The biggest improvement that I've found over the years is Microsoft Project Server, with its Web interface. Bang, now you have something that everybody can get to with their (Microsoft...) web-browser, and they can start working out what this proposed new project is actually supposed to be before they try to say they're gonna start building it.
(No, I'm not a Microsoft fan-boy, but probably every big company's got a copy of this software lying around somewhere, so you can implement a process-improvement without having to argue for a purchase.)
Ninety percent of programming is just thinking. Taking long walks. Staring out the window. And... meeting. When you've designed and thrown-away two or three models “on paper” (having not
spent wasted any time at all trying to build them) and then, as if by magic, “the right thing” (or perhaps a rock-solid implementable piece of it) appears out of the gloom of all those possibilities, then you'll see what I mean. Why, it seems so obvious. You draw-up the project plan and it “just works.” It clicks. “We can do this. (Here's why...) ...We know we can. Let's get started.”
Maybe for the first time in your life your project is not in “Titanic mode.” The icebergs are right there on the chart and you just plot your course right around them. The programmers know what the target is, and the documentation people do too, and the folks who'll have to sell it (internally or externally) can see that “this is right.” The ship docks right on time, maybe a little bit early, with fuel to spare and with a team spirit like you've never seen. You “just did it...” just like you planned. Looking back, you wonder why you ever tried to do it any other way. After that experience it just seems insane that you ever thought you could possibly build a house without plans.
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