The Software Project Planning Process | #7 Best Execution Methods

A well-constructed purpose and objectives are essential for any software project planning. Planning is the most important stage of a project’s life cycle. It provides stakeholders, investors, team members, and others with a basic understanding of the project’s scope, goals, risks, and challenges to overcome. It also provides a baseline for scheduling.

We will discuss how to plan a software project that is important for any success. Furthermore, when a company decides to embark on a project, one of the first things team leaders must do is create a project plan. Sounds simple, right? Actually, developing a strong project plan can be quick and easy, but it can also be a complex and drawn-out process.

It really depends on the nature of the project. Either way, you can’t overstate the importance of project planning. Let’s see exactly why project planning is so important — not just for the project, but for the entire company and its staff, too.

What Is Software Project Planning?

For businesses everywhere, large and small, in terms of project management, software project planning is the practice that ensures work is completed properly and on time. It’s, especially, important for complex projects involving multiple staff or teams, cross-departmental collaboration, and several goals and outcomes.

The antidote is good project planning, which saves time and reduces the number of team members you need, cutting down on unnecessary costs. What’s more, a smooth, successful running of the project — like any positive work experience — boosts staff morale and team relations. That’s why investing in a good software project planning is so critical.

Without the right planning, projects can run off course, miss their intended goals, and lead to frustration and dissatisfaction among those involved. In most cases, a project plan is a very well-written document. A well-done project plan outlines every aspect of a project’s objectives, execution, and desired outcomes. Thus, there are key elements to any project plan.

Consider the following:
  • Project objectives
  • Execution plan and schedule
  • Project requirements — staff, equipment, budget
  • Support resources
  • Project deliverables
  • Key performance indicators, or quantitative goals

According to our team of Web Tech Experts, there’s uniqueness in every software project planning strategy — can be less or more detailed, depending on the scope and complexity of the project specifics. In our digital age, many companies use various tools such as online document sharing — so that all collaborators can access, edit, and preview changes in real-time.

What Is A Software Project Planning Process?

Basically, a software project planning process involves comprehensive mapping and organizing of project goals, tasks, schedules, and resources before anyone assigns roles for the project and the team begins to execute the plan. You can avoid almost all of the problems that lead to project failure with proper project planning.

In Agile, the planning process for software development primarily depends upon a single key metric – the development team velocity. Team velocity represents the work done by the development team during a single iteration cycle. It’s a changing, and evolving, “average” metric value used often during the software planning process – during the sprint planning sessions.

The velocity provides an estimate of the team’s current capability to develop product features. The product owner makes extensive use of the velocity metric during the software planning process. Technically, the process occurs in two stages – when the product is initially envisioned by the stakeholders. And, when it’s entirely planned or during the sprint planning.

What The Sprint Software Project Planning Session Entails

In Agile, the product is developed in bits and pieces through the product incremental cycles known as sprints. A sprint has to be “planned” before it can commence. This is done through the sprint planning meeting. During the meeting, the PO selects some of the high-priority product backlog items and transfers them to the sprint backlog.

This is where the estimation and velocity metrics come in. The PO cannot select the total number of items on a random basis. As per Agile principles, all the product items taken up for development in a sprint have to be completed by the time the sprint gets over. User stories should not remain incomplete at the end of sprints.

If the PO misjudges and takes up more stories for development purposes than the team can handle, they are most likely to remain incomplete at the end of sprints. This is not acceptable in Agile. On the other hand, if the PO selects fewer stories, the team will remain “free” and unoccupied at the far end of the sprint.

It means the team is not performing at its full capacity – again not acceptable to Agile. Therefore, it is important to balance the two factors – pick up enough stories. So that the team can handle them, and develop the stories in the correct manner – to be more “acceptable” once they are done developing. The PO can achieve this balance by “adjusting” both metrics.

What The Release And Estimation Stages Are All About

For your information, in Agile, the planning process of a software project is not that elaborate. One thing is for sure, it commences when the stakeholders or the client envision a product having a certain monetary significance. As an example, both estimation and velocity metrics help the PO (Product Owner) to set up a probable release date.

