Importance of formal project planning

One of the projects that I executed for one of my employers was an internal employee goal tracking system. The system enables employees from CEO to bottom level, enter their goals supporting their superior’s goals. According to user levels, there is ability to view/edit/approve/reject goals and there are mechanisms to conduct performance management. This project was a pet project of one of the VPs and he wanted to get it done as soon as possible bypassing all SDLC and PM phases. There was no proper planning as how to conduct requirement analysis, whether to use the existing user hierarchies in LDAP or create hierarchy on the fly, when should the system be implemented, when should the system testing start, how many people should work on the project and whether to use ajax based web development or normal html form based.

This project came in with very vague requirements and tight deadlines to complete design, coding and testing. Since this was an internal project (not for a client or strategic applications/products), no effort was made to follow formal process and I was told to bypass it. The priorities kept on changing due to shifts in management positions and due to changing system requirements. The project trailed along due to lack of effective planning as to what needs to be done towards implementing and integrating the system. There was constant schedule conflicts when one activity deliberately crossed over another (eg. Database design phase was interrupted when complete working prototype was required). The system was designed, developed and implemented without meeting the expected deadlines and went into UAT. The funny thing is that the system still awaits testing due to conflicts in management levels regarding the extra work that the system brings in.

The project would have greatly benefited from formal planning process and scheduled development. Project activities could have been clearly identified and sequenced. Well defined project plan could have reduced the uncertainty and could have lead to more realistic resource allocations and milestones. Appropriate means to manage schedule adjustments, especially schedule compression by Fast Tracking could have been beneficial.