure, (vs. customize), their way to staggering levels of functionality and sophistication. Plugins and modules for CMS platforms such as Joomla, Wordpress, or Drupal number in the thousands and give you the ability to add capabilities in minutes. And outsourcing mega-portals such as Elance, Odesk, and Guru give a project manager near instant access to designers, testers, business plan writers, and developers complete with virtual team rooms and project, task, and hourly tracking tools.
It is important to contain our enthusiasm however. The incredible progress in these areas is not a guarantee for an easier dev process over-all, or a higher quality result, much less an end-to-end solution for development. Inherent in this virtual development world are new risks and pressures placed upon your project manager. You may save time but give up key controls. A feature of your platform may rely on a module written by a unknown distant developer you have never met. But it is most important to understand that any of these new tools and services still lack basic ingredients to your success.
The truth is that successful websites and mobile applications are still the result of imagination, ingenuity, elegant design, unique vision, solid product strategy, and effective marketing – none of which can be outsourced, downloaded, configured, or hosted. You still need leadership, talent, and experience. You need a team that works well together. You still need experts and gurus. And of course you need a great project plan to pull it all together.
Make sure your project plan and tools are well organized and include the following
- Project Summary
- Project Goals
- Team Structure
- Communication Plan
- Tasks, Work Schedule, Milestones
- Testing Criteria
- Production Launch Criteria
- Is Web based or web enabled for multi user edit and access
About the author
Keven M. Thibeault has been developing applications since 1990. He now serves as principal and CEO at Logical Design Database Solutions based in Boston, Mass, and provides product strategy and expert application development services for web, mobile, tablet, and enterprise platforms targeting startups, interactive agencies, and technology clients.