In this article I further discuss the elements of the Ideation phase, including phase 2, Elicit Requirements, and phase 3, Write a Project Overview Statement.
Figure 2.2 highlights the three STEPs that are executed during the IDEATION Phase of a complex project. The approach discussed below is simple and intuitive. Once an idea is submitted:
- A business case is developed;
- High-level requirements are elicited; and,
- A Project Overview Statement (POS) is prepared.
Project IDEATION Phase STEP 2: Elicit Requirements
Many authors will use the term “Gather” with respect to building the list of requirements. That suggests the requirements are just laying around and waiting to be picked up and added to the requirements bucket. In complex projects, nothing could be farther from the truth. The term “Elicit.” suggests that requirements must be discovered and drawn out for documentation and addition to the list.
Project management thought leaders are of like mind in that requirements are rarely complete during project definition. Beyond the complexity and uncertainty the project is affected by the changing internal environment and external market dynamics. Managing a complex project using PRINCE2 is of course complex by definition but the challenge is further increased due to incomplete requirements. The situation is not hopeless and there are mitigation strategies that are available in the ECPM Framework during the Project IDEATION Phase and these are easily incorporated into the PRINCE2 Process.
My next article will be: High-Level Requirements Elicitation for details on the recommended approaches to elicit requirements in the face of client levels of participation.
Project IDEATION Phase STEP 3: Write A Project Overview Statement
A Project Overview Statement (POS) is the first formal document that describes the project idea at a high-level and is used for general distribution. It is written in the language of the business so that anyone who has the occasion to read it, will understand it. No “techie talk” allowed. It is only one page, so there isn’t an opportunity to say much other than a few basic pieces of information. The PRINCE2 Project Identification Document (PID) is the analog of the POS.
Definition of the Project Overview Statement
The POS is brief—one page is always sufficient. A POS basically summarizes the RBS. A POS template with an example is shown in Figure 2.3. The POS contains the following five sections:
- A statement of the problem or opportunity (reason for doing the project).
- A goal statement (what will generally be done).
- A statement of the objectives (general statements of how it might be done).
- The quantifiable business outcomes (what business value will be obtained).
- General comments on risks, assumptions, and obstacles to success.
Figure 2.3 A Typical POS Template with Example Data
After more than 50 years of managing projects, I can honestly say that I have always been able to write a one-page POS regardless of the scope of the project. Being able to write a one-page POS means that you really understand the project and can communicate it intelligently to senior management. Think of it as though it was the two minute elevator speech and you won’t go far astray. I’ve seen project initiation documents as large as 70 pages. I’m not sure who reads these, if anyone. If they do, do they really understand the project at the level of detail needed for granting approval to create the project plan? I doubt it! A document of that length may be of value to the development team but not to the sponsor and certainly not to the executive who will be approving it.
Seek StageGate #1 Approval
StageGate #1 is the senior management approval to proceed to the Project SET-UP Phase. Along with this approval is the release of the resources that will be needed for that phase. There is still a lot about this project that has to be defined before any version planning work can be done and one more approval STEP (StageGate #2) before the actual work of the project is authorized and budgeted by senior management.
There will be occasions when the POS is not approved. This usually means that the sponsor has not made a compelling argument for the business viability of their intended approach to the problem or opportunity. Despite the fact that the business need may be critical, the risk of failure is weighed against the expected business value of the solution. Expected business value may not justify the cost of the project. It does not mean that the project is not important to the executives, just that the approach chosen does not make good business sense. Some other approach is needed. The sponsoring business unit is invited to revise and resubmit the POS. Alternatively, the POS may be rejected without further consideration.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
In the IDEATION Phase we have brought an idea from a very informal statement of need or opportunity to a initial definition of one or more prioritized projects and finally to a choice of the initial project to be pursued. The IDEATION Phase is ended with a one page statement of that project that is forwarded for management approval. The IDEATION Phase includes the first three STEPs to defining a project and seeking the resources and authorization to proceed to the SET-UP Phase.
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Maul, June (2011). Developing A Business Case: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges, Harvard Business Review Press. Project Management Institute, (2013). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc.
Wysocki, Robert K. (2014a). Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme, 7th Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Wysocki, Robert K. (2014b). Effective Complex Project Management: An Adaptive Agile Framework for Delivering Business Value, J. Ross Publishing.