Checkpoints of the Process

It is always important to have visible milestones in the life cycle where various stakeholders meet, face to face, to discuss progress and plans. The purpose of these events is not only to demonstrate how well a project is performing but also to achieve the following:

• Synchronize stakeholder expectations and achieve concurrence on three evolving perspectives: the requirements, the design, and the plan

• Synchronize related artifacts into a consistent and balanced state

• Identify the important risks, issues, and out-of-tolerance conditions

Key Points

▲ Three sequences of project checkpoints are used to synchronize stakeholder expectations throughout the life cycle: major milestones, minor milestones, and status assessments.

▲ The most important major milestone is usually the event that transitions the project from the elaboration phase into the construction phase.

▲ The format and content of minor milestones are highly dependent on the project and the organizational culture.

▲ Periodic status assessments are crucial for focusing continuous attention on the evolving health of the project and its dynamic priorities.

Perform a global assessment for the whole life cycle, not just the current situation of an individual perspective or intermediate product

Milestones must have well-defined expectations and provide tangible results. This does not preclude the renegotiation of the milestone's objectives once the project has gained further understanding of the trade-offs among the requirements, the design, and the plan.

Three types of joint management reviews are conducted throughout the process:

1. Major milestones. These systemwide events are held at the end of each development phase. They provide visibility to systemwide issues, synchronize the management and engineering perspectives, and verify that the aims of the phase have been achieved.

2. Minor milestones. These iteration-focused events are conducted to review the content of an iteration in detail and to authorize continued work.

3. Status assessments. These periodic events provide management with frequent and regular insight into the progress being made.

Each of the four phases—inception, elaboration, construction, and transition— consists of one or more iterations and concludes with a major milestone when a planned technical capability is produced in demonstrable form. An iteration represents a cycle of activities for which there is a well-defined intermediate result—a minor milestone—captured with two artifacts: a release specification (the evaluation criteria and plan) and a release description (the results). Major milestones at the end of each phase use formal, stakeholder-approved evaluation criteria and release descriptions; minor milestones use informal, development-team-controlled versions of these artifacts.

The level of ceremony and the number of milestones will vary depending on several parameters, such as scale, number of stakeholders, business context, technical risk, and sensitivity of cost and schedule perturbations. Most projects should establish all four major milestones. Only in exceptional cases would you add other major milestones or operate with fewer. (For a nationally important project under broad scrutiny, you might add more; for a scientific experiment with an organic user, you might have fewer.) For simpler projects, very few or no minor milestones may be necessary to manage intermediate results, and the number of status assessments may be infrequent (for example, quarterly). Figure 9-1 illustrates a typical sequence of project checkpoints for a relatively large project.

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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