Monday, May 12, 2014

No plan survives contact with the enemy: Budgets and Project Plans

By Steve Endow

"No plan survives contact with the enemy"--this is a paraphrased version of an oft cited quote by Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard Graf von Moltke (that's quite a name).

I'm currently working on a project that involves integrating Dynamics GP with a customer's internal e-commerce web site.  The customer's web site is used to capture customer information when they sign up for a subscription service.  I was asked to develop a solution that could receive that information in real time and store it in Dynamics GP.  This involved new customer information and credit card information and integration with two web services.

I had a few phone calls with the GP partner and client, we discussed the general requirements, and then we came up with a high level task list and estimate.  It seemed relatively straightforward.

Then the project started.  We knew that there were a few open questions, but not too long after we started working on the tasks, new details emerged.  There were some requirements that were more complex than anticipated, new requirements that were not anticipated, and some increase in scope due to new feature requests.  We adjusted our design and resumed working on the tasks.  Over half way through the project, yet another requirement surfaced that will affect a few parts of the overall solution that was a combination of "Oops, I forgot to mention that" and "It would be nice if...".  No problem, we have a plan to accommodate the requirement.

Okay, so all of this isn't too surprising--these are all fairly common events in technology projects.

But in this particular case, it all seemed more visible because the client is very conscientious about project management and receiving regular updates on tasks and timelines.  I've spent hours just updating the simple Excel task list every week, and had to give up completely on an MS Project plan that I originally created--there were just too many changes to try and track the project in detail in Project.

After updating the budget vs. actual report and reconciling all of my time against the originally planned tasks vs. new or changed tasks, it reminded me of the "von Moltke" quote.  It seems that technology project plans aren't terribly different than battle plans.  You don't always have all of the details or knowledge before you start a project, and things change as the project progresses.  (Come to think of it, anyone who has done home remodeling can probably also relate...)

Usually, that means that projects grow, become more complex, and require more time and/or money to complete, despite a customer's desire to have a fixed project plan with a fixed budget.  Plan accordingly, and expect all project plans and budgets to require adjustment as a project progresses.

Steve Endow is a Dynamics GP Certified Trainer and Dynamics GP Certified IT Professional in Los Angeles.  He is also the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on Google+ and Twitter

No comments: