Adding the planning stage to your project may not be a 100% guarantee of its future success, but it is surely an important contribution that will be fundamental for its outcome. This article will give you answers on what a planning stage is, why it is so important, who participates in it, why it is best for clients to give extensive information on the concept vision and business goals, and many more.
Planning Stage Definition and Basic Info
To understand why any project should start with this phase, you need to know the answer to the question “what is the planning stage?”
The planning stage is the second phase of the software project life cycle. This step is responsible for transforming the information received from a client on a pre-planning stage into a detailed software development documentation.
The documentation covers such aspects as costs, timelines, number and experience of project team members, and everything related to actual design and development processes.
The planning phase of SDLC must be an integral part of every project, no matter the size and difficulty because its primary goal is to make sure that the development process is smooth and final results are top-quality. In addition, it helps to reduce time, costs, and other resources for the client.
Project Planning Phase Steps
Just like a good essay includes an introduction, main body, and conclusion, the planning stage has three main steps that represent the same essence.
Step 1. Collecting information on the product or concept, market research, and performing a functional analysis. It is important to get as much information as possible on the client’s business goals, expectations, and vision of what functionality their software must include. The quality of the final product always depends on the quantity and relevance of the initial data.
Step 2. Preparing and approving project documentation. Since projects’ size, urgency, difficulty, budget, goals, and other aspects vary, the set of documents may differ for each project. The total number and the types of documents the client will get at the end of the planning stage always depend on what information they give to the project execution team.
Step 3. Finalizing the offer that covers budget, the scope of work, the team of development experts, the stack of technologies, timelines, costs, risk management, etc. As a result of all three steps, a client receives a number of individually prepared documents that guide through the workflow step-by-step and tell how much the product development will cost.
Key Participants and Results
The planning stage covers more than just technical and financial sides of the future project. It is commonly handled by different experts who provide market analysis, product research, brand identity development, and a lot more. To make it most efficient for the client and their business, this process should include the following specialists.
A sales manager covers the financial side of the project and evaluates the budget based on the client’s information, timelines, product components, number and experience of development team members. Also, this specialist develops an individual and detailed commercial offer for the client based on the results of the planning stage.
A project manager is one of the key planning phase participants. They perform such essential tasks as:
- Discussing future product logics, goals, functionality, and the role it plays in reaching business goals with the client;
- Preparing the majority of technical documentation along with other specialists, etc.
Technical experts must always be present in the planning stage because they represent experts who will do the actual product development. The role of the technical expert may be fulfilled by different types of specialists depending on their skills, experience, and expertise; thus, the “technical expert” may be:
- Tech Lead;
- Team Lead;
- Back-end developer;
- Front-end developer;
- QA specialist, etc.
Their planning phase responsibilities include but are not limited to:
- Taking part in writing the Software Requirements Specification (SRS);
- Choosing the stack of technologies and justifying their choice;
- Making a preliminary (or so-called high-level) plan of base structures, components, and architecture of the future product;
- Creating a technical description of key functionalities for clients and development teams.
A business analyst may not be present in the planning stage if the client has their own resources or simply does not need the business analysis of the market and their product or its concept. Also, the business analyst can take part in project estimation, writing the offer, etc.
A designer is responsible for the creative and visual part of the product. However, their participation in the planning stage is also optional as the client may want to get design services from the side. However, when the designer is included in project planning, they are responsible for creating brand identity and product design concepts as well as for prototyping.
Results of their work
Depending on the client’s requirements and business goals, at the end of the planning stage the client receives:
- Estimation of product design;
- Brand identity concept;
- Design and style concepts of the future product;
- Prototype of the product;
- User stories;
- Software requirements specification;
- Architecture design;
- Product versions development plan;
- Final offer on product development, etc.
The number and type of documents may significantly vary; thus, the list above is not full and differs depending on projects. Also, there’s no fully precise work breakdown structure for the experts mentioned above, and in some cases, they can replace each other for creating the parts of the project plan within their competence.
Benefits of Planning Stage for Projects and Businesses
The planning phase of project management brings many advantages for clients and development teams. Benefits the client receives include but are not limited to:
- Less time and costs on development. The client receives the final result faster and won’t have to spend additional money on improvements and bug fixing when the project begins with clarifying all technical, financial, and other details.
- Precise project estimation. When you plan budget and the scope of work, you are 99% less likely to be surprised by the cost of design and development in the end. Since all work is done according to the plan, there won’t be gaps between expectation and reality.
- Individually developed strategy. As a result of the planning stage, a client receives a strategy that perfectly fits their case and business needs. The result of the planning stage gives a client extensive information on the number and experience of development specialists, the stack of tools and technologies, the list of functionality and features, timeframes, budget, and more.
- A product that fully corresponds to its business goals. The planning stage of project management life cycle is responsible for ensuring that the combination of product’s design, functionality and features is most suitable for accomplishing business goals fast and easy.
- Additionally enhanced product quality. This point doesn’t mean that without a planning stage, the development team will present its client an apology for software. Nevertheless, projects that begin with strategy and documentation development instead of actual software development have higher quality and business efficiency comparing to the ones that excluded the planning phase from their development life cycle.
- No unpredicted risks and complications. Of course, the presence of the project management planning phase is not a 100% guarantee that there will be absolutely no risks during and after the development process. However, specialists in finances, analytics, design, management, and technical product development will predict the vast majority of technical and business risks, and build a strategy that solves them all before they even occur.
- Transparency of all stages of project development. All idea owners who pour their money and soul in creating a competitive business product naturally want to be informed on the development progress. The planning phase also eliminates the transparency issue because the client doesn’t need to ask questions as they are already given the answers in the documentation.
- Key documentation. Being the last but not least among all advantages of the planning stage in project management for the client, this one is of a material nature. As a result of the entire phase, the client receives a number of documents specifically for their future project. This documentation entirely belongs to the client, so they decide whether it will serve as the basis for the work or not.
In addition to all benefits for the client mentioned above, the planning phase is also advantageous for the entire development team. Thus, developers get:
- Steady and smooth development process. When the project is planned in detail beforehand, there are fewer chances of misunderstandings, nonconformity, and rework.
- Better understanding of client’s goals and needs. One of the main goals of the project stage is to find out what exactly the client wants to receive, how fast they want to get the final product, what it must include, and so on. Thus, when the development stage begins, technical experts already have full information on the project and a detailed plan of their work.
- Satisfying product. Getting paid for work is great, but understanding that you created something flawless, and the client loves it is priceless. When the project goes smooth all the way, it guarantees the top quality of the final product and its success on the market.