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Project Planning is the technique within project management that establishes the project and the project schedule. It is within project planning that we confirm the extent of planned work, scope, requirements and map the sequencing of this work into distinct sections to establish a schedule or work and deliverables to be created as output from that work. First we will look at how we plan a project.

In a project we break down the project into project phases. Each phase contains a selected group of activities. These activities normally result in some form of output. Work Breakdown Structures are tree structures that are often produced showing a breakdown of activities required to achieve these outputs. To perform these activities involves a certain amount of resources: people and time.

The point in time where these resources finish these activities and produce the designated output is termed a milestone. These are traditional project planning activities however and here we do things a little differently.

Within the Toolkit, we follow agile project management principles. First we understand and confirm our scope, what area of the business and systems we intend to alter or enhance. An elaboration and confirmation of the requirements is performed and estimates are prepared by expanding and walking through the requirements, the impacts and likely solution options.

Each solution option will entail a set of deliverables and components to be created and these are investigated to establish in which sequence the project will address the deliverables and components. Once a solution option is chosen, sequencing the parts of the project delivery will take into account the opportunity to deliver some early payback to the business. The element that provides the highest payback for lowest outlay should be a consideration as well as those elements of the proposed solution that are in highest demand by the business. Sequencing also takes into account which parts of the project are dependent on another and these are naturally placed later in the sequence. Also the parts of the project that are lower priority or that demand specific timed based resources are also placed further down the line.

This sequencing of deliverables is represented in a project plan that is refined and perfected to equalize optimal resource usage and target project duration with the project objectives. Once the plan is agreed, it is said to be baselined and becomes the Baseline Plan. These are terms that are not often used in agile projects and there is no real reason why not. Again an insular tradition of rejecting traditional ideas and terms has led to some good recognisable easily communicated practices being thrown out with the proverbial bath water.

Later you will see that we take the sequencing and schedule further by setting up shipments and timeboxing the work to ensure we deliver as planned within these fixed deadlines. In a traditional project, a milestone is a deadline or fixed point in your project. Once you reach this deadline in a traditional project you do something that from henceforth onwards you will feel was bizarre, especially once You have delivered your project using this Toolkit.

Once you reach this deadline you look backwards. Yes, backwards not forwards. You look backwards to check the important tasks or steps, which were meant to be delivered as part of the deadline, have been delivered. You will check that all these have been done; you will tick them off one by one. You will make sure that none of the steps has been skipped or forgotten. This check is our traditional project way of demonstrating that all the tasks which led up to that milestone have been completed. If the milestone has been reached and all the tasks have been completed then your project has reached its deadline.

This approach has some fundamental errors though. This approach does not tell you that you have produced what you wanted to produce. It also does not tell you that you have produced what your business team meant your project to produce, when it used its valuable funds and other resources. Most importantly it does not tell you that you have delivered the benefits that the business wanted you to produce. It just gives a comforting impression of this and some warm sense of achievement.

This form of project decomposition gives that impression because it makes an assumption. The assumption it makes is that the deadline produces some output that is required. But this is quite often not the situation at all. Traditional projects are legendary for maintaining their continuous progress while they sustain the satisfaction of outdated or surplus requirements.

This approach only gives the impression of progress. The demonstration of progress and its communication to your management provide the evidence needed to gain the authority to progress to the next stage of the project. That is all. that is the primary reason why traditional projects have development progress milestones. They are there so we can reach them and demonstrate that we have reached them. But the milestones only tell us we have reached some specific point. It does not tell us that we have delivered some specific required output.

Furthermore, milestones are normally only recorded and monitored for the more important elements of the project, traditionally placed on the critical path. We tend to put less focus on the less critical elements and as these elements receive less attention, we assign them a lower priority. We focus on the higher priority parts. As a high priority deadline approaches we readjust resources to ensure our deadline is met. Nine times out of ten this means resources from less critical elements get moved to higher priority elements. Throughout the history of traditional projects, they almost universally concentrated on the higher priority parts of the project, delivered those parts faster with growing personnel numbers as they near the project deadline and abandon lower priority functionality altogether.


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