And, if we can consider the velocity metric in this case scenario, it conveys how much time the team can develop the product. The PO balances these two metrics while providing the project release date. By all means, the stakeholders convey their idea to the product owner – a person who represents their interests in the project – and instructs him or her to “plan” the project.

All the dynamics pertaining to the project are carefully thought about and worked out by the PO and the stakeholders. One of the most important criteria is to estimate the duration. For example, the duration timeline calculations like how much time the project is likely to be in completion. On that note, the PO is required to plan a tentative “release date.”

Product Estimation

On one hand, the PO creates the product backlog, which contains the list of user stories or product backlog items. Whilst, depicting the product features and functionality to be developed during the project. A product backlog is a list of the new features, changes to existing features, bug fixes, infrastructure changes, or other activities that a team may deliver.

More so, in order to achieve a specific outcome. The product backlog is the single authoritative source for things that a team works on. Each user story has a certain business value linked to it. In Agile, only features having high business values are developed. So that the project can maintain its market worth at all times. Each user story is estimated in the backlog.

Depending upon its estimation, each story can be developed within a certain duration by the development team members. Since the team velocity is not available at the project’s onset, the PO assumes an arbitrary value for the velocity metric based on his or her personal experience. You can learn more about what Estimating Products really entails in detail.

Product Velocity

On the other hand, Product Velocity is the rate at which user stories are developed during the daily sprints – the product incremental cycles. In other words, Velocity in business is how long it takes a company to achieve certain milestones measured in days, hours, or minutes. It is the amount of work that is completed in a given time.

Furthermore, velocity exists in all business functions, including product or service, sales, and marketing. The development activity can commence once the product backlog is created. So, the very first sprint may have a velocity of zero on the first day of the first sprint cycle. And, as development is carried out daily in the sprint, the velocity starts increasing.

Generally, the final velocity value can be “calculated” once an entire sprint is completed. As sprints keep on progressing and the features keep on being developed, the velocity metric assumes a more realistic value. Meaning, that the estimation metric indicates how complicated and extensive the project is likely to be.

Why The Software Project Planning Process Is Important

Developers often tend to get too involved in the development and activities of a software project. Scope creep when scope can become a problem. This will increase your chances of code refactoring (rewriting code due to misunderstood product vision or requirements). This happens when a project drifts beyond its intended scope.

Usually, its main cause is a lack of communication or repetition of the main goal or proposal of the project. Scope creep can cause severe problems in the delivery and completion of projects. It’s often not discovered until the project is in full swing, leading to delays and setbacks. A project plan should include all information needed by stakeholders and team members.

Such as budgets, scheduling, deliverables, and costs. It is important to avoid making assumptions (assumption is the mother of all errors). Everybody involved in the project is aware of their roles and how they contribute to larger management goals. The consequences of poor project planning are clear. Now let’s look at the flipside and examine all the key benefits:

1. It saves money in business undertakings

It’s all about getting every detail right — goals, execution, and outcomes — on paper (or more accurately, on a screen). This creates a clear picture of everything involved, including quantitative details like costs, schedules, resources, and time management. Issues that need sharpening, adjustment, or a complete overhaul are identified and handled beforehand.

In reality, you’ll agree with me that a failed software project planning process is quite expensive. Even when a company is successful in completing a project, it can still use up a lot of unnecessary, extra budget. A poorly planned project can easily run into delays, unexpected glitches, and scope creep. Scope creep is when a project gradually grows in size (and cost).

More so, due to unforeseen circumstances or changes. Project planning provides structure and foresight for the execution stage, helping to eliminate wasteful activities and patterns. This is why companies that stick to solid project management practices waste a lot less money than companies that don’t — an impressive 28 times less, in fact.

2. It boosts the overall performance success 

A project plan clearly identifies the stakeholders and collaborators and assigns responsibilities, deadlines, and expectations for each. Every member of the project team knows their role, when they must complete their contribution, and how much time to set aside for the project at every stage. There’s no confusion, which is a common cause of delays and errors.

Agreeably, a good working strategy boosts project performance and success rates. Unfortunately, the project failure rate for most companies is 70 percent. Achieving a project’s objectives is often not as easy as it seems. There are a number of reasons why projects fail. For example, 38 percent of companies say the main reason for failure is their teamforce.

