How to plan a project

When you decide to outsource your software development there are a couple of questions you need to ask, and decisions to make.  You should decide what type of software you need and carefully choose your software development partner. If you have not decided yet, this article might help you make up your mind when choosing the right software house. Project management is one of the factors you should look at. Also, ask your future partner about the project plan, how they are going to create it and what will it contain to be sure the whole project will be in good hands.

Some say that project management is universal in many industries. Using one method we can accomplish goals and end up with a positive outcome. But industries differ from each other. The whole process of project development should be carefully adjusted to the company, industry and the project itself.

Whatever the project, firstly it needs to be properly planned by the project contractor. It is one of the most important steps in ensuring that the plan will be delivered on-time and on-budget. To be the most effective the project plan should communicate the scope of the whole project; deliverables and what to expect, timing and schedules but also team roles and responsibilities. These early considerations are made to avoid future issues from affecting the overall success of a project.

So, what are the main steps that should be taken to ensure the project will be done properly?

1. Stakeholders identification and cooperation

A stakeholder is anybody who is affected by the result of a project plan, for example customers and end users. All the stakeholders should be identified in order to keep their interests in mind during the process of delivering the project. Many discussions can be expected in this part of a project. The software development partner should know the clear project scope, budget and timeline and based on that information create a Scope Statement to get everybody on the same page.

2. Goals prioritization

Once a list of stakeholders is done, it should be prioritized and specific project goals should be set. It is very important for the project objectives to be created. It is not efficient to work with a project where “everything is important”. There should always be something more important in order to know what to take care of first or what to put the pressure on. Developer’s goals and stakeholders’ needs should be written down to guide the future work.

3. Definition of deliverables

Deliverables and outcomes should also be very clearly identified and presented. With all that information and scopes a more detailed project plan can be created. What are the expected specific outcomes? The answer to that question should be known for everybody working with a project. When the deliverables are identified they can also be time bound. It might also be a good idea to set few milestones for essential deadlines.

4. Project schedule creation

Firstly, a series of tasks to accomplish every goal and each deliverable must be defined. Than each task needs to be carefully analysed and defined. How much time will it take? What resources are necessary? Who will be responsible for execution? With all that information it is possible to identify dependencies. What needs to be done to proceed to the next task? All the information gathered should be also presented in a clear way on a timeline. One of the best ways to do so is to use a Gantt chart.

5. Risk assessment

No project is risk-free. Project Managers cannot cross their fingers and hope everything will work out. They should answer very important, risk-related questions in advance to ensure that unpredicted events will be minimised. Are there any issues that might affect the project that we know of? What unforeseen circumstances could create problems? All aspects of the work should be thought of. Possible holidays of key developers, busy season, relocation of the headquarters etc. Risk assessment should be conducted and developed into a risk management strategy.

6. Project plan presentation

Everything that was worked out should be presented to the stakeholders. The clients of the software house have the final word. It is the moment of truth. Are all the needs of a client met? Is the plan suitable for their vision? An open discussion is vital at this stage of planning. Roles should also be determined and approved by the decision makers. At this stage a project plan will or will not be approved. You, as a customer in this process should be very careful and make the best of it.

To sum up

Various industries and project types differ from each other but each one should be properly planned. Pay attention to what your contractor plans to do and make sure to provide them with all the information they need as clearly as it is possible. Remember that you are partners in this project and you should support each other. With the knowledge of the planning process you might be more helpful for them to create a sustainable plan that will ensure your project will be delivered on-time and on-budget.

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