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Project Lifecycle, Methodologies, and Standards - Managing Each Step of the Project Lifecycle

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The steps of the project lifecycle may not necessarily run consecutively. Often the steps will overlap and run concurrently for some period of time. 

Editor's Note: This article is excerpted from chapter 2 of Fundamentals of Technology Project Management, by Colleen Garton and Erika McCulloch.

Part 1, Project Lifecycle, is available here

For example, if the planning step is scheduled to last for ten weeks and the project will be a three-phase implementation, you may want to get your development team working on the designs for phase one before you have completed the planning for phases two and three.

If you are inflexible on overlapping the steps, you may find that you are wasting a lot of development time while your development team sits around twiddling their thumbs waiting for something to do when you are in eight hours of planning meetings each day! To maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of your team, you should always be looking for ways to keep everyone working at full capacity and minimizing project downtime.

Some features will need more design time than others. It will depend on the size of the feature. You should not stop your team members from moving onto the development step for features that have completed designs because you have other team members who are not finished with that step yet. The same can be said for moving from development to integration.

You will find at times that some of your team members are on a different step in the process than the others. However, you should still have timelines for each step. You should document the start and finish dates for each step even though you know you will have a few exceptions to those hard dates.

You may be managing, or working in some capacity, on more than one project at a time, and this will add to the differing number of lifecycle steps that you are required to manage at any one time. In order for the company to be consistently working on projects and keeping all the employees busy, they will very likely be planning the next project while you are still implementing the current one. This planning is also likely to require some of your time. If your project timelines are not too long, you may find that you are managing the post-deployment step of your last project while at the same time managing the deployment step of your current project and the planning step of your future project! It is all about juggling your time and setting priorities. It can be challenging, but it is also a lot of fun, and it certainly does not allow you time to get bored!

In longer-term projects, it is often a cause for celebration to be moving from one lifecycle step to the next. Just when you thought you had taken all you could stomach of day-long planning meetings, you move into the design phase. Then again, just when you are feeling a bit less challenged by development, when everything is running so smoothly, you switch to the integration phase and find lots of issues that require your troubleshooting skills. Many teams celebrate meeting the milestones that move them to the next step of the project lifecycle. It is easy to track progress using the lifecycle wheel, and though you know that it starts all over again as soon as you finish, it is still fun to see yourselves getting closer to the end goal.

Project Stage Gates

A stage gate, also referred to as a phase gate, approach to project management formalizes the various approvals that occur throughout the project into a standardized approval framework. The idea is that the project stops at each stage gate and cannot proceed to the next stage until the approval has been completed. The methodology in this book can be used as part of a stage gate process. The table below shows the project lifecycle phases and the corresponding stage gates. These gates are not set in stone. You can add or remove stage gates based on the specific process used at your organization for approving projects and project funding. The approvers listed are not necessarily all required. One or more would be usual.

You may need to add additional approvers based on your organization’s specific stage gate approval process. After the planning phase is complete, it is assumed that the sponsor and any senior managers who will remain involved in the project will become part of the steering committee and therefore are not listed separately.

Project Lifecycle Phase

Stage Gate

Stage Gate Approvals

Approvers

Planning

Project Concept

Project Concept approved

Funding and resources approved to create Project Proposal

Client

Sponsor

Senior Management (funding)

Product Management

Project Proposal

Project Proposal approved

Funding and resources approved to create Charter, Marketing Requirements Document (MRD), and Budget

Client

Sponsor

Senior Management (funding)

Product Management

Project Approval

Project Charter approved

MRD approved

Budget approved

Project funding and resources approved to build product

Client

Senior Management (funding)

Steering Committee

Sponsor

Product Management

Design

Design

Technical Designs approved

Technical Specifications and Task Lists approved

Project Schedule finalized

Any schedule or budget changes approved

Steering Committee

Technical Lead/System Architect

Project Management Office (PMO)

