Successful projects, those that have been completed on time and budget and have satisfied the customer's requirements, are the projects that are carefully and well planned. In fact, if you examine successful projects closely, you will notice that they have two things in common. First, a lot of time is spent on the planning and development process, sometimes longer than it takes to complete the rest of the project. Second, approximately half the project budget will be expended before the implementation phase starts. Putting so much effort into the planning phase, or stated another way, waiting so long to get into the doing activities, is simply anathema to our culture. We want to get in there and code like hell. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the success of a project starts with the project plan.
The project plan, like any plan, is only as good as the thought and care given to its development. One thing that has to be understood from the beginning is that the plan is dynamic—planning must evolve with the project. The more common practice is to develop a plan, put it on the shelf, and never look at it again until the project is finished. To successfully complete an IT project, the initial project plan needs to be as thorough and detailed as possible. The trick is to update and change the plan as more is known about the project, the evolving technical approach, the risks, and the customer's view about what the final product will look like. In many IT projects, the requirements themselves are evolutionary. That is, the customer does not have a clearly defined image of the final product, only a sense of the general functionality that is needed. With an evolving requirements definition process, the plan must also be flexible and evolving. Even if the project is very well defined from the beginning, which is difficult to do in today's fast-paced business and technology environment, there needs to be a refreshed plan for, at the very minimum, every one of the project's phases.
This chapter discusses how to develop the project plan and provides a project plan outline that can be used, with only moderate alteration, for virtually any IT project.
Before writing the project plan, a significant amount of work is required. These first steps are crucial. The considerations included in the plan will spell the difference between project success and failure.