To enumerate, this’s where confusion among team members arises — such as on the basis of their individual roles and responsibilities. Thirty-seven percent of projects fail because leaders don’t define project objectives and milestones clearly. When team leads don’t effectively manage requirements, 47 percent of projects fail to hit their targets.

3. It improves communication skills within teams

A project can bring out the best in a team. Working together toward a common goal, project teams forge new collaborations between staff members and can even help employees develop skills they haven’t used before. Employees also get a chance to support one another in new and different ways. And, these are all side effects of good project management.

Good communication is essential for smooth project execution, and this applies to projects of every size and type. Even two collaborators must communicate well to make sure they complete project tasks on time. Let’s say a project involves multiple employees or teams, outsourced suppliers, and perhaps even staff members in other locations or time zones.

Well, in that case then, planning how project leads and team members will manage communications becomes vital. A project plan takes into consideration the team’s communication needs and pinpoints the most effective channels to keep collaborators connected — such as email, chat, virtual meetings, shared documents, and more.

4. It ensures there is the best use of resources 

One of the key components of project planning is resource planning. Every project is based on resource use, including staffing, equipment, budget, office space, and time. Without proper planning, it’s nearly impossible to make sure an organization allocates and uses resources in the most cost-effective and appropriate way.

Different project tasks often compete for limited resources, so project planners must make decisions in advance about how best to assign those resources. This entails a cost-benefit analysis for each project task so that planners don’t simply allocate resources haphazardly but do it with purpose, based on smart forecasts, and with the project’s goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) in mind.

5. It makes it easy to track goals and outcomes

Another key part of the project planning process is defining the project’s goals and objectives. Clearly defined and specific project goals are easier for team leads to translate into quantitative measures of success. For example, a company is planning the launch of a new product. One of the project objectives is to generate 1,000 sales in the first two months.

Team leads monitor this specific, measurable goal over the course of the project, and they can adapt project execution according to the tracking results. So, if sales by the end of the first month are weak, the team can reallocate resources to boost marketing activities during the next month.

When the project planning stage includes detailed mapping of KPIs, it’s much easier to gauge the project’s true performance over time — and decide how to adjust the execution to reach those goals.

6. It improves the retention morale of employees 

Project planning not only benefits the project’s performance and outcome but also plays a role in employee retention. Employees are eight times more likely to remain with their employer if they believe their managers are assisting them with workload management. Overall, this is something that helps them feel more connected to their work.

And, when they feel connected, they are 87 percent less likely to leave their position. Involving employees in project planning encourages them to contribute their perspective and skill, rather than simply telling them what they need to do. This ensures more effective execution and makes team members feel like a valued part of the company.

The importance of project planning goes way beyond the project itself. It has a direct impact on how employees feel about their workplace — and whether or not they leave or stay.

7. It helps keep the collaborating community together

Teamwork is a critical factor in any group activity — especially in project management. Good teamwork exists only when all collaborators know their roles and responsibilities, how their part fits in with the whole, what impact their actions have on other team members’ productivity, and what expectations project leads have for them as individuals and as a team.

A solid project plan provides an official reference point for all collaborators. That way, everyone is in alignment and up to date about tasks, timelines, expectations, and workflow. When you use project management software to create a project plan, it’s even easier for all collaborators to access and view the entire plan at any time — and even contribute their opinions and expertise to the planning phase.

The Key Stages In Software Project Planning Process

Good software project planning provides structure and foresight for the execution stage, helping to eliminate wasteful activities and patterns. This is why companies that stick to solid project management practices waste a lot less money than companies that don’t — an impressive 28 times less, in fact.

A project management plan is a process that outlines the steps necessary to minimize risks and align all activities with the organization’s goals and objectives. Project planning isn’t just another stage of project management. It’s one of the most critical stages of the whole process.

The reason for the project is the first step in any project management plan. These must be well identifiable in a “business case” document. This document should explain why a project is necessary, the benefits, and what investors or stakeholders should expect. You should be able to explain the necessity of the business project to solve certain problems or challenges.

Stage #1: Why?

