‘Real-Life’ Mistakes in Project Management: Part 3
Part 3: Planning and the ‘Long Tail’

At The Bridge we both manage and consult on website and software development projects for many industries, including financial markets, media, automotive, and government.

Whatever the industry, I’ve noticed a number of recurring pitfalls. Note that I’m assuming at least a basic level of project management, for example a plan, structure, stakeholders etc. If you don’t have those, then there are plenty of publications you can refer to, and if course there is just common sense.

The mistakes I’m going to describe in this series are from our real experiences with website and software development projects we’ve seen over many years.

Planning Adjustments not carried out on an ongoing basis

Project plans look great at the start, and are often the basis for business planning and contractual agreements. I won’t touch in the contractual side here, but from the point of view of managing the project, the project plan frequently gets abandoned after the ‘real work’ starts.

The problem is that no adjustment of expectations is made when components of the project are held up. The end date is kept the same, in the unjustified hope that time will be made up.

At the very least the plan should be pushed back based on the dependencies of the delayed task. A good project planning tool will help with this.

However I would argue that a further adjustment needs to be considered, depending on the cause of the delay. If for example certain parts of specifications, or content creation have taken longer than expected, then this might indicate potential delays in other areas of specification or content. This may be due to certain personnel being unable to spend as much time on the project as expected, or maybe they were just overly optimistic in evaluating the task. Hence there could be a case for extending the time required for future tasks, unpalatable as this may be.

The ‘Long Tail’

What I mean by this is the time needed after the system is essentially built, and is being tested, or refined on the basis of the user experience. This can drag on for much longer than expected, as even seemingly small changes can take time to implement, or maybe the right resources aren’t immediately available (see my previous blog ‘5 Reasons Why Building Software isn’t like Building a House’this part actually is a bit like building a house). For a website there might be a long wait for a legal/compliance review of the final site. Maybe most of the project personnel aren’t busy, but the project still can’t go live. The better the upfront specification and design, the less likely this is, but in my experience it’s very difficult to avoid.

Testing nearly always involves, well, testing, but it also involves fixing and changing, which takes time. Best to just allow for it in the plan, and don’t assume testing can be rushed through at the end of the project.

If you’d like to discuss your website or software development options with The Bridge, feel free to call Lawrence on 02 9993 3300 or email lawrence@thebridgedigital.com.au