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Systems Development Lifecycle Planning and Estimation

An ounce of prevention


You’ve seen it before. When developing a new system, planning and estimation tasks get short shrift in the face of crushing deadlines and workloads. And the fallout can be serious. Teams may underestimate the effort required for reviews, walkthroughs and approval gates. They may overlook special testing requirements such as security or performance testing. They may neglect to build enough time into the schedule for producing documentation. Project management may require more effort than anyone planned for. Travel and meeting costs may grow out of control. And requirements can slowly drift away from the original scope.

Nobody said systems development was easy. But that doesn’t mean challenges like these have to be a routine part of the job.

Our professionals bring practical implementation experience combined with a strong understanding of our client’s industries, standard business processes, and the levers designed to help drive operational excellence. We have helped clients across the end-to-end implementation lifecycle with technology, strategy, operations and human capital functions to deliver time-tested business results. Learn more about the offering.

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Theory vs. practice
Planning and estimation can make the difference between a development project that runs off the rails and one that stays on track. And yet for many developers, there is a persistent perception that it works better in theory than in practice. They may have a planning and estimation phase built into the project plan, but that’s mostly a formality. In reality, they fast-forward to the design/build/test phases, often because they’re under pressure to deliver on an aggressive schedule and are looking for ways to shave days from the schedule.

Gutting the planning and estimation phase of a systems development project, no matter what the reason, will very likely end up adding time and budget overruns to the project elsewhere. But if you approach this phase properly, it’s a discipline that can not only keep the project on time and on budget, but can deliver a higher-quality outcome.

How we can help

Our professionals bring practical implementation experience combined with a strong understanding of our client’s industries, standard business processes, and the levers designed to help drive operational excellence. We have helped clients across the end-to-end implementation lifecycle with technology, strategy, operations and human capital functions to deliver time-tested business results. Our integrated approach helps us plan and estimate complex implementations with a broad view of the business environment, while retaining the capability to drill down to the details as needed.

Deloitte realizes the need to develop careful plans and estimates that can enable companies to deliver projects on time and within budget. We understand the types, benefits and roadblocks to planning and estimation tools and techniques. More importantly, we bring a set of structured and repeatable processes and tools enabling companies to realize desired project results. Since there is no one-size-fits-all model for planning and estimation, we are able to choose from a range of models: top-down, bottom-up, use-case, attribute-based and more – to help get your project off to the right start. Our services include:

  • Detailed business case development
  • Detailed project plan development
  • Project plan tracking and schedule management
  • Project risk and issue management
  • Resource estimation and scenario modeling
  • End-to-end lifecycle activity estimation and scenario modeling
  • Demonstrated tools and process knowledge that can be readily deployed to client engagements
  • Project portfolio integration and management

Bottom-line benefits

  • Earned value indices that consistently trend towards 1.0
  • Meeting project deadlines while staying within budget
  • Higher quality systems that meet or exceed end-user requirements
  • Reduction of overall technology spend with consistent processes and tools; projects don’t have to create their own set of processes and tools
  • Better forecasting of project costs; greater confidence level in estimates
  • Reduction of project risks by removing some of the ‘surprise’ factor through a detailed planning and estimation process; knowing how to handle issues as they arise

Four ways to get more value now

We’ve helped some of the leading companies in the world get their technology development projects on track from the start with the discipline of planning and estimation. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way:

Think beyond implementation. Your planning process should account for system implementation, of course, but not at the expense of other components of the project. Project management, process design and organization change management should figure prominently in your plan. Consistency with the business’ strategic goals is a specific analytic of project planning.

Plan on re-planning. As the project evolves, make sure to build in checkpoints for determining when the plan needs to be reevaluated or modified. Changing plans and estimates at the applicable time can give project managers the visibility they need to manage project-related risks. Baselining each plan can provide look-forward and look-back capabilities.

Reuse and recycle. Each project brings new lessons and insights. That’s why it’s important to capture them in a central repository, and use them in the planning and estimation phase of future projects. While many organizations do this, not enough routinely use the repository to improve the next estimate or refine the planning process.

Create a discipline. There is an art to planning and estimation, but science is just as important. Repeatable processes and tools, metrics that aid decision making and a coordinated stakeholder engagement approach are important elements of the discipline of planning and estimation.

Systems Development Lifecycle Planning and Estimation in action

When one of the largest global auto manufacturers wanted to launch a telematics offering, they turned to Deloitte to help plan the rollout and manage the launch activities across the enterprise, spanning multiple business functions and IT. As part of the engagement, Deloitte helped the client define the service offering, fine-tune the operating model, drive the software development lifecycle including upfront program planning to estimate enterprise effort, and establish specific business processes and infrastructure to support the new business. The primary challenge was to shift the mindset of the automotive company from a functionally-aligned delivery model to a cross-functional implementation effort. Important to the project’s success was the broad governance and program management structure used to re-plan, adapt and drive the program. This structure included:

  • A program roadmap that was created through engagement with 15 internal teams and external vendors, who estimated and planned their internal work as well as the cross-team support for dependent work items
  • A detailed integrated project plan across each work thread from program ideation through post launch which helped manage the significant number of program dependencies
  • A regular cadence of status meetings and program updates plus formal quality reviews at designated points within the project to learn and adapt as the program matured
  • Summary and detailed dashboards providing transparency into problem areas to proactively identify and mitigate risks and address issues with a sense of urgency

As a result of this structured and disciplined effort, we successfully turned around a troubled program and helped our client launch and stand up the systems and processes for this new line of business.

As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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