Project Planning 4 - Alternative Solutions Consulting

Project Perfection is in the Planning

People often discuss the high failure rates associated with technology projects around the world as if they are some industry-wide enigma.  Why do so many businesses fail in their endeavors? What is it that separates the incredible from the regrettable projects, and how can you make sure your company succeeds in delivery?

When a need or idea presents itself in an executive boardroom, business owners and stakeholders will generate loose criteria from their internal discussion and then send over the details to an assistant that transcribes it all into an email assuming the developers will “figure it out”.  Many times, these developers are off-site and the second-hand communication may be all they have to work from.  In my past, I have been handed a pencil drawing and hand-written list of features on a napkin, yes, a napkin, and told to just figure it out.  Believe it or not, scenarios like these constitute the bulk of the process for many efforts around the world, and projects like these are doomed before a developer ever enters the scene.  If a business is very lucky, the pure perseverance of the team will overcome this information hurdle to produce a production ready solution, but the odds are not in your favor.  Success in projects with limited planning are generally short-lived, as even these lucky few will find that their completed product falls far short of the original requirements or riddled with compatibility bugs.  If the project fails, the business minds will blame the developers for not delivering the product they wanted, and the developers blame the business minds for not explaining their needs efficiently.

The two project scenarios mentioned above account for about 90% of the projects out there, but what about the other 10%?  What about the award-winning, industry spinning 10% that lead us to a better way of doing business?  What are they doing that the others aren’t?

Communicating in a standardized, thorough, and well-documented manner.

In psychology, the false-consensus effect or false-consensus bias is an attributional type of cognitive bias whereby people tend to overestimate the extent to which their opinions, beliefs, preferences, values, and habits are normal and typical of those of others. This cognitive bias tends to lead to the perception of a consensus that does not exist, a “false consensus”.  This false consensus is the best example I have found to explain the disconnect between business minds and developers.

Much like lawyers, developers are taught to think in a very process-oriented, standardized, and detail specific manner.  When provided the information they require, a strong development team can achieve incredible feats.  Without that information, they will be spinning their wheels on the 5th rejected iteration 6 months after the project deadline.  Business minds are forged to think outside the box and disrupt and improve standards to generate revenue increases. A developer asked to create a project without effective technical architecture and discovery is like being a CEO trying to lead a company with no analytics or references about the market!  Imagine having to fly blind with everyone counting on you for their success, it’s a scary scenario.  Finding an effective way to bridge the communication barrier between the business team and technology team is vital to ensuring project success.

The following steps will help put your team on the path to perfecting project process:


  1. The first and most necessary step to bridging the communication gap is, you guessed it, communication. We must bring together all stakeholders and leads to create standardized process that both teams abide.  Create a list out all the items the teams would require or like to see in their ideal project management situation.  Once the list is generated conduct a group value analysis to whittle down a final template.
  2. Fill out a RACI chart to identify responsibilities and consultations required for progression.
  3. Use wireframes to ensure the project is less “imagine this” and instead “create that”.
  4. Do a thorough discovery with a technical consult involved to ensure all data architecture, content, and third-party dependencies see the light of day before they drag your project into the darkness.
  5. Only fools rush in – Don’t start down an uncertain path as you will most likely get lost in the woods or worse, find bears.


It is difficult in the break-neck speed of business to stop and ask if things could be done better, faster, and with a higher success rate.  If your team is already at maximum output and you need help propelling your projects and processes to perfection, a proven partner can make all the difference.  A real partner acts to improve the overall quality and stability of a client, not just deliver the minimum to call it done.

Why take a chance on failure when certainty is one conversation away?


Johnie Waddell, Lead Developer & Salesforce Solution Architect at Alternative Solutions Consulting

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