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The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun

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3.1. Software planning demystified

A small, one-man project for an internal web site doesn't require the same planning process as a 300-person, $10 million project for a fault-tolerant operating system. Generally, the more people and complexity you're dealing with, the more planning structure you need. However, even simple, one-man projects benefit from plans. They provide an opportunity to review decisions, expose assumptions, and clarify agreements between people and organizations. Plans act as a forcing function against all kinds of stupidity because they demand that important issues be resolved while there is time to consider other options. As Abraham Lincoln said, "If I had six hours to cut down a tree, I'd spend four hours sharpening the axe," which I take to mean that smart preparation minimizes work.

Project planning involves answering two questions. Answering the first question, "What do we need to do?" is generally called requirements gathering. Answering the second question, "How will we do it?" is called designing or specifying (see Figure 3-1). A requirement is a carefully written description of a criterion that the work is expected to satisfy. (For example, a requirement for cooking a meal might be to make inexpensive food that is tasty and nutritious.) Good requirements are easy to understand and hard to misinterpret. There may be different ways to design something to fulfill a requirement, but it should be easy to recognize whether the requirement has been met ...

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