Project planning: Exit, sustainability and business plans
Develop an exit and a sustainability plan for what should happen to project outputs at the end of the project, and to explore which ones should be sustained further and how.
Sustainability is about what happens to project outputs after the project. Some project outputs will be archived at the end of the project, some will live on after the project ends (e.g. content hosted by a service) and others may be taken up and transformed .
From the start of the project, you should plan for what will happen to the outputs at the end as sustainability has implications for work done during the project.
The Exit Plan is needed to complete the project and get the best value from the work that has been funded
The Sustainability Plan is an assessment of which project outputs should be sustained after the project ends, how, and by whom
In developing the exit and sustainability plans, you should be guided by the programme manager and any requirements given in the call or letter of grant. Some projects create a product or service specifically intended to be sustained, with requirements about design, service levels, intellectual property, etc. which must be followed.
Step 1: Revisit project outcomes
Revisit the project outcomes you anticipate, the changes your project will stimulate or enable, and its impact on the teaching, learning, and research communities. Your outcomes may relate to what people will be able to do better, faster, or more efficiently because of what you’ve done or learned.
Step 2: Action for take-up
What take-up and embedding activities are there? Your project outputs may include tools, models, guidelines, methods, case studies, knowledge, or recommendations that can be taken up by the community if correctly disseminated. Think about what you need to do to encourage take-up (e.g. to ensure that tools and models are used, guidelines or criteria adopted). Consider stakeholdesr views and how to make outputs available and accepted.
Step 3: Action for exit
Your exit plan. should consider access, preservation, maintenance, and intellectual property:
Access Who will host the deliverables after the project ends? Will they be available on your project web site? Have you made other arrangements for hosting?
Preservation All deliverables must be archived in the appropriate Jisc data centre or managed repository, and core project documents must be archived in the Jisc records management system. What preservation issues need to be addressed before this happens?
Maintenance What supporting documentation will be needed to maintain deliverables, e.g. specs, user guides, technical documentation? Will any ongoing maintenance be needed and what will it cost?
Intellectual property What third-party rights need to be cleared to make sure deliverables can be accessible to the teaching, learning, and community after the project ends? If you’re developing open source software, which open source license would be appropriate?
The project plan template has a table to complete indicating the action needed for take-up and exit.
You may not know all the answers at the start of the project, but think through the issues and develop a short plan that you can build on later. Thinking about take-up and embedding will inform your dissemination plan. Thinking about issues like access, maintenance, and IPR may have implications for project work.
Step 4: Sustainable outputs
For many projects, there won’t be sustainable outputs. The work the project has done has been taken up by the community, leading to changes in thinking and practice. But for some projects there may be sustainable outputs, particularly in the area of content, software, and tools. You may be creating content that could be made available to the teaching, learning, or research communities on a permanent basis or to other sectors. You may be developing software or tools that could be developed further and licensed for different types of applications. Try to identify the outputs for your project that should live on after the project ends, who will want them, and why.
Step 5: Sustainability options
Think about who will carry outputs forward and how– what are the issues that will need to be addressed to make your outputs self-sustaining? Ideas you have can be discussed with Jisc throughout the project. Thinking through scenarios at the start will help you address the issues as they arise
Think about the partners you may need to take your outputs forward. For a technical standard, a standards organisation could take if forward. For content, you will need an online host. A pilot system or prototype software may need a technical partner to help develop it further.
Issues to think about:
Market need There should be a genuine market need that isn’t currently filled by other products or services. Your evaluation plan should ensure that what you’ve created is useful and wanted by the community.
Quality Sustainable outputs need to be fit for purpose, of high quality, and created using appropriate standards and best practice. Your quality plan will ensure this is the case.
Intellectual property You must ensure that any intellectual property rights are cleared to make outputs available after the project ends. Software should be registered.
Investment In most cases, investment will be needed to develop products further, and in all cases a sound business model will be needed to make them self-sustaining.
The project plan template has a table for sustainability to list scenarios for taking your work forward and issues to address. Thinking about the issues T the start of the project will inform the project work.
Where you wish to exploit deliverables commercially after funding ceases, you should submit a business plan with economic models demonstrating how the product or service will be self-sustaining. The timing for the business plan to be created might be around the project mid-point. The plan could cover the following topics:
Market analysis Market need, market sectors(s), users and user needs, competition
Product/service Definition of the product/service, benefits, unique selling points, critical success factors, cost-benefit analysis compared to competition
Infrastructure Hardware, software, hosting, delivery, processes, standards, facilities, maintenance
Future development Upgrading infrastructure, updating content
Expertise needed Competencies, partners needed and their roles, staff, suppliers, outsourcing
Management Leadership, organisation, staffing, administration
Economic models Setup/ongoing costs, investment, income generation (e.g. sales, subscriptions, third-party licensing, advertising, sponsorship)
Marketing Market sectors, marketing and promotion, training and support
Legal and intellectual property IP rights needed, licensing and legal agreements, digital rights management, software registration
Risk assessment and management, including financial risks
Timing Overall timescale, phasing, milestones
Before preparing a business plan, review the letter of grant for any implications of commercial exploitation of project outputs. Discuss your plans with the programme manager and any programme advisory board for advice and guidance.
The programme manager will develop a sustainability strategy at programme-level. Giving consideration to the outputs most likely to be sustainable in the long term in the context of the programme’s objectives and anticipated outcomes. Processes necessary for embedding, and take-up by the community will be considered. The programme manager will share the programme strategy with you,which will provide a framework for planning exit/sustainability strategies at project-level.