Mistakes of project planning
We often estimate projects and now we would like to share our experience in this area, supported by the practice of assessing and planning of implementation of various projects. We have highlighted the most common mistakes that arise while assessing and planning projects. So, let's begin. Approximate reading time: 10 minutes.
It is incorrect to assess a project before you know its scope, goals, and the result. It is important to clearly define and outline the scope of the project, its goals, and the expected result. Project goals and estimates should not be confused. For example, you need to make a project by the time of some exhibition. In this case, the question of estimation is secondary. The important question here is what resources should be added to the project to have it done on time, what functionality can be put aside, and which is needed. The important issue here is not estimation, but limitations. Then, the project goal is the time limit. If the complexity goes beyond the time limit, it is better to reduce the functionality, leave only the must-have tasks, and forget about the nice-to-have ones. Our advice here is to prioritize the tasks according to you business needs.
Building of any project happens in an environment of uncertainty. A very common mistake is trying to remove uncertainty from a project by removing uncertainty from the estimation, or by calling it Agile. There is always uncertainty in the estimation which cannot be removed. This is why Agile projects are divided into shorter iterations. Shorter iterations are much easier to plan. Always cut big tasks into smaller ones, it is easier to control them.
When evaluating projects, they are often compared with the previous ones. However, there are a few pitfalls. In each project, there are assumptions about the nuances that occurred in the development process and what influenced it. Changes and estimates can be made only based on the analyzed information. It is possible that the development team worked overtime while carrying out the previous project. So if you run your new project in the same conditions, your team members may burn out or leave the company. Do not neglect the planning tools like task boards and trackers like Gantt charts for the estimation. These tools will significantly simplify the estimation process and help you focus and see the whole picture. Plus they are convenient for creating tasks and tracking time. Don’t treat similar projects like they are completely equal, always use planning tools and keep a journal of the tasks performed and the time you’ve spent on every ticket and the issues you’ve met.
When an ideal project plan is drawn, such things as vacations and holidays are often forgotten about. However, this issue is especially important in case you are planning a project with an international team. This may not greatly influence the project budgets, but it does affect the final deadline. National holidays should be taken into account especially if your team members are in different geographic locations. All countries have their own traditions of celebrating the New Year, and even if there is no official weekend on Christmas Eve, usually people are not productive. Do remember about planned vacations of your team members. Always remember about holidays and not very productive work on the eve of long holidays.
Making estimates in the middle of a project, when they are not important means that you want to control the project. However, it is enough to set key milestones and crucial dates. In case control is really needed, it is better to discuss the control points and the way the required information will be submitted. If you need an assessment, you need to answer why, when, and what exactly is to be assessed: the entire project, individual tasks, stages, or something else. A constant control on the development is important. It is good to set important milestones to check the progress and estimates.
Do not confuse estimates and planning. Duration and labor intensity are different values. It is important to understand what we are evaluating. Planning is about how to get from point A to point B. The estimation results can affect planning. We can modify the goal of the project. For example, removing nice-to-have features will change the plan and the project evaluation. Don’t forget to update the estimate if you changed your plan on delivery and the backward situation should be treated the same.
It is not right to believe that you won’t be able to make accurate estimates. If you don’t have an estimate at all you won’t have any milestones and you won’t be able to know when a milestone should happen. It is very important to have milestones, this way you can build predictable results. You should not treat estimates intuitively. Always, plan milestones based on estimates.
Never agree under pressure. Your team can consist of introverts and extroverts, and some people feel that something goes wrong but they are too shy to say it out loud. In most of the cases, those who know how to convince, win, not the ones whose estimates are accurate. The loudest person is not the most reliable.
As a rule, there are a lot of uncertainties at the beginning of your project. You need to minimize them by detailing the requirements and reduce the level of planning. For example, take monthly iterations.
It is wrong to evaluate a project as a whole without breaking it down into details. One big box has a lot of small boxes inside and they are different.
Underestimating a particular detail can greatly affect the estimation of the entire project. It may turn out that some minor functionality that was underestimated influenced this in such a way that half of the entire project has to be redone.
There is also a case when we estimate too many details when starting a project. You may simply not have enough details. They may change in the process. And their number for an entire project is just enormous. When the project changes, a lot of details will have to be reconsidered. And you will spend a lot of time.
You may end up making the project according to the old goals and plans while the needs of your users have changed during the implementation of it. You have to start testing your project on users as soon as possible especially if you are developing a B2C service.
You have a project and need help planning or evaluating it? We will be happy to help.