Imagine being able to put a percentage confidence beside each item in your project plan and having management understand that you aren’t padding your plan but, providing insight. As the project moves along, those percentages get closer to 100% and the plan becomes more concrete. The truth in a plan! I don’t think many of your bosses are ready for that level of overt uncertainty in their project plans yet.
Until then, it is important as project managers to test our assumptions. How long does an interface really take to build? Is the performance of the application in line with expectations? Did the business really mean they wanted all that information on one screen. Many times PMs plow through these questions and hope for the best. Which can leave us on Hope Island and saddled with some very last minute delays. Here’s are few ways to ensure you test and validate assumptions throughout the project:
1) Create wire frames and walk troughs of the UI to ensure the requirements and flow make sense before starting the build. Actual walk troughs and “day in the life” workshops are also valuable.
2) When there are many small pieces of work such as multiple interfaces, get those that have no prerequisites completed early in the cycle to ensure you’ve estimated the timing and work effort correctly.
3) Get the whole team involved. When given a quote or a statement see if you can turn it into a provable assertion and then get your team member to help prove it. This also ensures that you build consistency across the team and look for facts over guestimates or biases.
4) If you have a seasoned team and the work is fairly repetitive History is one of the best tools to get actual facts for your assertions. Be careful to ensure that the historical context you are using is close to the one at hand.
5) Don’t wait until User Acceptance Testing(UAT) to hear from the end user or business. I have been in many scenario’s where a project has plowed through most business objections only to find karma get them in UAT. The ultimate constant validation of assumptions is to have the end users (as many, and as varied as you can) be part of the process all the way through.