The Dangers of Planning Time on Software Projects

Home » Agile Techniques » The Dangers of Planning Time on Software Projects
Photograph of columns in old building

Agile techniques favour responding to change over following a plan. I can’t remember where I read it, but I took it years ago that Agile was about staying focused on user functionality over and above trying to plan every last detail because it had been acknowledged that it isn’t possible to do that in a changing environment. Time planning is the subject of this post.

The Dangers of Planning Time

I have worked for many customers where the primary focus of management is the time taken by developers to create the software. As though development is some kind of production task. I believe that the only production we do is publish the project or cut the cd at the end of development. The reminder is design, not production.

The danger of trying to plan time taken over functionality, is that faced with having to justify every minute spent, developers (especially if not architecture aware) could take short-cuts that compromise the architecture.

This sounds crazy as I write it but it happens. If the culture is for developers to look good by getting work done quicker than others, some are more likely to take short-cuts that result in less code but poorer architecture with more dependencies. The end result is the software is quickly reduced to a complex tangled mess. The same developers can then go on to defend their actions, e.g. that they created performance improvement that obfuscated the code when they had not tested the benefits beforehand. This makes them sound good to their managers who think they are working with an expert when the reality is that the developer needs further training as they are just making a big mess.

This can all come from focussing on time rather than functionality. In the Agile world, a complete feature can be removed from a sprint if time is short. Or a more aware developer could take a short-cut that does not compromise the core architecture. Agile techniques have more than one level of protection against this type of practice which I may blog about in future.

Example

An example of the dangers of planning time and trying to control it to the nth degree is as follows: Say for example, the managers say that they are “Agile”, they will allow for an hour of code review every four hours spent on coding. Sounds reasonable? (apart from this isn’t Agile and is totally arbitrary)??

The programmers work on this basis, filling out their time if no review is required, so they don’t get accused of not reviewing the code properly, or skimping on reviews if there isn’t enough time. I don’t need to say what the end result is.

The correct way to do this is to give the team as much time as they need for reviews, and measure the time taken. Thus as a manager you can learn the true velocity and the true situation from the times actually taken and if the software actually stands up subsequently.

I would say that as a developer, if you can’t find a WTF in five minutes of looking, you are most probably done, so reviews should take as long as needed until you reach that point…

About Phil

I have been working as a software developer since 1983. This blog could have been called "From Fortran 77, C and Cobol to C# in 20 (not so) easy years", but it doesn't sound quite right somehow. Besides I'm talking about what's happened since 2003, not before!
One Response to “The Dangers of Planning Time on Software Projects”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




Top Posts & Pages

Categories

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Archives

Blogroll

  • Mike Cohn's Blog
  • Scott Hanselman's Blog
Be a Great Product Owner: Six Things Teams and Scrum Masters Need

Learn six ways effective product owners ensure their teams’ success. [...]

What Happens When During a Sprint

Succeeding with Scrum is easier when you know when and why to conduct each of the Scrum events during the sprint. [...]

What Are Agile Story Points?

Story points are perhaps the most misunderstood topic in agile. Story points are not based on just one factor--such as complexity, as is often mistakenly claimed. Instead, story points are based on a combination of factors. [...]

Don’t Equate Story Points to Hours

I’ve been quite adamant lately that story points are about time, specifically effort. But that does not mean you should say something like, “One story point = eight hours.” Doing this obviates the main reason to use story points in the... [...]

Epics, Features and User Stories

I've been getting more and more emails lately from people confused about the difference between "user stories", "epics" and "features." So I thought this month we'd return and cover some basic--but very helpful--territory by explaining those terms. First, the terms don't matter that much. These are not terms with important specific meanings like "pointer" to a programmer or "collateralized debt obligation" to whomever it is that's important. [...]

- Scott Hanselman
Use your own user @ domain for Mastodon discoverability with the WebFinger Protocol without hosting a server

Mastodon is a free, open-source social networking service that is decentralized and distributed. It was created in 2016 as an alternative to centralized social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. One of the key features of Mastodon is the use of the WebFinger protocol, which allows users to discover and access information about other users on the Mastodon network. WebFinger is a simple HTTP-based protocol that enables a user to discover information about other users or resources on the internet by using their email address or other identifying information. The WebFinger protocol is important for Mastodon because it enables… [...]

- Scott Hanselman
I got tired

I have been blogging here for the last 20 years. Every Tuesday and Thursday, quite consistently, for two decades. But last year, without planning it, I got tired and stopped. Not sure why. It didn't correspond with any life events. Nothing interesting or notable happened. I just stopped. I did find joy on TikTok and amassed a small group of like-minded followers there. I enjoy my YouTube as well, and my weekly podcast is going strong with nearly 900 (!) episodes of interviews with cool people. I've also recently started posting on Mastodon (a fediverse (federated universe)) Twitter alternative that… [...]

- Scott Hanselman
Using Home Assistant to integrate a Unifi Protect G4 Doorbell and Amazon Alexa to announce visitors

I am not a Home Assistant expert, but it's clearly a massive and powerful ecosystem. I've interviewed the creator of Home Assistant on my podcast and I encourage you to check out that chat. Home Assistant can quickly become a hobby that overwhelms you. Every object (entity) in your house that is even remotely connected can become programmable. Everything. Even people! You can declare that any name:value pair that (for example) your phone can expose can be consumable by Home Assistant. Questions like "is Scott home" or "what's Scott's phone battery" can be associated with Scott the Entity in the… [...]

- Scott Hanselman
JavaScript and TypeScript Projects with React, Angular, or Vue in Visual Studio 2022 with or without .NET

I was reading Gabby's blog post about the new TypeScript/JavaScript project experience in Visual Studio 2022. You should read the docs on JavaScript and TypeScript in Visual Studio 2022. If you're used to ASP.NET apps when you think about apps that are JavaScript heavy, "front end apps" or TypeScript focused, it can be confusing as to "where does .NET fit in?" You need to consider the responsibilities of your various projects or subsystems and the multiple totally valid ways you can build a web site or web app. Let's consider just a few: An ASP.NET Web app that renders HTML… [...]

- Scott Hanselman
A Nightscout Segment for OhMyPosh shows my realtime Blood Sugar readings in my Git Prompt

I've talked about how I love a nice pretty prompt in my Windows Terminal and made videos showing in detail how to do it. I've also worked with my buddy TooTallNate to put my real-time blood sugar into a bash or PowerShell prompt, but this was back in 2017. Now that I'm "Team OhMyPosh" I have been meaning to write a Nightscout "segment" for my prompt. Nightscout is an open source self-hosted (there are commercial hosts also like T1Pal) website and API for remote display of real-time and near-real-time glucose readings for Diabetics like myself. Since my body has an… [...]

Meta