Definition process
Jan 04

Definition process

When starting the definition phase, the situation is often something like this: The client’s project group know their business and processes, but they are not familiar with the new solution. They also have various levels of project experience. The vendor’s consultants have general knowledge of the industry, but they don’t know the client’s processes. Management has set goals that need to be achieved with the new solution and a condition: “We are implementing an off the shelf-solution. All customization must be avoided!”

“The big question is: What is the most effective way to make a definition that will lead the project to success.”

The fundamental definition is important. Everything missing from the definition document is an expensive change request, adding costs to the project and pushing back deadlines. On the other hand, accurate, ineffective definition uses a lot of valuable time and the project timetable expands.

We utilize process use case documents that model complete business processes to get a clear picture of both the definition phase’s progress and the result of the solution. Process use cases are created using a simple, yet effective process that provides everyone in the project with a clear picture of the business’s needs, and makes sure the solution supports them. The ProjectTOP process makes sure nothing important is missing from the definition, and that change requests during the project are decreased by 60% on average.

Projecttop vip area - Definition process

Definition process

Projecttop vip area - Definition process

Designing process use cases at header level

First, we need to specify what kind of entity we are defining and how it would be sensible to build? We do this by creating an overall picture and building packets.

Then we should create a list of use cases and plan the content of the building packets. “Please read Process use case template article to understand what kind of document we are referring to.“

After that, we should agree together on the process in which the use cases are created. The process is described in this article. But the process roles must be agreed on, on a project basis. At least the following:

  • An application architect. The person who is responsible for the solution in its entirety.
  • Business experts by sub-region.
  • Supplier responsible consultants by sub-region
  • Business Solution Approver
Projecttop vip area - Definition critical
Projecttop vip area - Definition process

Workload and resource plan

The definition phase workload assessment and resource plan is one of the most difficult activities in the project. Projecttop Process allows you to estimate the workload more realistically. Note that the calculation is based on Projecttop Process use case templates.

  1. We have already created a list of the necessary use cases.
  2. Add or import listed use cases to Projecttop as activities.
  3. Open Gantt view, group and schedule use cases.
  4. Plan definition workshops. In a 4 hour workshop, you can handle 4-5 process use cases. And one use case needs to be handled in 3-4 workshops. So, if you have 15 process use cases, you need 9-10 workshops.
  5. Go through each process use case and list the people you need to define it. Add resources and the workload to Gantt’s resources column. The correct way is to estimate the workload for each case. Another option is to use average workload. For example, 5 hours per use case. (3 workshop hours + preparations)
  6. Next, evaluate the work for the preparation of the process use case document and the process picture draft. Read the article about process use case templates, to get an idea of how to prepare those.  It takes about 3 hours per process use case.
  7. Then, evaluate the vendor’s consultants and process use case writer’s and architects workload. This also includes the design time of the solution.
  8. Time is also needed for change management and the overall design of the solution.
  9. Don’t forget to reserve time for decision making. Make calendar bookings for directors early enough to ensure you get the decisions on time.
  10. Finally, communicate and get approval for the resource plan. You can get a nice Resource-report from Views/Resources.
  11. Make Calendar Reservations. Arrange the kickoff and start working.

“Definition is the project phase, where haggling is expensive. What follows is this: The project group won’t have a clear idea of what the solution will be like. Everything missing from the definition document is a change request, adding costs to the project and pushing back deadlines. Customization needs are found only during testing, and they are done in a hurry with extra cost. “

Prepare process use case documents

It is important that the definition workshops are effective. To ensure that, prepare each process use case documentary before the workshop. Please read the article Process Use Case Template, to know how to do it.

Workshops and writing

Now we are in the situation that use case documents are prepared. The resource plan is ready and workshops arranged. Make sure the right people are in the right workshops.

Before workshops

Send the agenda to participants. Ask them to prepare and collect the necessary materials. Ask business experts to explain the use case process at the workshop. This way they are forced to prepare.

First workshop

Go through the use cases one by one:

  1. Tell what the use case is about.
  2. Go through the most common basic process, without any changes, so that the business expert will explain the process. It is important to communicate what the case is, in order to allow participants to comment on the right one. Make notes and corrections to the process flow.
  3. Go through the second common basic process, without any changes. After these steps, everybody should understand the whole process.
  4. Start to go through the exemptions. But remember, they should be relevant ones.
  5. Create open issues to Projecttop and make decisions about how to solve those.

Remember, you should go through 4-5 use cases during one workshop. So, don’t use all time on the first one.

Between workshops: Writing use case/solution design

  • Make changes to the use case and process picture based on the workshop.
  • Solve any open issues.
  • Get the vendor design solution and write it to the use case.
  • Check that use case is in line with the entire solution.

Following workshops

  • Go through the use cases one by one:
    1. Go through the results of the previous workshop.
    2. Go through the decisions on open issues.
    3. Continue definition of the use case
    4. Create open issues to Projecttop and make decisions how to solve them.

Use case approval

  • After definition is ready and the proposed solution is ok, approval is needed.
    The use case will be assigned to the business owner for approval. The business owner may request for comments and changes that will be discussed in the workshop.

Building and testing plan

  • After use cases of the build packet are accepted, the vendor(s) creates the build plan. This is where the evaluation of workload is genuinely possible for the first time. At the same time the test manager creates a plan on how to test the solution.
Projecttop vip area - Definition process

Acceptance of build packet

Now we have quality definition documents and a plan for implementation and testing. This plan must be gone through together and ensure that everything stays on schedule.

Jyrki Autio

CEO of Projecttop He’s often hired to save projects that are far behind schedule, are going over budget, or aren’t meeting quality standards. He also commonly trains people in specialist and consulting companies that sell project management or software development services.