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Microsoft Solutions Framework

Envisioning Phase
Planning Phase
Developing Phase
Deployment/Stabilization Phase

The Planning Phase

The Planning Phase, which culminates in the Project Plan Approved milestone, expands on the vision and scope defined in the Envisioning Phase.

The Planning Phase contains three interim milestones.
  • Conceptual Design Complete
  • Design Specification Complete
  • Master Project Plan Complete

The Planning Phase has nine main deliverables

  • Conceptual Design Document
    • The Conceptual Design addresses what needs to be included in the product. While it should be non-technical, it should be detailed regarding the new functionality in the proposed solution, how the existing technology infrastructure will react to the introduction of this functionality, how the solution will interact with the user, and what is included in the performance criteria.
  • Design Specification
    • The Design Specification describes how to implement the "what" defined in the Conceptual Design Document and includes two major subdeliverables: the technical specification and the security plan. The technical specification includes four content elements: the logical and physical design, standards and guidelines, change control methodology, and the life cycle management plan.
  • Test Lab Setup
    • The Test Lab Setup deliverable serves to ensure that an appropriate isolated environment has been established to simulate and test the functionality encompassed by the proposed solution. The lab setup has been completed when everything that is required to conduct the isolated testing, as defined in the Conceptual Design Document and the Design Specification, is in place. This is critical because it is a prerequisite for the proof-of-concept and the pilot, which will be conducted later in the project.
  • Master Project Schedule
    • The Master Project Schedule combines all the schedules from the various teams. After Program Management has drafted the Conceptual Design and Design Specification, the team leads map the individual functional components to specific tasks and assign the tasks to the team members. Each team lead is responsible for providing a schedule that their teams can commit to meeting during the development process. The Master Project Schedule has six content elements: the task list, implementation schedule, test schedule, preliminary training estimates, logistics schedule, and marketing schedule.
  • Master Project Plan
    • The Master Project Plan is a collection of plans from the various roles. The Development lead maps out tasks based on the Conceptual Design and Design Specification and groups the tasks into major interim releases.
  • Life Cycle Management Plan
    • The Technology Life Cycle Management Plan considers the rapid evolution of individual and aggregate technologies, together with dynamic organizational factors. It provides a management framework that encompasses the entire cycle, from the strategic planning stage through the disposition of technology and back to the planning stage again. In addition, it encourages the concept of planning while building.
  • Change Control Methodology
    • Similar to the reasoning behind the Vision/Scope Document, the project team must determine the who, what, when, where, why, and how of proposed changes. The team must be able to assess the risk and impact of the change and should have a mechanism for tracking the changes that have been implemented. The controls introduced by the methodology help the team to effectively direct its change-related activities, avoiding costly errors while maintaining acceptable quality levels.
  • Risk Assessment
  • Business Manager Approval

The Team

Each role on the team has a defined responsibility. Not all the responsibilities are necessary at each interim milestone, but all are needed at some point during the Planning Phase of the project. All roles contribute to final review of the Project Plan, and provide input for risk mitigation.

  • Product Management contributes user data and analysis ensures user expectations are met in product design, and creates the Product Management plan and schedule.
  • Program Management designs the technical solution, and creates the Program Management plan and schedule.
  • Development evaluates technical options, creates the physical design, and creates the Development plan and schedule.
  • User Education determines user needs, designs user performance strategy, and creates the User Education plan and schedule.
  • Testing evaluates the design, and creates the Testing plan and schedule.
  • Logistics Management plans for material procurement, and coordinates the facilities plan/design.

Consensus at the Project Plan Approved Milestone

Even though the different team roles have different areas of interest, the entire team must buy in to the total solution. The use of consensus here does not mean there has to be total agreement on all aspects of the project. It does infer that the overall level of agreement is sufficient to move on to the next phase. From time to time, it may be necessary for team members to agree to disagree on individual issues in order to progress to the next phase.

  • The Customer recognizes the business benefits to be delivered and agrees with the delivery time frame.
  • Product Management believes that the Functional Specification/Design Specification reflect a system that, once delivered, will meet known requirements. The customer is willing to accept schedules and resource estimates based on the scope specified in the deliverables for the Planning Phase.
  • Program Management believes it is clear who is responsible for each specified function and that the committed schedules are realistic.
  • Development has sufficiently investigated implementation risk throughout the specification-building process and believes the risks associated with the project plan are manageable. It is willing to commit to schedules based on the state of the Planning Phase deliverables at this time.
  • Testing has a defined strategy for the test lab.
  • User Education has a clear idea of who the users are and how the solution will be implemented, used, and supported. This team commits to developing a training plan to accommodate all of the known requirements.
  • Logistics Management has a clear idea of all the organizational, application, and system interfaces and can commit to implementing the system within the constraints defined in the deliverables for the Planning Phase.

Last updated:
Copyright 2004, Adam Stanley