Top 5 planning mistakes for software projects


16 Jun
16Jun

Recent years surveys (2017, 2018) show that % of success in projects (meeting goals, on time, and budget) is still lower than what you might expect. Only 2.5% of organizations report they complete 100% of their projects successfully (Gallup), 17% of IT projects can go so bad that they can threaten the very existence of the company. (McKinsey), and ~60-70%% report frequent project failures – not meeting business goals (Wellington).


As the definition of project success changes and becomes more about value and less timeline/budget oriented, still most organizations can’t afford significant deviations from initial targets and definitely can’t afford not completing strategic projects.


So what is it that we need to do to change these statistics and improve success rate?


Is it planning? Execution? Risk management? all of the above and more?


Starting with the first one (planning), there is a lot that can be done to improve project planning and avoid common planning mistakes that can make projects fail.


Here are the Top 5 planning mistakes in software development and delivery projects that should be avoided:


  • Ignore the impact of parallel activities – We tend to plan parallel phases in development projects which is OK but we often forget to plan the impact of the parallel activity and soon run into resource clashes (which obviously lead to delays). To avoid it, weight in the impact of running parallel activities and the accurate capacity of your teams.

  • Leave the complexity to the end – As requirements mature and teams ramp up we tend to leave the complex tasks to the end of the plan which leads to late surprises and delays and no time for mitigation

  • Plan very short time for reviews – When we have iterative activities which require feedback from the customer, we usually leave too short time for review. As the customers sensitive to timeline, they try to give feedback on time, but even if they succeed it usually means more significant feedback will follow, which might impact the project.

  • Not weighting in history (team performance, velocity), Ramp up time, Knowledge aspects and other significant factors that impact the execution.

  • Leave 0 buffer … and then every delay increases the parallel activities in the project and could develop to be a snow ball.


To sum, the first step to increase project success rate is to build a good strategic high-level plan, but one that is feasible. If it is not feasible, no matter how talented the teams and the leaders are, execution won’t go well. To build a good solid and feasible plan we should always learn from the past, weight in the above factors and prepare for surprises and rainy days upfront. Good Luck!

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