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Jumping Alligators: The Pitfalls of Planning

Jumping Alligators: The Pitfalls of Planning



Every team or individual encounters pitfalls that attempt to derail the success of a project. Many times, theses pitfalls can be determined prior to encountering them. With proper planning, a team can ...

Every team or individual encounters pitfalls that attempt to derail the success of a project. Many times, theses pitfalls can be determined prior to encountering them. With proper planning, a team can take the appropriate measure to overcome any pitfall. In this session we discuss how planning starts during the estimation process and continues until the project is launched. Planning tasks that will be covered include; project estimation, feature specifications, use cases, wireframes, architecture, and build and release planning.



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    Jumping Alligators: The Pitfalls of Planning Jumping Alligators: The Pitfalls of Planning Presentation Transcript

    • Jumping Alligators:The pitfalls of project planning
      Presented by: James Polanco & Aaron Pedersen
      D2W Conference 2011
    • Who are these guys?
      James Polanco & Aaron Pedersen
      Co-founders of DevelopmentArc
      Web Application Architects
      Co-Authors of:
      Adobe Flash Platform from Start to Finish: Working Collaboratively Using Adobe Creative Suite 5
      Understanding the Adobe Flex® 3 Component and Framework Lifecycle
      Understanding Flex 4 Component Development
      Developers of Maque, Adobe WorkflowLab, Scion.com, Yahoo! Flickr Mail, and much more...
    • Pitfalls of planning
    • Common pitfalls
      Budgets don’t allow for planning
      Clients don’t understand why they should pay for planning
      Clients often feel planning is already completed by their team
      Budgets are defined before your involvement
      Teams are worried they may lose the project, so we cut corners
    • Common pitfalls
      Estimation is done before planning
      Estimation is often mistakenly considered the planning phase
      Teams want goals before the problems are discovered
      Clients want you to fix bid based on a rough sketch of what they want
      We usually don’t really know what we want, yet we need to estimate how much it will cost
    • Common Pitfalls
      Excitement of a project buries planning
      Clients are eager to start development and gloss over the planning process
      Development teams (all disciplines) are eager to start doing what we do best
    • Common pitfalls
      Poorly implemented workflows give planning a bad name
      “The problem with waterfall is it’s all about planning”
      “We use agile because we can start developing right now”
      “We already did all the planning we need... at the start of the project”
    • Bad Planning Leads Too...
    • Results of bad Planning
      Scope Creep
      Adding new features... is planning
      But did you plan for it?
      Estimation is done yet now we are adding new and unexpected features
      Unexplored features are often bigger then we expected
      Unexpected features lead reconsidering project milestones and goals
    • Results of bad Planning
      Over-budget & Overtime
      More features = more time
      More features = more resources
      More time + more resource = more $$$
    • Results of bad Planning
      Scope creep, budget bloat, extended deadlines cause unhappy clients
      Poorly planned projects puts extreme stress on the development team
      All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy
    • Tasks of Planning...
    • Tasks of planning
      Brainstorming is a no-bounds or limit exercise
      Allow the client (or you) to brain dump their vision
      Include your team in this process
      Create a two-way conversation
      Defining Constraints
      Understand time and budget limits
      Prioritize time vs. budget
    • Tasks of planning
      Define features based on brainstorming results
      Prioritize features based on the defined constraints
      Feature list should be organized into “must have”, “nice to have”, “if we can”
      Technical Research
      Define any technical unknowns that could impact constraints
      Use this time to read up on and test technologies to understand their potential risk to the project
    • Tasks of planning
      Estimate each feature individually
      Organize based on priority
      Always give a range of time (ideal vs. risk), not just a set number of hours
      Budget for more planning tasks
      Use case development, specification development, prototyping and wire framing
      Budget for other non-feature specific tasks
      Meetings, emailing, source control, environment setup, QA and deployment
    • Tasks of planning
      Use Cases
      Create a set of use cases for each feature
      Always consider non-intuitive uses
      Use cases can be high-level or explicit based on the complexity of the feature
      Break features into clearly defined elements
      Consider each element as a task that can be assigned during the project
      This can be during sprints, iterations, backlogs, etc...
    • Tasks of planning
      Used to explore technical implementations
      Used to explore usability
      Used to explore different UX options
      Used to gain quick feedback from clients and users
    • Tasks of planning
      Wireframes can come before or after the prototype process (or both)
      Wireframes are visible representations of the feature specifications and use cases
      Wireframes offer a workflow for client and team interaction
      Wireframes can expose missing or unknown areas within the project
      Catch it early, and plan for it... rather then later and pay for it...
    • Real Stories...
    • A bad scenario...
      Misunderstood “Agile” project ran on fixed bid
      Startup with grand (yet misunderstood) vision wants to launch yesterday...
      Tight, three month-deadline, meant no time for planning
      Inexperienced management team thought, “hey, let’s do this using Agile...”
    • A bad scenario...
      The Results
      Project was 12 months late...
      Multi-project managers were brought on and then let go during the project
      Countless hours were given away for free to the client
      Project team was disgruntled and had significant turnover
      Client was pissed!!!
    • A Slightly Better scenario...
      Startup has a “big” idea
      Wanted us to fix bid based on a 10 page slide deck of ideal features
      They were all brief descriptions of what the features were
      They wanted an estimate from us in a few days
      There were huge technical challenges and unknowns with almost every feature
      They had a 3-4 month window to complete before showing to egger investors
    • A Slightly Better scenario...
      The Results
      We told them no... at least not without some research
      We created a planning strategy to develop an estimate for the project
      Technical Research -> High-level Feature Spec -> Estimate of cost
      This estimation process cost us about 20 hours of unpaid time
    • A Slightly Better scenario...
      We didn’t get the project...
      The client saw the project was way larger then they initially understood and took a different approach
      We were actually happy to lose the 20 hours vs. committing to a project we didn’t understand
      This ended up saving us hundreds of hours and a metric shit-ton of money
    • How much time?
    • How Much time?
      More then you think...
      Alan Cooper said (paraphrasing):
      “Don’t ask me how much the project will cost. Ask me how much it will cost you to have me tell you how much the project will cost...”
    • Convincing clients...
    • Convincing clients...
      Have planning and analysis as a separate contract
      This is the Alan Cooper approach
      Can save the client a ton of cash and energy
      Gives the client a well-thought out strategy for achieving their project’s goals
      We recommend that this is process is hourly-based, which can lead into fixed bid
      Gives you and the client something to return to throughout the project
    • Convincing clients...
      Give your clients better insight
      Help them understand the size and complexity of their project
      Keep them involved at each step of the planning to understand what, and most importantly, why you are doing it
      Allows for easier explanation of how “changing features” impacts the project
    • Planning never stops...
    • Planning never stops...
      Projects are continually evolving
      Features will change, it’s okay... this makes the project better in the long run
      Continue to update your documents to reflect any change
      Use project constraints to limit unnecessary (or unreasonable) change
      Prioritize change, with the understanding that something has to give to stay within the constraints
      We can’t catch everything up front, so budget for future unknowns
    • Q&A
    • Thanks!!!
      Understanding Flex 4 Component Development
      Adobe Flash Platform from Start to Finish: Working Collaboratively Using Adobe Creative Suite 5
      Adobe Flex 4 Component Development Training (August 10th)
      Download Maque Beta 3: