The Project Plan Part 6: The Pilot Plan

Planning

Some organizations define a solution “pilot” as a “limited deployment” for the purpose of managing risk. That can be covered in a Risk Management Plan in lieu of a Pilot Plan. The definition we will use in this post is to use a Pilot to gather information about the solution that can only be discovered by “going live”. The intent of the Pilot is to obtain the information and then pull the solution out of the live environment for additional work.

The Pilot Plan describes what aspect of the solution will be delivered as a pilot and provides the details necessary to conduct the pilot successfully. This includes details on how to evaluate the pilot, the results of which will facilitate a decision whether or not to move the solution to production. Projects often create one or more “pilot” solutions for the purpose of proving the feasibility of solution approaches, experimenting with different solutions, and obtaining user feedback and acceptance on proposed solutions. Pilot solutions usually implement only those subsets or segments of requirements or functional specifications necessary to validate a solution.

The Pilot Plan provides the means to validate business requirements and technical specifications prior to deploying the solution into production. Planning the details of the pilot ensures that the participating project teams identify their roles and responsibilities and resource requirements specific to pilot development, testing, and deployment activities.

A pilot can provide key information on development processes, end-user validation, and production environment usage. It also provides feedback to stakeholders regarding the success of the solution once it is formally released.

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

  • Overview – Scope (what part of the solution will be demonstrated as part of the pilot, and the target user profile used to select which users will participate)
  • Success Criteria and Metrics – The success criteria may fall into the following categories:
  • System performance
  • Operations cost
  • Stability –down time
  • User performance
  • User satisfaction
  • Business goals
  • User Preparation and training
  • Marketing Plan – how users will become aware of the pilot and the value to them
  • Conditions for adding additional users
  • Rollback – conditions for rolling back the pilot to pre-deployment state
  • Pilot Evaluation – describes how the pilot results will be evaluated

The Project Plan Part 5: The Migration Plan

Planning

The Migration Plan describes the migration from existing systems or applications to the new solution. This plan is needed whenever you have to salvage anything (data, artifacts, physical objects, etc) from the old environment to the new one. In some projects this can be very challenging and the source of a lot of effort so plan early and carefully.

It is important to have an understanding from your sponsor of the Business Objectives driving the migration. Examples of these are:

  • Minimize Business Disruption
  • Stay in full compliance with laws and regulations
  • Keep migration costs as low as possible
  • Choose acceptable alternatives that avoid risk to the target implementation date

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

  • Migration Strategies (alternatives, including tools and implications for each)
  • Migration process
  • Test Environment
  • Preparation
  • Decommissioning of replaced resources
  • Back-out plan

The Project Plan Part 4: The Test Plan

Planning

The Test Plan applies primarily to projects that include new and changed software and/or business processes. Doing this planning in advance is key to meeting the target schedule as testing is typically the most time consuming portion of a project. Unfortunately, when many projects are in schedule trouble, testing is usually the first target for cutting the planned effort. Having a solid Test Plan will help mitigate that risk.

There are multiple aspects to the test plan:

Determine the Test Plan Objectives

  • To identify the activities required to prepare for and conduct testing
  • To define the test scope, strategy and methodology to be used for the test
  • To define financial control tests (if applicable)
  • To identify configuration controls and metrics
  • To define metrics and status reporting
  • To identify responsibilities for the tasks included in the plan
  • To define the test tools and the environment needed to conduct the test
  • To identify test interactions with other organizations
  • To identify test customers and deliverables
  • To identify the major testing milestones
  • To define the sources of information used to prepare the plan

Define the Test Approach:

Give a high-level description of the approach and activities to be followed in testing the solution. If you are using Agile methods, this is where you will plan the release/test cycles.

Identify the Major Test Responsibilities:

Identify teams and individuals who will be managing and executing the tests. It should also specify their responsibilities.

The Features and Functionality to Test:

This is a high-level description (not the detailed test cases). You should consider the following:

  • Specific features to be tested
  • The types of error testing to be performed
  • The types of stress/load testing to be performed
  • The type of usability testing to be performed
  • The type of reliability testing to be performed
  • The type of recovery testing to be performed
  • The type of compatibility/migration testing to be performed
  • The type of security testing to be performed
  • The types of software and hardware to be employed if testing is to be performed over multiple software and hardware configurations (configuration testing)

Document your thoughts on the test process:

You should consider the following:

  • How you will define the acceptance criteria
  • Deliverables – materials that must be made available or created in order to conduct the tests and that will be developed from the tests to describe the test results.
  • Test Documentation – itemize the documentation you will require in regards to recording the test procedures and results.
  • Test Data – Where will it come from? How will it be created? Are regular refreshes needed?
  • Support Organizations – identify all interfacing organizations (Technology Services, Vendors, etc) that are needed to support the testing. Describe what will be needed.
  • Test Setup, Procedures and Walk-thru – general description of the steps the test will go thru to ensure quality tests.
  • Tracking and Reporting Status – Define the information test team members will communicate during the testing process. This should include the bug reporting tools and methods as well as a bug classification strategy

The Project Plan Part 3d: The Organizational Change Management Plan – Reinforcing Change

Planning

Change reinforcement is, in my experience, the most neglected aspect of Change Management. Usually after a project is successfully implemented, the project team “high fives”, celebrates success and then moves on to the next project. A year later, when it is discovered people are not following processes and policies or not using a system as it was intended, management will scratch their heads and wonder “where did we go wrong?”.

The answer to that is that no one was monitoring the change and reinforcing it as a part of a continuing activity both during and after the project. It is the Project Manager’s responsibility to ensure that a Change Reinforcement Plan is in place with defined roles, responsibilities and processes.

Reinforcing change includes assessing the results of change management activities. Conduct compliance audits and implement corrective action. Plan to actively seek out and celebrate early successes. Transfer ownership from the change management team to the organization. The organization assumes the role of reinforcing change and rewarding ongoing performance. Understanding how the people are embracing the change and the effect on the results of the project will be addressed during project close and audit phases of the project. During the project you may want to build in activities to assess the effectiveness of your change management, communication and training plans. This can include:

  • Surveys or employee feedback on their understanding of the change, desire to change, knowledge acquisition, skills assessment, and the employees perception if the or
  • Testing to ensure employees understand the new systems and processes
  • Use of metrics. Several metrics can be put in place post implementation to measure if the people change efforts were successful. These may include: System usage, performance reports, how often is the “old way of doing things” still used.

Based on these forms of evaluation of the effectiveness of the change strategies, modifications can be made to the plans. This may include: re-training, additional communication, one on one coaching, etc.