Project planning

2011-09-24 09:00 – 15:30

Project Planning

PMBOK 3.22, 4.3

“Pay me now, or pay me later”: You are going to pay for planning or lack of it eventually. Pretty much all the time it makes sense to pay in advance and not wait until problems arise and then start thinking how to deal with things.

“KPH” Keep things simple, remove everything unnecessary that does not contribute in a meaningful way.

Best projects are those that are not needed. If you can tell the customer “Hey, you already have what you need, you don’t need to pay extra.”, he usually will be really happy => new projects in the future.

One of the typical problems is assigning resources too late in project. How resources are assigned of course depends on the project, problem domain, resources and how everything has been set up. In agile world the focus is more on the team than on individuals, meaning that single persons very rarely get allocated on specific projects. If team can switch  roles and tasks easily, success is more easily attained than if people are dedicated to specific tasks and can not switch (for example when somebody gets sicks, has to travel, etc.)

Project management plan is not a static document. It should be treated as a map that guides the project into completion. If situation changes, new knowledge is attained or something major happens, project management plan should be reflected, updated and kept up to date.

Rules of thumb:

  • if 50% of tasks are delayed, there is definite need of checking the situation and planning accordingly.
  • After 10%-15% of project has been completed make another go / no go – check

Tip: Don’t have a huge and monolithic project management plan. Concentrate on the essential things and think if you can have subsidiary documents (risk register, communications plan, etc.). This will make document revisioning easier and keep processes smooth. And you will need multiple revisions before the first approved version is ready. It is good idea to create the plan as a group if possible => more points of view, more scrutinizing, instant peer review, kind of like Cabal process.

Idea: Can you have your documents in cloud (private, hosted, public)? It usually means that availability will be better than for example on a network share. Backups, versioning and concurrent edits will be easier too. Remember to consider security risks.

MS Project

“There are lots of open source products for project planning, but  none of them offer all the tools that MS Project does.” => Check at somepoint, what really is available.

MS Project makes planning easier. It does not remove the hardest part of the planning, which is work estimation, but it simplifies it.

Tip: In initial stages of planning, it is good idea to use roles (Systems Architect) instead of persons (Tuukka). This makes it easier to juggle tasks around when resources are commited and project gets into execution phase.

Duration * Units = Work

MS Project has lots of ways it can show data and export it. Biggest problem of course is that not everybody has access to the program. PDF-report of Gantt-chart is probably easiest for them to understand. It can not be modified easily and imported back to MS Project though. Also, I noticed that only first column gets exported (so, make sure your tasks are there and not notes for example).

Neat thing about MS Project is that it allows you to forget dates almost completely. If tasks are tied to each other correctly and no explicit dates are entered, changes in the beginning of the project are correctly reflected at the end. Combined with baselining this makes planning, tracking and replanning a breeze. IF you want, you can enter dates though to create a constraint (do not start earlier than – do not finish later than).

There are also ways to tie tasks together: SS (Start at the same time), FF (Finish at the same time), FS (Start when first task finishes).

 Agile processes

  • Remove everything that is not needed
  • Keep tight loop of communication
  • Constantly improve what you are doing
  • There is no correct way of doing things, only worse and better ones

“Even graphics designers can contribute in planning poker, provided that they have been doing it long enough and have been paying attention.”

“I don’t know what you’re really doing, but every single time you have made similar things, it has taken this long.”

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