Project Manager

Development

Development Complete

All development tasks complete

Unit testing performed

Schedule updated

Technical Designs and Specifications updated

QA Test plans created

Any schedule or budget changes approved

Steering Committee

Technical Lead/System Architect

PMO

Project Manager

Quality Assurance Manager

Integration

Code/Product Complete

All software, hardware and networking integrated/merged to create final product

Quality Assurance testing complete

Product optimization and bug- fixing complete

Deployment, Operations and Training Plans approved

Service Level Agreement approved

Any schedule or budget changes approved

Steering Committee

Technical Lead/System Architect

PMO

Project Manager

Quality Assurance Manager

Deployment

Deployment

Deployment and Training Plans implemented

Deployment or handoff of product completed

Client acceptance agreement signed

Any budget changes approved

Steering Committee

PMO

Project Manager

Client

Operations Manager

Training Manager

Sales Manager

Post- Deployment

Project Closure

Operational support plan implemented

Lessons Learned conducted and Tactical Plans created

Point Release and Ongoing Training Plans approved

Project Closure approved

Steering Committee

PMO

Project Manager

Client

Quality Assurance Manager

Operations Manager

Training Manager

Sales Manager

Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)

During the 1990s, numerous corporate accounting scandals led to the loss of billions of dollars of investors’ money. In response to these scandals, in 2002 the United States government introduced the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, affectionately known as SOX, but also referred to as SarBox or SOA. It is named after Senator Paul Sarbanes and Representative Michael Oxley, who were the main architects of the act. The SOX Act introduced new regulatory requirements for publicly traded companies. The regulations apply mostly to accounting and IT practices. It is beyond the scope of this book to include in-depth details of SOX requirements. Suffice it to say that projects considered to be “financially significant” may come under the umbrella of the SOX Act. This means that the person responsible for the outcome of the project, the project manager, has certain legal responsibilities to meet SOX requirements. The legal department or SOX committee at your company will determine to which projects SOX applies. Some organizations, particularly those in the banking and finance industries, err on the side of caution and require that all projects be developed in compliance with SOX regulations.

You will not be able to meet SOX requirements for IT projects unless you are consistently using a structured methodology and applying good project management practices. At a very high level, SOX requires creation and retention of project records. This includes all project-related documents, specifications, correspondence, and decision and analysis documentation. SOX also requires that applications or products developed under SOX compliance have appropriate security and encryption in place. The security and encryption requirements may or may not be applicable to your project(s). If you are assigned to projects that require SOX compliance, I recommend that you learn more about the SOX Act and consult with your PMO, SOX, and/or legal departments to ensure that you understand exactly what is required from you and what individual responsibilities you have under the law.

It is unlikely that your organization would expect you to have an in-depth understanding of SOX. It will certainly work in your favor if you can demonstrate that you know what SOX is and why it is needed. What you have just read in this section will not make you an expert, but it will enable you to show that you have a basic understanding. This basic understanding will also ensure that when someone asks for your “SOX checklist,” you don’t start writing out your list, “3 pairs of white ankle socks, 4 pairs of wool hiking socks, 2 pairs of formal black socks, 1 pair of running compression socks.”

The website http://www.sox-online.com explains the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in relatively easy-to-understand terms. Certainly it will be more understandable than reading the Sarbanes-Oxley Act itself!

Next time: Project Management and Quality Management Standards.  Can't wait?  Pick up your own copy of Fundamentals of Technology Project Management, by Colleen Garton and Erika McCulloch - available and on sale at the MC Press Bookstore today!

Colleen Garton

Colleen Garton is a highly respected and experienced writer, consultant, and speaker. She is the author of two management books: Fundamentals of Technology Project Management and Managing Without Walls. Recognized internationally as an expert on virtual and global management, Colleen is an experienced and in-demand public speaker for numerous events and conferences around the world. She is also author of the blog Working With or Without Walls.

 Colleen has extensive management and training experience in the United States and internationally, with more than two decades of practical experience in traditional and virtual management spanning multiple industries. She is the owner of the Garton Consulting Group. Before founding the Garton Consulting Group, Ms. Garton held senior management positions at some major U.S. corporations.

You can follow Colleen on Twitter at @ColleenGarton and on Facebook.


MC Press books written by Colleen Garton available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Fundamentals of Technology Project Management Fundamentals of Technology Project Management
Master the specific project management issues that technology professionals must face.
List Price $69.95

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Managing Without Walls Managing Without Walls
Optimize the effectiveness of your teams...no matter where they are.
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