Plan for Success

The last definitive survey of software developments in the United States (The Standish Group Report 1995) found the following:

♦ Less than one in six projects succeeded.

♦ Over 30 percent of all projects were cancelled prior to completion.

♦ Over 50 percent went over budget (on average 189 percent over).

♦ Less than 17 percent of projects were completed on time and on budget.

♦ Among large firms, the success rate is even lower—just 9 in 100.

CHAPTER

Never think you are too small to need to behave in a professional way, not until you are big enough to lose money.

If you are going to win where thousands of other program developers have fallen, you have got to do something they didn't, and we are not talking about raising more money. The best and richest resource you have is harnessed between your ears.

No good builder would dream of setting to work on anything but the simplest garden shed, until everything had been planned down to the last door knob. Architects don't say planning is okay for skyscrapers but not for a row of houses. The difference is in the scale—the laws of physics and Chapter Eleven apply identically to both projects.

So never consider yourself too small to plan. Small jobs in software writing are generally accepted as either tasks that take a couple of people less than a week or routines you are repeating. Anything more ambitious needs a plan.

If you want your project to succeed, you must conceive the word before you make it flesh. The plan should define, in straightforward language, what the program will do, how the user will operate it, and what benefits there are. The plan should also list the time writing is likely to take and the resources that will be necessary to see the task through. While most good plans are simple, they aren't necessarily short.

Shell had been successfully selling engine oil to garages worldwide for over 50 years when the company trainers decided that they needed to conduct a Human Resource Analysis. Their findings, much to everyone's surprise, grew to 38 pages of one-liners. From this they structured a new sales training program.

Not only were the new trainees more successful, but when salesmen fell short Shell was able to identify the specific part of the curriculum the salesman failed to apply. In one instance, they were able to trace a course member's omission to the exact point where the trainer was called out of the classroom to answer a call from his superior and resumed his lecture at a slightly different juncture.

A good plan is sufficiently comprehensive to enable you to spot and solve problems in advance. The planning process produces the blueprint on which every contributor is agreed. It simply and clearly states all of the following:

♦ How long it will take to develop

♦ What resources are required

Planning reduces the scope for hit or miss. Instead of creating stresses through the As not knowing what the Bs are doing, planning enables you to build up sound working relationships with those who are experts in fields other than yourself.

Note |f for any reason you are unable to draft a plan yourself, find someone else who can.

Planning has big advantages. For a start, you are not making mistakes with real money. You are just making them with paper.

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