The Hidden Project Plan

Posted by Doc
Apr 13 2011

As I’ve been doing training on Agile Fundamentals over the past 18 months, I’ve found myself talking about this consistently: The Hidden Project Plan.

Here’s how the story goes: you build a project plan, and do your best to manage to the project plan. Things drop out, like testing and documentation and training, as you run short on time and/or money, or your resources are committed elsewhere. Ultimately, with a system with multiple components/subsystems/systems, you get to the point of integration. Your project plan allows for some time to do the integration, including fixing the bugs uncovered during integration.

The problem I’ve seen over and over is that there are more bugs than anticipated, the team has been split up to work on other projects, there’s neither time nor money left for this project, and the developers and testers are multitasking from their new assignments to get these things fixed. Oh, and they’ve forgotten everything they knew about the code and tests that they wrote a year ago.

The time and effort and cost that are not part of the original project plan? That’s what I call “the hidden project plan”.

The short answer? Continuous integration / deployment / delivery, combined with effective TDD and automated functional testing. These things, along with a number of other agile practices, can reduce or eliminate the hidden project plan such that when a team says “it’s done” it’s really done.

One Response

  1. Jin Sheen Yeoh says:

    Agree with you on this! I’m on a project that is experiencing the similar. The key is documentation, and being able to trace it and somehow manage it in one place. We’ve used JIRA to somehow managed the bug/fix validation portion, combined with some pretty detailed Requirements docs, which has really detailed change tracking added to it.

    Managing the project plan is one thing.. i think the challenge is finding a tool that allows for those changes to happen easily from a project plan standpoint.. MS Project is Not the tool for it especially if you have continuously changing timelines.

    The easiest way we’ve been managing it is keep the timeline task chunks on a high level, drive the budget based on those chunks..and change order any out of scope items/additional in scope items.. not surprisingly, we’ve gone back to Excel to manage some of these instead of using MS Project..

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