It is easy to argue that the elaboration phase is the most critical of the four phases. At the end of this phase, the "engineering" is considered complete and the project faces its reckoning: The decision is made whether or not to commit to the production phases. For most projects, this decision corresponds to the transition from a nimble operation with low cost risk to an operation with higher cost risk and substantial inertia. While the process must always accommodate changes, the elaboration phase activities must ensure that the architecture, requirements, and plans are stable enough, and the risks sufficiently mitigated, that the cost and schedule for the completion of the development can be predicted within an acceptable range. Conceptually, this level of fidelity would correspond to that necessary for an organization to commit to a fixed-price construction phase.
During the elaboration phase, an executable architecture prototype is built in one or more iterations, depending on the scope, size, risk, and novelty of the project. This effort addresses at least the critical use cases identified in the inception phase, which typically expose the top technical risks of the project. Although an evolutionary prototype of production-quality components is always a goal, it does not exclude the development of one or more exploratory, throw-away prototypes to mitigate specific risks such as design/requirements trade-offs, component feasibility analyses, or demonstrations to investors.
• Baselining the architecture as rapidly as practical (establishing a configuration-managed snapshot in which all changes are rationalized, tracked, and maintained)
• Baselining the vision
• Baselining a high-fidelity plan for the construction phase
• Demonstrating that the baseline architecture will support the vision at a reasonable cost in a reasonable time
• Elaborating the vision. This activity involves establishing a high-fidelity understanding of the critical use cases that drive architectural or planning decisions.
• Elaborating the process and infrastructure. The construction process, the tools and process automation support, and the intermediate milestones and their respective evaluation criteria are established.
• Elaborating the architecture and selecting components. Potential components are evaluated and make/buy decisions are sufficiently understood so that construction phase cost and schedule can be determined with confidence. The selected architectural components are integrated and assessed against the primary scenarios. Lessons learned from these activities may well result in a redesign of the architecture as alternative designs are considered or the requirements are reconsidered.
Primary Evaluation Criteria
• Is the architecture stable?
• Does the executable demonstration show that the major risk elements have been addressed and credibly resolved?
• Is the construction phase plan of sufficient fidelity, and is it backed up with a credible basis of estimate?
• Do all stakeholders agree that the current vision can be met if the current plan is executed to develop the complete system in the context of the current architecture?
• Are actual resource expenditures versus planned expenditures acceptable?
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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.