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Tracking the Plan – Successfully Managing a Software Development Project


Tracking the Plan

Successfully Managing a Software Development Project

By: Mubeen Bolar | Director, Project Management

The goal of every software development project is to meet the original delivery date while staying within confines of the original scope and budget. A simple concept that depends on a lot of different variables, like availability of resources, the skillset of the resources,  availability of the environment , finalized requirements, project management and the project plan. Sometimes the project plan for a project is in Excel and most times it is in tool like Microsoft Project. It is advisable to use a tool like Microsoft Project as it designed for the purpose of tracking the progress of the project to the plan.

A project plan must be realistic and it must contains all tasks necessary to complete the software development project, including analysis, development, testing, deployment, reviews, sign offs, technical and project management oversight and support. Each task must be linked according to the order of execution such that when the date of the first task moves out, the dates of the rest of the linked tasks also move out by the same proportion. In Microsoft Project, the series of tasks and sub-tasks must roll up to a single parent task which is the name of the project. This parent task will display the roll up values for the entire project in the following columns:

  1. Duration – How many days it will take to complete the project
  2. Start Date
  3. Finish Date
  4. Cost – Total cost of the project (Work x Rate per hour for each resource)
  5. Work – Total estimated hours  required to complete all the task in the plan
  6. Actual Work – Total hours actually worked by the team on all the tasks
  7. Remaining Work – Total estimated hours of remaining work

The project manager must be able to identify when the project is starting to deviate from the plan. One of the best ways to monitor the project plan is to enter the actual hours worked by each resource against the tasks to which the resource is assigned. This can be done on a weekly basis by running a report from the time-sheet management system. When actual hours are entered for each task, the remaining hours will change to display balance of the Work hours left (Work-Actual Work = Remaining Work). The project manager must meet with each resource to review the remaining hours on each of their tasks. . If the resource does not need all the remaining hours for certain tasks, the remaining hours for these tasks should be reduced. On the other hand, if the resource needs more hours to complete certain tasks, the remaining hours for these tasks must be increased.

Reducing the remaining hours on a task will reduce the timeline and budget as the resource is taking less time to complete the work.  Increasing the remaining hours will increase the timeline and budget as the resource is taking longer to complete the work. This exercise done on a weekly basis will show the impact of the remaining hours on the overall budget in terms of the changes to the Cost and Total Estimated hours. As remaining hours increase the timeline will also be impacted resulting in the end date of the project moving out. A project manager can take corrective steps as soon as the deviation is identified.