Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Design Phase of an IT Project

The purpose of the design phase of an IT project life cycle is to plan out a system that meets the requirements defined in the analysis phase. In the design phase, the project team defines the means of implementing the project solution—how the product will be created. To do this, the project team uses the inputs and tools to conduct the key activities, create the outputs, and meet the milestones for this phase.

The purpose of the design phase is to provide the project team with a means for assessing the quality of the solution before it has been implemented, when changes are still easy to make and are less costly. This phase includes the following elements.
  • The inputs required for this phase are the corporate standards, business process prototype, and requirements analysis.
  • Only standardized tools found in all offices, such as word processing software, spreadsheets, and presentation software, are used in the design phase.
  • The key activities for the design phase are to review the end user interface design, create the technical design, and perform the quality verification and validation.
  • The single output for the design phase is the design document.
  • The milestones for the design phase are the architecture assessment deliverable, design sign-off, and lifecycle assessment complete deliverable.
During the design phase, the project manager enlists the help of the designer, the technical architect, and a representative of the end users. The key activities that must be conducted during the design phase are listed below.

1. Review the end user interface design.
Before the project manager can conduct the first key activity, the designer uses the project's storyboards to create the end user interface in terms of appearance, layout, and interaction techniques as seen by the end users.

The PM evaluates the design to ensure that it meets the users' needs and the corporate standards. The PM then meets with the designer and explains what's wrong and what's missing from the proposed design. If the PM is not satisfied with the design, the designer applies the necessary corrections, and the PM reviews it again.

When a PM looks at a design, he or she compares it to the inputs listed below. This evaluation is important because the developer will not be able to properly test the completed product during the testing phase if the design doesn't meet these requirements. If testing can't be conducted properly, the product can't move into the rollout phase.
  • User needs. Does the design include each of the user requirements? Are each of the user requirements correctly incorporated into the design?
  • Corporate standards. Does the design include all the standards that specify products or technologies that the development team will use? Are the standards properly implemented in the design?
2. Create the technical design.
Although PMs do not conduct the last two key activities of the design phase, it is important that they understand each activity. The designer and technical architect conduct the technical design activity to decide how they will implement the project design. By using the requirements specifications input as a guide, they create a document that includes the sections listed below. The technical design is then given to the PM to serve as the blueprint for the project.
Framework. The framework is a design that can be reused on a software development project. For example, the text entry field used on a user interface framework can be reused in a database design.
  • Coding standards. Programmers have to follow these rules to ensure consistency in the programming code since usually more than one programmer will work on a project. A sample coding standard might read, "Do not use capital letters for file names when coding."
  • Task breakdown. Development is divided into tasks created separately and then integrated into a final product. Task breakdown makes it easier for a PM to assign work during the construction phase. For example, three tasks might be the user interface, the database, and the help feature.
  • Project timeline. A timeline for completion is estimated for each task required to complete the project. For example, it will take four days to create the user interface, three days for the database, and two and a half days for the help feature, for a total of nine and a half days.
3. Perform the quality verification and validation.
As in the technical design activity, the project manager does not actually have a part in conducting the final key activity of the design phase, except to receive a sign-off form. During quality verification and validation, end users and technical personnel verify and validate that the proposed design meets the user and quality requirements.
Upon completion of the review, an approval form is given to the project manager, indicating approval of the completed system design. This sign-off then becomes one of the milestones for the design phase.

Remember, it's easier and less costly to make changes in the design phase, before you implement the actual solution for the project. Take your time and design it right!


Ronald said...

Thanks for the information, it helps me to understand the big picture of the design phase from Project Manager point of view.

gythan said...

An explanation that coincides with what is learned. Perfect description for any learner.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article this really helped me to understand lot about design phase..


revrendralph said...

Thanks for the article, it has enlightened me as to the scope of the design Phase.

shivani said...

thanks for this article it was really helpful to know about design phase

Haris younas said...

Thanks for the information, this really helped me.

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