Planning in the Various Project Life Cycle Approaches

I’m going through chapter 3 of the Agile Practice Guide, which covers the four types of project life cycles, including predictive (traditional), iterative, incremental, and agile.  On p. 20 in a sidebar on planning in projects, it describes how planning is done for each of these life cycle approaches, and that is the subject of this post.

Planning is always done, no matter what the life cycle approach, that’s the first important point.   It’s not whether it is done, but how much planning is done and when.

  • Predictive (traditional or waterfall):  as much planning as possible is performed upfront.  Requirements are identified in as much detail as possible.   The team estimates when they can deliver which deliverables and performs comprehensive procurement activities.
  • Iterative:  prototypes and proofs-of-concept are planned, but the outputs are intended to be modify the original plans created in the beginning.   Earlier reviews of unfinished work based on input from the prototypes help inform future project work.
  • Incremental:  incremental initiatives plan to deliver successive subsets of the overall project.   Teams may plan several successive deliveries in advance or only one at a time.   The deliveries inform the future project work based on feedback from the customer.
  • Agile projects also plan.  The team plans and replans as more information becomes available from review of feedback from customers based on frequent deliveries.

The key point here is that the project requires planning–either upfront in predictive life cycle approaches or “plan as you go” in agile on the other end of the spectrum, with incremental changes to the product based on the interaction with the customers and the changes to the project based on the internal review done on a regular basis (the “iterative” part of agile).

The next series of posts is going to go into more detail into the characteristics of each of the four types of life cycles:  predictive, iterative, incremental, and then agile.



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