When we hear about project planning and scheduling, we think about tasks being planned, organized in the proper order, durations assigned to the work, resources committed to perform the work.
This is all well and good, but without a risk adjusted view of the planned work, it's going to be disappointing at best. There are some key root causes of most project failure. Let's start here.
Each of these has been shown, through research on failed programs, to contribute to cost and schedule impacts. Unrealistic expectations of the project's deliverables, Technical issues, Naive Cost and Schedule estimating, and less than acceptable risk mitigation planning.
Project Mangement in Six Steps
Here's how to address the cost and schedule estimating
Develop a schedule. What ever your feelings are for Gantt's, sticky note, or any handwaving processes you've learned to use, you need a sequence of the work, the dependencies, the planned durations. Without something like that , you have no idea what work is needed to complete the project. Here's a straightforward Master Schedule for some flight avionics on a small vehicle. All software, has to complete as planned, otherwise the users can't do their job as planned. And since they're the ones paying for our work, they have an expectation of us showing up, near oru budget, with the needed capabilities. Not the Minimum, the NEEDED
Using a Monte Carlo tool (RiskyProject), here is run for the probabilities of cost, duration and completion dates. All project work is probabilistic, any notion that a deterministic plan can be successful is going to result in disappointment.
We usually call our planning sessions done when we can get the risk adjusted Integrated Master Schedule to show the completion date of on or before the need date to an 80% confidence level.
With a resource loaded schedule - or some external time phased cost model - we can now show the probability of completing on or before the need date, and at of below the planned budget. The chart below informs everyone what the chances are for success for the cost and schedule aspects of the project. Technically it has to work. The customer gets to say that. The Fit for Use and Fit for Purpose measures if we're in an IT Governance paradigm. The Measures of Effectiveness and Measures of Performance if we're in other paradigms. Those measures can be modeled as well, but I'm just focusing on cost and schedule here.
With this information we can produce the needed margin and management reserve to protect the delivery date and budget. Showing up late and over budget for a product that works is usually not good business.
Do You Need all This?
What's the Value At Risk?
- A $10,000 warehouse database app update - certainly not. Just do it.
- Website for gaming, probably not, just start and let the market tell you where to go. Try to forecast what features and how much they'll cost periodically so those paying get a sense of value returned for their investment.
- Product development, with a planned launch date, planned sell price, planned cost (socan make money) and planned features. Probably need so visibility into what's going to be happening in the future.
- Enterprise IT, say an ERP system, worth 10's of millions? Better have a plan.
Don't know the value at risk? Don't have a clear vision of what done looks like in units of measure meaningful to the decision makers? You've got bigger problems. This approach won't help?