The Project Plan Part 2: The Operations Plan

Planning

The Operations Plan describes how day-to-day operations will occur when the solution is in place and the project is over. The planning principle is to “begin with the end in mind”. This definition of the end state will help you complete the identification of the Stakeholders and verify that you have the complete list of Project Objectives in the Project Charter. It provides guidance to the organization on how to successfully maintain the solution over time.

Here is a list of some things to consider (this is not necessarily the complete list of considerations; your project may have more):

• Operations Infrastructure – a comprehensive description of the environment into which the solution will be deployed and supported (including incident management).

• Service Level Agreement (SLA) – address up-time, performance, redundancy and disaster recovery

• Reporting Model – describes generally who will receive reports, what information they will get and on what schedule, and what source data will be used to generate the reports.

• Organization Skill and Time Requirements – identifies the job roles, associated skill requirements and work time necessary to operate the solution. This information could be placed in a matrix that identifies 1) types of operational functions, 2) the job roles that work within each function, 3) the skill requirements for each job role, and 4) the frequency and time required (i.e. “3 hours per month”). This information can be used to identify organizational impact for your Organizational Change Management Plan (more on that in future posts). Make sure you identify the Administrators and their functions.

• Software and Data Updates and Refreshes from External Sources; how often and how it will be tested and verified.

• Backup/Recovery; how often backups will occur and the process to order a restore.

• Scheduled Maintenance Times; when and how often will the system be unavailable for maintenance

• Monitoring; who is responsible for monitoring system performance; what tools will be used.

• Security – requests to add access, remove access or change roles

The Project Plan Part 1: The Development Plan

Planning

The Development Plan describes the solution development process used for the project in order to achieve the Project Objectives as defined in the Project Charter. This plan complements the Requirements specifications that details what will be built and provides consistent guidelines and processes to the teams creating the solution.

Here is a list of some things to consider (this is not necessarily the complete list of considerations; your project may have more):

  • Intermediate deliverables needed to achieve the Project Objectives. For software, this list includes documents for Requirements, Design, Configuration, Build, Test and Deploy.
  • Delivery Strategy (e.g. phased implementations, high-priority/high-risk items first, “depth-first”, “breadth first”, “features, then performance tuning”)
  • Design Goals (e.g. create reusable components, use existing components, ease of maintenance vs. speed of delivery, security, etc)
  • Development and Build Environment – this has the potential to be a high-work, high-risk area. Include source code control, software and tools needed, test data, connectivity to other environments, security, tool and run-time licensing etc
  • Naming Conventions
  • The Build Process (how will versions be created for system, user and quality testing)
  • List Components and who will build them –  Also state if you have to buy components and how you will acquire them.
  • Development tools – also identify licensing needed.
  • Team Training and Support – identify training for the development team and what support they will need

You need to break down the activities listed above into pieces of work small enough to assign to one or more resources and estimate the effort and duration of the activity. The level in which you break this down is usually at the Project Manager’s discretion and will vary by project.

In addition to assigning resources and effort, you should describe how the activity will be accomplished. For example, if your major activity was ” Create System Design Document”, you could break this down into lower level activities such as “Data Design”, “Interface Design”, “Transaction Process Design”, etc. For “Interface Design” you could refer to company standards (if they exist), what languages and technologies will be used and what reviews and approvals are needed.

As we go thru each part of the Project Plan in subsequent posts, you will be collecting a list of activities that will ultimately be used to build the Project Schedule.

The Project Plan – Overview

Planning

There are many (if not most) Project Managers and Stakeholders who refer to the Project Schedule (usually built in Microsoft Project or equivalent) as “The Project Plan”. This is not true. The schedule shows “who, what and when” but does not address “how”. A plan must address “how” or it is not a plan.

The prerequisite to building a schedule is to identify all of the activities and in order to do that you need a Project Plan. Activities will also be drawn from the Project Management Plan. This overview will list the main topics of the Project Plan and subsequent posts will do a deeper dive into each topic.

Here are the elements of the Project Plan:

  • The Development Plan
  • The Operations Plan
  • The Organizational Change Management Plan
  • The Test Plan
  • The Migration Plan
  • The Pilot Plan
  • The Deployment Plan
  • The Support Plan (post-implementation)
  • The Support Plan (during the project and stabilization)

Some of these topics will require multiple posts to give them the depth they deserve.

The Project Management Plan – Project Close

Planning

When you are managing a long-running project, your sponsoring business partners may start to feel you are a permanent part of their team. Since many projects have enhancements to make after the initial project is done, it is easy to get endlessly drawn into managing these enhancements as if they were part of the original project.

Your defense against this is to define the conditions of project close in your Project Management Plan. Here is a sample list of typical conditions:

  • The Project Objectives from the Project Charter have all been met
  • Contracts have been fulfilled and closed.
  • Lessons Learned have been documented and reviewed
  • Project Documents have all been stored in the project document repository
  • There are no critical open issues (there will always be some issues left over; as long as they are not critical, these can be handled by your post-implementation Support Model)

Be sure to include this section in your Project Management Plan and that your Project Sponsor is aware of and agrees to these conditions in advance.