02 October 2009

Determining the Appropriate Deliverables for the Work Phase of a Project

In a previous blog-entry I described the optimal deliverables for the initial phase of a project. This blog-entry will suggest what the goals and deliverables should be for the work phase of a complex project.

The work phase of a project typically covers the most time in the overall project plan and is, in my definition, the part of the project where the basic analytical and development-related activities are carried out. While the success of this phase is determined for a large part by key deliverables developed in the first phase of a complex project, there are a number of things that typically go wrong in this phase of a project as well. Typical examples of things that go wrong include:

- There is insufficient communication and feedback to the project sponsor
- The team work within the project is not optimal
- There is limited control of the project process (timing, scope creep, etc)
- There are insufficient and/or incorrect analytical activities being carried out
- There is not any process in place to control the hypotheses and conclusions being developed by the project team

This phase of the complex project is very likely to have a set of project-specific deliverables related to reaching the overall goals of the project. Examples of such project-specific deliverables could include carrying out a specified set of interviews, developing a spreadsheet model, collecting data, developing assumptions, setting out a new set of processes, etc. In addition to these project-specific deliverables, we believe that every complex project should also strive to develop a set of more general deliverables at the start of the work phase. These generic deliverables will help ensure that the overall goals of the project are met on time and within agreed budgets.

Deliverable Nr. 1: A well defined process for regular communication with the sponsor. This involves planning regular meetings between the sponsor and the project manager and team members, as well as creating the opportunity for ad-hoc meetings on an as-required basis.

Deliverable Nr. 2: An overall setting that enable the team to work together optimally. This deliverable includes a set of activities that ensure that the team members are able to use the time allocated for the project, and that as much of this time as possible is spent working together. One way of achieving this involves ensuring that the project has its own project room, and that the team members commit to being in the room at given times during the week.

Deliverable Nr. 3: A clearly defined process and appropriate tools for ensuring that milestones are met. This should include regular reports to the Steering Committee, and agreed processes to discuss and agree any expansion of scope.

Deliverable Nr. 4: Ongoing training activities for project team members to ensure that they carry out the right analytical activities in the right way. Typical team members in a complex project are not aware of all possible analytical activities that can move their project forward, nor do they have the experience to carry out these activities. A clear deliverable for ensuring project-success should therefore be the ability to provide ad-hoc analytical training and support to the team.

Deliverable Nr. 5: A Blue Team to provide feedback and constructive criticism on the project team's hypotheses and conclusions. A Blue Team is a structured meeting where the project team presents its hypotheses and potential solutions to a selected team external to the project. Such meetings have a proven track-record in improving the overall quality of projects

If you can honestly say at the beginning of the work phase of your project that all of these deliverables have been developed, then the project has greatly enhanced its chances of successfully carrying out the specific project-related analytical and developmental activities required for reaching the project goals in a timely manner.

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