By Mitch Betts

Many IT project crises are caused by an unrealistic schedule. How do you come up with a realistic one? Sue Young, CEO of ANDA Consulting in Colchester, Vt. – which performs “failure prevention assessments” – says there are seven often-overlooked things that must be done before you can come up with a realistic schedule:

1. Nail down the scope and requirements.

2. Prototype the biggest technical risks.

3. Create a model of the user interface.

4. Pay attention to industry-standard estimates for similar projects.

5. Let each person create an estimated task schedule for his own work.

6. Accept only observable, measurable status reports (such as “done” or “not done,” with a clear definition of done).

7. Subdivide all the tasks until each task takes one to two weeks to complete.

It sounds like a lot of work before even starting the actual project. “That’s right. But if you want a realistic schedule, that’s the way to do it,” Young says. “To create a schedule before the scope and requirements are known is absurd, and yet we see it all the time.”

In fact, doing steps such as prototyping the most difficult technical portion of the project may show that the project isn’t feasible, Young says. “It’s better to find that out up front.”