The first step in project planning is to define the “Why” stage. This will provide stakeholders, managers, and all other team members with a basic overview of the reasons for the project’s existence. Although it seems simple, sometimes, it can also prove very difficult more than you think! Suffice to say, that it’s difficult for some team members to work together.

Particularly, towards a common goal — when they are not clear about the purpose of a project. For this reason, you should clearly outline to the team and task force some of the project constraints to expect. As we as other relevant challenges in terms of the roles of the stakeholders — especially, whenever defining the “why” in any software project planning.

Stage #2: What? 

The “What” stage in a project plan is quite resourceful in establishing the scope and deliverables of the project. This section should contain your project milestones. They will help to keep all activities within the scope and timeframe.

Milestones can also be used as markers in the project’s life cycle. Everybody can evaluate a project’s progress and ensure that all activities are in line with their larger goals and objectives.

Stage #3: How?

After defining the ‘Why’ and the ‘What’ stages, your project plan should also outline ‘How’ a software project planning will accomplish the project deliverables. It’s good to break down your project schedule into phases, sub-projects, and deliverables.

The plan should give you a detailed overview of the steps involved in each project stage, from planning to delivery. A plan can help the project team avoid unexpected delays or obstacles and secure the budget and schedule.

Stage #4: When 

Last but not least, the ‘When’ stage helps keep investors and stakeholders informed as the project progresses when you finalize your project plan. Therefore, it’s a very important stage for it keeps your stakeholders updated throughout the project’s development. While, at the same time, helping you manage their overall and ultimate project expectations.

Unfortunately, the lack of communication with stakeholders is one of the leading causes of project delays and holdups. And, as such, it’s important to have regular reviews and meetings within your project schedule. For one thing, doing so will ensure that all activities signing off are correct. And that you can manage deliverable expectations on time.

Goals Plan And Objectives Strategy Execution Tips 

At all costs, projects undertaken aren’t separate from the daily operations of your company. They have a big impact on the organization as a whole. When done properly, project management saves resources, reduces costs, improves company culture, and improves employee morale. And good project management always starts with project planning.

At the root of any successful project is a project manager (PM) worth his or her weight in gold. While some people think a project manager’s sole job is to remind everyone about deadlines and set up a status meeting, that’s simply not the case. There’s a science to what they do — they have a deep understanding of and can perfectly execute the five phases of project management.

There’s also some debate in the field as to exactly what a project management life cycle looks like. However, there are several widely accepted project management phases — from project inception to project completion — and each performs a different purpose and function. Below are the Standard Demystifying Project Phases for all types, even the most complex projects.

The five phases are:
  • Initiation Phase
  • Planning Phase
  • Execution Phase
  • Control Phase
  • Project Closure Phase

In nutshell, if your project planning phase is on focus and precise, you’ll reap the rewards with project success. When project planning is complicated, it is easy to forget the difference between objectives and goals. While goals are general explanations of the project’s objectives, objectives are more specific, task-based tasks that help achieve those aims.

Your project’s primary goals and objectives should be established within the business case. Once you have honed in on the goals and objectives, the management should compile them into a “project charter,” which can be referenced throughout the project’s lifetime. Consider the following tasks:

1. Eliminate any notable management risks

Every project will be subject to some risk. These risks vary depending on where the project is located or operates. However, certain risks can affect any given project in one way or another. Such as scope risks, time-schedule risks, and technical risks. Project managers can use various project management software programs and tools to plan and schedule tasks.

As well as to allocate resources where they are needed most. You should also be ready for any new changes. Project plans can change over time, as mentioned earlier. This is an inevitable part of the project planning process and should not be a suggestion of weakness in your skills. It is possible to change a project plan if it becomes obvious.

2. Mark out the ultimate managerial tasks

Management must first determine the final deliverables before assigning tasks and activities to complete a project. This allows the project manager to make decisions like which tasks each team member should be under and understand all factors, people, and resources that a project requires to be successful.

Markedly, 70 percent of projects are prone to failure. There are lots of reasons why most projects fail, and they can almost associate failure with planning. For example, a project can fail when it grows outside of the original scope, also known as scope creep, eating into resources and turning into a rush job. To avoid this, plan for different contingencies in advance.

