The project planning process
By Susan Ronning, P.E.
Project planning is often ignored in favor of doing the work. However, many people fail to realize how valuable the project plan is in saving time and money, increasing efficiencies, and reducing potential future headaches.
The project plan
As part of the internal project kick-off, project plans and the project schedule are developed.
The Human Resource Plan identifies by name the individuals and organizations with a leading role in the project. For each one, roles and responsibilities are described.
The Communications Plan documents who needs to be informed about which parts of the project, and how they will receive information.
The Risk Management Plan identifies all potential risks and their contingencies.
In addition to the above plans, a key element in a project plan is the Project Schedule. The Project Schedule must be developed and continue to be maintained throughout the life of the project. The schedule is a “living” document, determining the duration of the project and the budget based on the amount of effort (hours or days) a resource requires to complete a task.
Project transition points
As the project progresses, resources are added and removed based on the phase of project and tasks required within each of the phases. The project phases include: Phase 0 — Project Initialization; Phase 1 — Design; Phase 2 — Procurement; Phase 3 — Implementation; Phase 4 — Maintenance. Re-evaluations of project plans and schedules are necessary upon transition to each phase. These are known as Phase 1–4 transitions.
In addition, key project stages also require reassessment of the project plan. Stage A reassessment occurs within the Procurement Phase at the Bid Review and Award stage. Stage B reassessment occurs within the Implementation Phase at the Detailed Design stage.
As the project transitions through the various phases and stages, reassessment of the project plan identifies potential “scope creep”. Tasks not previously defined can be captured and determined whether to be in-scope or out-of-scope. If changes are deemed out-of-scope but needed, a change order may be required.
The primary factor which affects each phase transition point is a change in key personnel. The factor which affects each stage reassessment point is a potential change in the desired scope.
Phase 1 transition occurs after Project Initialization and before Design. As the project transitions to the Design phase, additional skills are needed to capture radio user/stakeholder requirements, as needed for the Needs Assessment stage.
Phase 2 transition occurs after Design and before Procurement. As the project transitions to the Procurement phase, this design must be re-stated into technical and functional specifications, and then released for vendor bid, bids reviewed, and contract awarded.
Phase 3 transition occurs after Procurement and before Implementation. The output document of the Procurement phase is the award of a vendor contract. As the project transitions to the Implementation phase, a detailed design is agreed to and the equipment ordered, installed and tested.
Stage 4 transition occurs after Implementation and before Maintenance. The output document of the Implementation phase is Final System Acceptance. As part of Final System Acceptance, close-out documentation must have been delivered, radio users and maintenance personnel trained, and service agreements detailed prior to transitioning to the Maintenance phase.
Stage A reassessment occurs upon receipt and review of the vendor bid responses. If the RFP responses were not in line with cost and design expectations, or if there were allowances for vendors to provide options, then there is a potential for change to the original project scope. It is necessary to re-evaluate the bids against the scope to determine if the scope or the bid must change.
Stage B reassessment occurs upon preliminary and final design review of the vendor’s detailed design package. The detailed design must match the requirements set out in the technical and functional specifications of the RFP. If the design deviates from the scope, then the scope or the design must change.
Susan Ronning, P.E., has experience as a vendor, consultant and customer, and has been involved in all aspects and phases of a project, from inception to final acceptance. She holds a BSEE and MBA and is an active member of the IEEE, APCO, and the Civil Air Patrol. Ms. Ronning is a Senior Systems Engineer for Tait Communications.