At this point in the project you should have at least an outline project plan. Even in a project where your organisation may be relaxed about the overall deadline, there are a number of factors to be considered. Your scoping exercise should allow you to answer the following questions:
- Will you need to go through an EU procurement exercise and, if so, which route will you take as this affects the time required
- Have you detailed all of the tasks that need to be carried out in order to define your requirements
- Do you have sufficient experience to give realistic estimates of effort for these tasks
- Who will be involved and what are the constraints on their availability
- What resources do you need to carry out evaluations on potential solutions/suppliers (eg rooms for demonstrations etc) and what are the constraints on their availability
We consider planning a project in more detail in our project management guide. At this point it is important that you have basic outline which is understood by all those involved. Without this simple tool a project can very easily fail to make progress.
It is also a principle of sound project management/project planning that the project is broken into stages at which the business case is reviewed to ensure it is still valid. This may sound logical in theory but once a project is under way and gaining momentum, it is often difficult to stand back and look objectively at the business case.
To take the example of selecting an IT system to meet particular business requirements, you should be aware at the outset that a possible outcome of the project is that you can’t find anything that meets your requirements. This scenario may be unlikely and perhaps indicative of a flawed requirements specification but it could occur.
Perhaps more likely is that none of the solutions is quite ideal and you need to choose between best fit for different purposes, consider increasing your budget or look at changing your business processes.
It may be unpalatable to a team charged with selecting a new system to realise that the system will be far more costly than envisaged and cannot be justified in cost benefit terms but the project will have been a success in institutional terms if it reaches the right conclusion.
We will return to the subject of stage boundaries or key decision points as we progress through the model.