Defining the Project Concept

You may find this difficult to believe, but your project begins at the beginning. You receive a request from a customer (whether an end user, a manager, or even an outside business partner trying to interact with your organization) for some capability, functionality, or product. This request triggers the initiating phase of a project.

This customer request may be very nebulous or loosely worded. Your job as project manager is to receive this request, figure out what it ' s really saying, and then turn it into a project concept document. There are two components to the "figuring out" process: investigation of the customer request, and expressing your understanding of the request.

The concept document represents your first stab at understanding the project and may well require that you do some investigative questioning of the people who initiated the project request, in order to know what they're asking for.

Sometimes a customer will be leaping ahead to the solution. They might have already studied the technology and requested a specific product or vendor. It is important for you to derive the actual needs from the customer, then determine the best technology that will answer this need. You'll encounter tech-savvy customers all the time, and one challenge is to make sure that their needs are fulfilled using the best technology, not just the technology that they' ve heard about.

You are probably thinking that clarifying the request seems very elementary, but you' d be surprised at the number of times that a group of IT professionals takes a project request and comes up with something that isn't anywhere close to what the customer was really asking for. Digure 2.2 shows how easy it is to misconstrue what the customer really wants. In the figure, you can see that all she wanted was a swing hanging from a tree. But due to overzealous engineering and design components, the tree swing gets overblown into something it shouldn't have been.

Note

Of course, today' s e-economy means that customer requests very often center around making an existing program work within a web browser, or coming up with new browser-based programs—the so-called "thin-client" solutions.

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What the customer nealfy wonted.

Figure 2.2: The (mis)communication tree

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What the customer nealfy wonted.

Figure 2.2: The (mis)communication tree

Note

I saw this engineering/design on a poster years ago and have cherished it since. Every time I' m involved in a design discussion with a customer, I think about the poster and try to make sure I hone in on what the customer really wants. This poster has kept me out of the over-design and over-engineering of projects numerous times.

When formulating the project concept document, you' re refining and describing customer needs. Work with the customer(s) to make sure you understand exactly what it is they are requesting. Depending on the complexity of the customer request, you may require the expertise of a subject matter expert (SME) (business analyst) to help you to better understand the exact criteria of the request.

Once you understand, write up your initial project concept document and have the customer approve it. This will validate that what you' ve written matches what the customer is trying to accomplish.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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