Saturday, March 29, 2008


Enterprise Architecture and Death by Planning

As long as we follow the plan and don't diverge from it, we will be successful...

In many organizational cultures, detailed planning is an assumed activity for any project. This assumption is appropriate for manufacturing activities and many other types of projects, but not necessarily for many software projects, which contain many unknowns and chaotic activities by their very nature. Death by Planning occurs when detailed plans for software projects are taken too seriously.

Many projects fail from over planning. Over planning often occurs as a result of cost tracking and staff utilization monitoring. The two types of over planning are known as the Glass Case Plan and Detailitis Plan. The Glass Case Plan is a subset of the Detailitis Plan in that (over) planning ceases once the project starts. In the Detailitis Plan, over planning continues until the project ceases to exist, for a variety of unfulfilling reasons.

Often, a plan produced at the start of a project is always referenced as if it's an accurate, current view of the project even if it's never updated. This practice gives management a "comfortable view" of delivery before the project starts. However, when the plan is never tracked against, nor updated, it becomes increasingly inaccurate as the project progresses. This false view is often compounded by the absence of concrete information on progress, which often is known only after a critical deliverable slips its schedule.

Sometimes the solution to effective delivery is regarded as a high degree of control via a continuous planning exercise that involves most of the senior developers, as well as the managers. This approach often evolves into a hierarchical sequence of plans, which show additional (and unnecessary) levels of detail. The ability to define such a high level of detail gives the perception that the project is fully under control.

Some of the symptoms you can find are:

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