Umbrella activities are defined as "the non SDLC activities that span across the entire software development life cycle".

Considering this definition, can we say that project planning is an umbrella activity, as the plan continuously changes throughout the process? Are there any umbrella activities in software project management?

  • see Discuss this ${blog}
    – gnat
    Feb 13, 2019 at 11:44
  • Software Project Management is mainly what is mentioned under 01 in that blog (as well as implementing and balancing those activities 02-08), and planning (and replanning) is part of 01.
    – Doc Brown
    Feb 13, 2019 at 12:08

3 Answers 3


What's the SDLC's scope ?

First a question: Is Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) all activities of a software project ? Or is it only the subset therof that is software specific ?

There is some confusion around this, because one of the early SDLCs in the 60's was itself called System Development Life Cycle (also SDLC) and was developed in a time where starting with an upfront planning seemed to be the only serious approach to work.

I'll take the second interpretation, so only SW specificactivities because:

  • There are authoritative sources (PMBOK and ISO 21500) that clearly distinguishes on one side project management (activities independent of the field, including planning), and on the other product making (field specific activities, i.e. software development).
  • The IEEE's Software Engineering Body Of Knowledge (SWEBOK 3.0) describes software development activities, and mentions planning as a managing activity ("managing the construction").

Does project planning match the criteria ?

Project planning is not an SDLC activity according to the interpretation above, since it's not specific to software. Indeed, it is perfectly possible (although not necessarily desirable) to develop a software without planning. And -- being very provocative --looking at some severe delays of major software companies, one could even wonder if planning is not wishful thinking completely decoupled from the lifecycle activities.

Furthermore, planning is a process that spans across the whole lifecycle, however you do it. You can do it waterfall-like and plan at the beginning ( and then replan every time you have to acknowledge that things do not work as expected). You can do it by phase (and adjust it when plans need to be changed). You can do it agile, one sprint at a time (but with informal adjustment of the planned scope, if some stories are more complex than expected). So planning is finished only when the project is over.

Planning therefore matches your definition of "umbrella activities". The analogy of the umbrella is purely visual, and not at all pejorative.

Additional supporting infos:

  • Planning is defined by PMBOK and ISO 21500 as a continuous process. PRINCE2 sees it as an iterative procedure.
  • Planning is considered as a sprint event by SCRUM. Nevertheless, this is not the full picture, since the daily scrum plans the next 24 hours.
  • The first "modern" (in the 70s) SDLC, the (infamous) waterfall, did describe software development activities with expected products, and didn't include planning as a major step.
  • Project planning is not an SDLC activity. - Just about every model of the SDLC that I've ever seen (including the nice graphic on WIkipedia's page) has project planning as an SDLC activity.
    – Thomas Owens
    Feb 13, 2019 at 15:15
  • @ThomasOwens I understand your point, and this is certainly why OP's link preferred to avoid this subject. My point is that there is nothing software specific in planning. The approach to planning fully depends on the project management approach. Planning is a generic project management activity. Now there are a lot of waterfall based models that have a planning phase in, which gives here a false impression of software related activity. What about the lifecycle according to RUP: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_Unified_Process ?
    – Christophe
    Feb 13, 2019 at 15:30
  • @Christophe Thanks a lot, That was really good explanation. Feb 14, 2019 at 9:14

I would not consider project planning to be an umbrella activity, but it is most certainly an SDLC activity.

There are lots of different ways to slice the SDLC into phases and then organize those phases into different types of lifecycle models, ranging from the purely sequential to highly iterative and incremental models. However, they all tend to have similar activities - initiation, ideation and concepting, planning, requirements development, design, development, integration, implementation, operations, and disposition.

Project planning is a subset of the activities in project management. Other project management activities include project initiation, estimation (of cost and/or time), resource allocation, risk management, supplier management, measurement, monitoring and control, and project closeout.

Project management, as a whole, is an umbrella activity that extends across the entire project life. However, not all of the activities within project management are umbrella activities. Some may recur at different points, but recurrence (even regularly or on a cadence) does not make the activity an umbrella activity.

Project planning is typically done once. Even in iterative methodologies, you tend to plan an increment (for example, a Sprint in Scrum). You then have milestones or events at which you can review your work against plan and make changes. Changes are not always required, though.

Of the project management activities that I've identified, I would consider risk management, measurement, and monitoring and control to be umbrella activities. However, depending on what you find when performing these, you may trigger an occurrence of a different project management activity, such as project planning to replan your project or resource allocation to adjust the people and resources available to the project.


Not sure of the context. If academic or certification related, I have been out of these circles too long to be relevant. The other contributors have well researched and ref based arguments.

If it is more of a general question, I think it is both depending of the scope of the project. For a pure S/W project is not an Umbrella activity it is definitely part of the SDLC activity.

But for a project that include S/W development it would be an Umbrella activity as far as the SDLC is concerned.

IMHO it is semantic and depend on your point of view. In real life, it does not maner if it is an Umbrella activity or not. It has to happen and be paid for. It only matter went Umbrella activities are handled and budgeted outside of the SDLC.

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