[thelist] Fulltime to freelance

Martin Burns martin at easyweb.co.uk
Sat Nov 29 05:37:50 CST 2008

On 25 Nov 2008, at 21:14, Joel D Canfield wrote:

> you write specs at the beginning of the project, when you know the  
> least
> about how it's going to go. how could you *not* expect to learn more  
> as
> you proceed? as you learn more, aren't you going to adjust  
> occasionally?

Without drinking the Agile Kool-Aid (which imo and that of a lot of  
clients, suffers from far too many wild-eyed evangelists), there's a  
couple of ways round this:

1) Realise that planning (including estimating) comes in a number of  
flavours, from top-down, order of magnitude, to bottom up, metrics- 
driven detailed. It's perfectly sensible to start at a high level, and  
as you get more information, hone it into detailed shape.

2) Realise that it's pointless to plan the entire effort up front; you  
break the project down into phases, which in traditional waterfall  
development might be:

* Analysis
* High Level Design
* Application Design
* Build + Unit Test
* System Test/UAT
* Implementation

While you can give an indicative shape & estimate up front, you do not  
do the detailed version any further in advance than you have to. Thus  
the activity to plan a phase (including finalising the funding) is the  
closing activity of the phase before.

(For those playing along at home - this is standard PRINCE2  
methodology, without an Agile in sight)

Now, if you're sensible, you've pitched the indicative estimate to  
include a whole *load* of contingency against unknowns (which come in  
both Rumsfeldian types: known and unknown unknowns - the known  
unknowns are easier to estimate against!), so that when you do the  
detailed version, your figure comes *down* the way, and your sponsor  
doesn't have to go back and re-work her business case.

To move towards the Agile end of the spectrum, you can also break a  
large project down into a set of iterations, each of which follow a  
waterfall, but that means you don't have to have the *entire* thing  
defined up front. As long as you're planning each one solidly, you get  
a bit of the benefit of both worlds.


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