I like listening to audiobooks when I go for a morning run. This month it is a David Baldacci thriller about two CIA professional killers pitted against each other who end up working together to save us all from global catastrophe. Apparently, there is a ton of planning involved in stealthily hunting a target, making the kill, and then getting away unseen. That’s because there is a lot of risk. Timing is critical, down to the split second, and the slightest mistake can end your life. Discussing the highly complex plan to foil an assassination attempt with his partner, one agent says to the other, “There’s no risk in planning. The risk is in the execution.”
That got me thinking about software development and QSM’s SLIM-Suite estimating, tracking, and forecasting tools. Do I agree with that statement? Yes and no. Let’s look at it both activities – project planning and execution.
The activity of planning is not risky as far as your personal safety is concerned. You probably aren’t in danger of getting attacked or making a mistake that will cause bodily injury (you may experience emotional trauma or at least endure a minor headache). It is most definitely risky for software development programs and initiatives, however, because aggressive plans based on poor estimates handicap the delivery team. Without understanding the dynamics of software development projects or the ability to rapidly compute a range of potential outcomes to identify risky scenarios, planners may inadvertently commit to unrealistic schedule, budget, and staffing goals. In fact, most plans are “goal based” ― task lists and staffing plans derived to give management or the customer what they want, because there is no solid framework or supporting data to defend against it.