Communication is key to effective project management. Try to communicate rationally and effectively with others. By considering elements such as workshops, surveys, or even one-to-one meetings. Your job as a project manager is to give direction and provide helpful advice, not just tell people what they should do.

3. Address any new issues immediately 

A project manager is a guide. The project manager must immediately address any problems with deliverables or tasks. You’ll have more problems later on if you delay or don’t. Consider a directive software project planning and management. Another reason for project failure is a lack of transparency and communication between stakeholders.

A project plan can prevent this by assigning every detail to the relevant collaborator and detailing a reminder schedule so everyone knows the project timeline and their part in it. When only 50 percent of organizations say they have a track record of success in project management, there’s plenty of room for businesses to improve. Project planning is a great place to start.

4. Choose the software project planning team wisely

Although your project plan outline may seem complete, it will not be until your team has the necessary skills and understanding to execute your plans. This assignment of these tasks should be on basis of the skill sets of each member of the team. This requires that they have a clear understanding of their role and the steps required to complete it.

Management should ensure that each team member has all the necessary resources and materials when assigning tasks. You’ll need to choose a team that aligns the project with the business’s overall workflow and goals. Projects don’t happen in a vacuum. Always remember, that a project will always be part of a business’s wider activities and workflow.

Even in small companies, multiple projects may be underway at the same time. Over the years, a lot of research has been devoted to developing methodologies for more effective, success-driven projects. And companies worldwide that want to maximize their project performance are taking notice.

5. Create the leading milestones timeline

Milestone is the glue that holds everything together firmly. It ensures that all activities are within the project’s schedule and informs everyone involved about what to expect. Project managers need to start with the delivery date and then organize all tasks necessary to reach that point in a step-by-step. They’re a great way to mark the start and end of each phase.

By the same token, creating a solid project plan gives you a deeper understanding of exactly what the project is trying to achieve. As well as what resources it requires, and how it will contribute to the business’s growth or revenue. This makes it much easier to combine with the rest of the business’s activities —  even the daily workflow of employees and teams.

Obviously, a project may be small and fairly simple in scope, or it can be very complex, involving months of hard work and multiple teams. Either way, when project management is done properly, it’s conducted according to a set methodology, or life cycle — which tends to take a similar form across all industries and project type milestones.

6. Perfect your software project planning process 

Planning a project takes a lot of time and effort. However, it is less likely that a project will stray from its budget, scope, or schedule if appropriately planned. For instance, you can arrange regular meetings with each team member. Planning is only complete if there are meetings and one-to-1s with all team members.

Scope creeps into team members feeling like there’s ignorance of their opinions and views. This can cause a sense of depression, which eventually leads to decreased productivity. A project manager can also organize regular meetings with the team to monitor all activities and keep everyone motivated and on track for the same goal.

In a study by the Project Management Institute, 93 percent of organizations reported using a standardized project management methodology. What’s more, 80 percent of organizations ranked as high-performing have a dedicated project management office (PMO). When the PMO is highly integrated with the rest of the business, it results in even better performance.

7. Celebrate the success of your goals and milestones

The next thing is to celebrate your milestones and tangible results. While, keeping in mind, that each stage in a project’s life cycle should have milestones. Managers need to set these milestones. These milestones should evaluate each phase of a project’s progress and ensure that it is in line with the project schedule.

The project timeline includes milestones that measure the activity and status of the project. They allow management to show all team members the progress of a project and the effort into each step. Instead of viewing milestones simply as a “where are we going?” statement, project management teams should use them instead to communicate.

Such as “where have we been so far?” or how to deliver software projects? This will increase productivity and activity in the team as everyone can see how each task contributes to the project’s progress towards its final delivery.

Summary Notes:

While every stage of project management is part of the overall puzzle, the project planning stage arguably has the most impact on the entire process. In a survey of the software industry, 80 percent of respondents admitted that they spent half their time on rework after a project was over.

Last but not least, when it comes to software project planning, seamless information planning and execution will prove to be a great help. In that case, you can always contact the O2SOFT team to handle everything for you. Bearing in mind, it’s a custom software development company in London —  that can help with more information on software project planning.

Learn More: Demystifying the Five Phases of Project Management

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