Phase Zero

Project Planning Phase

Preliminary Requirements

The purpose is threefold.

  • Agree to devote resources, time and money to the project - The Project Charter
  • Develop a timeline for the project - The Schedule
  • Agree the mechanics of how the project will be managed - The Project Management Plan
Plan Project Planning Phase Produce Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) Prepare Draft Schedule Produce Project Charter
Determine Change Control Process Determine Risk Management Process Determine Procurement Process
Determine Budget Control Process Set up Issue, Risk and Action Logs Identify Resource Requirements Agree Resources
Prepare Final Schedule Define Roles and Responsibilitiies Carry out Risk Assessment Produce Communications Plan
Identify Quality Activities Identify Costs and Benefits Produce Project Management Plan Project Management Plan
Plan next Phase Preliminary Requirements Gate        
  • Plan for the Project Planning Phase
  • Phase Zero Report
  • High Level Scope
  • Preliminary Stakeholder Analysis
  • Project Charter and Project Management Plan
    • High Level Scope
    • Budget Calculation Worksheet
    • Benefit Identification Document
    • Risk Assessment Worksheets
    • Risk Log
    • Schedule
    • Issue Log
    • Action Log
    • Resource Requirements
    • Resource Management Plan
    • RACI Chart
    • Communications Plan
    • Quality Plan
  • Plan for the next phase
 The timing will depend on the size of the project. For a simple project, the whole exercise may only take two or three days. For a major project, it may last a number of weeks. Many of the activities can be worked on concurrently.
  • Project Manager
  • Sponsor
  • Business Analyst

There is always pressure to get things started on the project rather than plan. "Ready", "Fire", "Aim". The more effort that goes into planning the more successful the project will be.

First activity is to justify the project with a Project Charter. If the project has already been approved, there may be less effort required in this area. The level of maturity of the organisation will determine the effort required for quantifying benefits and costs. A less mature organisation will not track benefits or costs effectively so the effort will probably be wasted to a certain extent. That is not to say there shouldn't be a solid business case. It is to say the organisation may well ignore it anyway. In the case where the project absolutely needs to be done - for example where it is to meet legislative requirements - the cost and benefits may be immaterial.

The schedule is something that must be done. You need to set an expectation as to when the project will be completed, and the resources required. This cannot happen without a schedule. You will be unable to track progress without a schedule so it is an essential.

The Project Management Plan is about how you will manage the project. As an organisation builds it's project infrastructure, many of the components will be reusable from project to project. For example there will be a standard issue log or risk log. These can significantly reduce the effort required in the planning step. Simply use standard tools and mention that fact in the PMP.

The critical parts of the PMP that will have a big impact on the success are those relating to resources. Resources must be agreed before you proceed. Equally important is to have everyone understand what the responsibilities of each resource will be. The two go hand in hand. You need a person to undertake a set of duties so the person assigned must be capable of undertaking those duties. It also determines the time they will need to allocate.

The communication plan is another "must do". Poor communication is a major risk on any project so it should be given the attention it requires during this planning stage.

There is a logical sequence to the activities.

  • After a WBS is produced, we can produce the first cut of the schedule
  • The next step is to produce a Project Charter which is the justification for the project to be funded. This needs to be approved.
  • Initial activities are about setting up the governance processes for the project - change control, risk management, procurement and control of expenditure v budget
  • A mechanism is put in place to capture risks, issues and actions as they are likely to evolve all through this project and need to be managed
  • The schedule will determine how many resources, and their likely commitment
  • Once resources are agreed, we can finalise the schedule
  • We can also define roles and responsibilities for the allocated resources
  • Risk assessment, communications plan and quality plan can be produced
  • Costs and benefits can be documented
  • All the activities are tied together into a Project Management Plan (PMP) that identifies how the project will be managed and a plan for the next phase.
  • The PMP needs to be approved by the Sponsor.

Some activities can be worked on concurrently. For example we can concurrently develop processes for change control, risks, procurement and budget control. In fact as you build up expertise, these should be "off the shelf" processes that have been used in other projects. Similarly roles and responsibilities can be largely "off the shelf".

Schedule Gantt Chart A draft Microsoft Project plan for the phase. It lists activities and elapsed timeframes. Times are very approximate and may be significantly shorter or longer.
Initiating a Project White Paper that talks about the initiation of a project
Project Kick Off Checklist A checklist of things that should be in place before the project begins.
Why do I need a Project Manager? White paper on why you need a project manager, and the dangers of trying to undertake a project without one. Talks about what a PM will do in the project.
Estimating Software Projects Useful article on different approaches to estimating a software project. Also check out author's web site
Change Management Presentation This is an approximately 80 slide Power Point presentation on change management presented to the Australian Computer Society.

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