The UK Civil Service

Facts, Analysis and Comment.

Project Management

A Detailed Checklist

The Project Management – Planning web page lists nine questions whose answers need to be written down before final sign-off of any project plan.   Here are more detailed notes on each question.

1: Determine the scope: what to deliver and when

•    Describe why the work needs to be done – for example, to meet a policy imperative or respond to a business driver for change.
•    Describe the required outcome in measurable, time based terms – what you want to change and how you will know that you have changed it.
•    Identify high-level benefits, how they contribute to strategic objectives and how they will be measured. Identify the causal factors – what needs to be in place for the outcome to happen?
•    Describe the actions/projects that need to be undertaken.
•    Identify high-level options for meeting the business need; identify the option with the most acceptable mix of cost, benefit and risk.

2: Estimate the resources and capabilities (people, physical resources and funding) you will need

•    Base your estimates on what others have done, wherever possible.
•    Look at the dependencies between current programs and projects in your organisation to arrive at the optimum allocation of resources. Establish the skills and expertise you need (capability to do the job) and the numbers of people who will be required over the lifetime of the project (capacity).
•    Estimate the whole-life cost of the change – people and physical resources (buildings, technology etc.).
•    Consider whether your organisation has enough experience and skills to manage new arrangements where they involve working with others.
•    Determine the budget/resource limits and where the costs will fall.

3: Identify potential sources of capability

•    Investigate who could deliver the required outcome. Look at the whole supply chain – your organisation, business partners, suppliers and their suppliers, your advisers and your customers.
•    Consider innovative ways of delivery, such as collaborating with the private sector where there are appropriate incentives for them to do so.
•    Look at what others are doing.
•    Where relevant, look at opportunities to exploit technology to deliver the capability you need.

4: Decide who will carry out the required processes and policies

•    Look at the proposed way/s forward in the context of the business, its current portfolio and priorities; check that they fit with the organisation’s strategy.
•    Check for opportunities to collaborate with others and for overlaps with projects already planned or underway; look at the interfaces with other initiatives/organisations.
•    Establish how much is new or changing in terms of people and the way they work, services and physical resources such as buildings and IT. Make a realistic assessment of the likelihood of success, given your organisation’s existing commitments, priorities, capability and capacity.
•    Consider whether critical business processes would be affected
•    Consider breaking the work down into smaller packages instead of doing everything at once.
•    Revisit the priorities; in addition, expect the unexpected – could you cope with unforeseen change?

5: Determine who will be accountable for what

•    Establish who will be responsible for making investment decisions (for example, the Board, partners) and who will be senior individual responsible for the project/program as its owner.
•    Check that the right person is given the role, in terms of their authority and responsibilities in relation to the proposed change.
•    Define high level governance structures and responsibilities; consider how different responsibilities fit together and how everyone involved will understand their role and responsibility.
•    Define high level arrangements for reporting downwards on policy and business requirements, reporting upwards on progress, performance and risks and taking prompt action as required.
•    For joint projects, identify the additional arrangements that need to be in place.
•    Ensure that reporting lines will be kept as short as possible.

6: Identify similar projects that have succeeded

•    Compare your project with other ways of delivering a similar outcome – public/private sector and internationally.
•    Take account of factors that could affect success, such as cultural differences.
•    Identify why others have succeeded – or failed – and the lessons learned from their experiences.

7: Determine an acceptable balance of cost, benefit and risk – and how they should be managed

•    Confirm the solution that offers best value for money; obtain approval from senior management.
•    Revisit the key risks to performance and delivery.
Risks relating to performance could include lack of public interest leading to poor take-up of a service; risks relating to performance could include overambitious timescales, inadequate resources and lack of essential skills.
•    Consider the whole supply chain, including intermediaries, and how risks could be allocated and managed.
•    For the proposed way forward, identify an acceptable balance of costs, benefits and risk.
•    Consider a wide range of possibilities and the tradeoffs associated with each.
•    If it is an innovative approach, consider how to manage the risks and how well your organisation could cope with the scale of change proposed by more radical options.
•    Establish that each of the proposed options is practical, realistic and viable; consider how well each option meets stakeholder needs.
•    Contingency plans need to be outlined at this stage.

8: Determine how you will work with other delivery agents and stakeholders to share information and knowledge

•    Consider who your stakeholders are and what they want – the people who will be involved in/affected by the change and/or influence the outcome.
•    Resolve any conflicting demands.
•    Think about how you will achieve stakeholder buy-in and overcome any resistance to the change.
•    Consider the perceptions that might have to change and how behaviours could be changed.

9: Determine arrangements for monitoring and reporting progress. Identify the performance measures and incentives you will need

•    Set milestones – that is, progress checkpoints at specified intervals – against intermediate targets towards the required outcome.
These milestones will enable you to track progress against plans and take action on any feedback relating to progress.
•    Identify performance measures that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based); determine mechanisms for reliable and regular performance information.
•    Think about the incentives for staff, partners and suppliers that will encourage a successful outcome.
•    Check that performance information can be collected efficiently and in good time to take remedial action if required.

 

Martin Stanley