Sunday, July 1, 2007

Elements of a Project Information Plan

In the IT project life cycle, outputs of one phase become the inputs to the next phase in the cycle. Since planning is the first phase conducted, where does the project team get its information to conduct the key planning activities?

The project team's information comes from the information plan. The information plan is an input to the planning phase and is obtained from the management team and the client.

The information plan provides a high-level description of the project's information systems and related business objectives. This plan is always the first document created for a project. Every information plan should contain a brief overview, as well as the following five sections.

1. Needs analysis
The needs analysis is a set of procedures undertaken to set priorities and make decisions about a product, based on the client's request. To conduct a needs analysis, the project manager (PM) interviews the client and reviews the project's schedule, resources, and budget to obtain information. During the information gathering process, the PM should follow the steps listed below.
  • Identify the business need. The PM restates the project request to make sure it is clear and asks why the client wants to invest in a product. Three of the most common needs are to generate revenue, reduce expenses, or comply with regulations. The PM then asks for a tangible goal that will result from satisfying the need.
  • Identify the gap. The gap is the difference between the client's current state and the desired state of technology that the project's product will help the client to achieve. The PM must ask the client what the current state of affairs is and what the client ultimately expects from the final product.
  • Identify the tasks involved. With the help of the client, the PM identifies what tasks the end users will perform when using the final product.
  • Identify the user groups. The PM asks the client who the intended users of the proposed product are. The PM also needs to obtain from the client a description of any user trait that might affect how the product is developed.
  • Identify any project constraints. Finally, the PM should identify any constraints. A constraint is anything that could potentially limit the success of the project.
If you have followed all of these steps to gather information, you should have the information you need to create the needs analysis section of the information plan for your client's project.

2. Project goals
The next section of the information plan, goals, contains two parts. First, it states the business objective and explains how the product will contribute to revenue, contain expenses, or comply with regulations. This information is obtained from the needs analysis section. The second part outlines product evaluation and explains how the customer can determine if the final product has achieved its goal.

3. Form of the product
The form of the product describes the medium you will use to deliver the product and the reason you chose that medium. You will have to choose the medium that best fits your product and that most efficiently distributes the information to the intended users. The available choices include mediums such as:
  • CD-ROM software packages
  • networks
  • network-installed applications
  • downloadable Web packages.
4. Product function
The next section, function of the product, briefly describes what the product will do for the company or the reason why the product was created.

5. Quality guidelines
The fifth section, quality guidelines, outlines the standards that the product must meet to be accepted by management and the client. A project usually has two types of guidelines.
  • Product guidelines affect production and the product's appearance. These guidelines cover such areas as programming languages and templates to be used, grammar standards, and a viewing platform for the final product.
  • Project guidelines affect time, money, and resources needed to complete the project, such as schedules or budgets.
Remember, the information plan is created during the project conception and is used as an input to the planning phase. It will provide the reasoning behind the design choices the project team will make. Without a complete information plan, the PM will not have the necessary information to achieve the project plan sign-off milestone that must be met to complete the planning phase and begin the analysis phase of the project.

1 comment:

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