Project Planning approaches in the IT Consulting
In the modern days of changing and challenging IT environment, it is crucially important to select the correct approach of running the project and managing its all activities simultaneously. Many IT solutions allow Project Managers to cover all the necessary tasks by using only one software. While in this article will be described an approach of integration usage of two commonly known solutions – Jira and MS Project. This integration crucially helps the Project Manager with all project planning activities. Both Jira and MS Project are massively used by SAP Project Managers and this integration could help SAP to deliver customer projects on an even higher and more efficient level.
Project Planning in a company could be described by using the following processes:
- Short-term planning (Sprints);
- Calendar planning;
- Resource planning;
- Financial planning.
All these processes are interconnected, but in practice are not implemented in one information system. Therefore this article is aimed to provide an overview on the implementation and usage of systems, successful architectural solutions, which eventually made it possible to make project management, budgeting, and financial planning processes more effective, due to the integration of various planning processes.
Planning is one of the most important processes in managing software development projects. As a rule, some tracker is being used to manage processes software production environment. Therefore, operational planning also relies on the tracker functionality. For the last years, the market is dominated by Jira.
But for project planning, the tracker system functionality is not enough, so in IT consulting companies, planning is based on industrial systems, sometimes even on Excel.
Agile methodology has been cultivated for a decade in software development, but there is a gap in planning process automation tools, developed in the course of market growth and development. Calendar planning systems with a focus on the creation of the Gantt chart have been used for a long time. MS Project is an example of such a system. They have sufficiently developed tools of calendar and resource planning but lack the features inherent in trackers such as Jira. For example, the movement of tasks by statuses, the creation of operational plans (sprints), panels and dashboards for the team, links with other tasks, etc.
Therefore, it is reasonable to allocate several levels of planning. At each level, interrelated processes are intertwined: production planning, project planning, and financial planning.
2. Planning levels
The following levels of planning are necessary for further management of the processes for teams, projects, and companies:
- The first level is the most detailed one. At this level description of specific requirements for the analysts, developers, testers, etc is taking place. Weekly plans (or Sprints) are most common here. The backlog of one or more projects is analyzed to form a work plan usually within one
- The second level or Project level is about fixing the key milestones, planning all activities and tasks for the project, but in fewer details than at the first level.
- The third level contains resource planning for the month, quarter or year. The plan is compiled from all the projects of the second level and the processes in which the human resources are involved, including support, training processes, non-production processes, etc. The main goal of this planning is to fully utilize existing resources to their maximum and achieve the desired outcome in the scheduled timeline.
- Forth level or Financial Planning of the company. At this level, project revenues (second level of planning) are summarized and compared with the company’s expenses (third level of planning).
3. Functional architecture of planning systems
As it was already stated above, the first level of planning in the current IT companies is firmly taken by some tracker, the second level is a system of calendar planning. An effective process can be built if these systems are integrated. This solution requires less effort and immediately allows you to use the functions of both systems and move on to building the software development process you need, rather than making efforts for internal automation.
Jira can be used as a tracker, containing all the tasks in it. Task hierarchy could be created in MS Project. After scheduling specific tasks, deadlines are automatically transferred to the Jira task. Execution information is transferred back to MS Project. This process allows centralized planning for the company’s resources.
Integration of Jira with MS Project brings also the following benefits:
- Task creation from MS Project in Jira. This allows the project manager to easily turn the plan in MS Project into a hierarchically composed list of tasks in Jira with the necessary deadlines for the project and assigned resources, as well as update the information with the MS Project – Jira process if necessary.
- Updating specific tasks in Jira – MS Project. Allows to update the information in MS Project on the actual execution of the assigned tasks by the statuses, deadlines, resources specified in JIRA and as a result – control the final project deadlines.
- Uploading new tasks for JIRA – MS Project. Allows uploading the list of tasks attached to the selected as a hierarchy to MS Project from JIRA.
Overall, the decision on which Project Management architecture systems should be used is based on the IT landscape and business needs of the company. But planning with an integrated tracking system and scheduling systems looks the most effective due to its ability to merge modern agile approaches of the team planning and project office needs in terms of project planning.