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31/100 - Managing Large IT Programs | Project Planning & Activities List

Updated: Apr 8

1 Large IT Programs Project Planning & Activities List

The successful execution of large IT programs stands as a testament to the power of meticulous project planning and management. A well-orchestrated IT program moves through several critical phases, each marking a distinct stage of progress: Initiation, where the project's foundation is laid; Planning, involving meticulous detailing of every aspect of execution; Execution, where plans are put into action; Testing, ensuring everything works according to specifications; Go-Live and Hypercare, transitioning from project to operation with ongoing support; and finally, Closure, where the project is formally concluded. Together, these phases constitute the life cycle of a project, ensuring a structured approach to managing and realizing complex IT solutions.


In the previous article we looked at 'Agile User Stories'. In this article, we will explore how to manage large IT projects through below sections:


2 Managing Large IT Programs Initiation Phase Activities LIst


Project Initiation Phase – Initiating the Program Journey


The Initiation Phase is where the journey of any large IT project begins. It is a phase of exploration and definition, a time when the project's vision is articulated, and its path is charted. During initiation, project leaders focus on establishing clear goals, enlisting the support of key players, and setting the foundational framework that will guide the project's trajectory. This phase is not just about starting off on the right foot but about laying down the bricks of governance, structure, and alignment that will support the project's entire lifecycle. It is a critical time for gaining clarity and consensus, which will help in steering the project through the challenges ahead. As we step into the initiation phase, let's unfold the pivotal activities that will set the stage for success.


Initiation Phase Activities List

 

  1. Stakeholder Identification and Engagement: Compile a comprehensive list of project stakeholders, including customers, sponsors, and team members. Initiate proactive engagement strategies to align expectations and garner support.

  2. Create SOW, Review, and Sign Off: Draft a Statement of Work (SOW) detailing the project’s scope, deliverables, and timelines. Conduct thorough reviews with stakeholders and secure formal sign-off to ensure mutual agreement.

  3. Initial Budget Plan and Schedule: Develop a preliminary financial plan outlining expected costs. Pair the budget with a tentative project schedule to guide financial and time resources.

  4. Reviews with Stakeholders and Project Sponsor: Hold review sessions with stakeholders and the project sponsor to validate the project direction and plans. Utilize feedback to refine project objectives and parameters.

  5. Establish Project Governance, Project Charter, Approval: Set up a governance framework to oversee project execution and decision-making. Formalize the project’s existence and objectives through a Project Charter and secure approval from authorized bodies.

  6. Project Kickoff: Officially start the project with a kickoff meeting, unifying the team under a common goal and understanding.

 

Key Project Terms

 

Project

A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. It has a defined beginning and end, often constrained by time, funding, or deliverables. Program term is used when referring to a group of projects with multiple teams, each having their own project, deliverables and timelines.


Project Management

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. It involves initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals. Example: Managing the development of the aforementioned software application involves coordinating with stakeholders, defining project scope, allocating resources, ensuring the project stays on schedule and budget, and adjusting plans as needed to handle any arising issues.


Large IT Project

A large IT project refers to a complex undertaking that involves integrating various technological components, systems, and processes to achieve specific objectives within an organization. These projects typically have significant budgets, extensive timeframes, and involve multidisciplinary teams across different locations. Example: Implementing an enterprise-wide resource planning (ERP) system in a multinational corporation.

 


3  Managing Large IT Programs Planning Phase Activities LIst

Project Planning Phase  - Activities List - Laying the Blueprint

 

The Planning Phase is a critical period in the project lifecycle where teams transform strategy into an actionable roadmap. This phase demands rigorous analysis and meticulous preparation to ensure that the project's vision aligns with practical realities. It's about scrutinizing every detail, forecasting potential risks, and preparing for seamless integration of various project elements. A project's success is often determined by the strength of its planning. Here, stakeholders come together to mold the project's framework, making strategic decisions that will influence the entire project's course.


Planning Phase Activities List

 

  1. Requirements Gathering: This involves the collection and analysis of detailed functional and non-functional requirements through techniques such as interviews, workshops, and prototype feedback sessions.

  2. Integration Requirements: Define the technical specifications for system interoperability, including API endpoints, data exchange formats, and communication protocols. An example could be outlining how a new payment gateway should integrate with an existing e-commerce platform using RESTful APIs for transaction processin.

  3. Design Reviews: Conduct thorough examinations of design documents and wireframes to ensure they align with technical requirements and usability standards. For instance, reviewing the UI/UX design of a mobile app to ensure that it adheres to the Material Design guidelines and provides an intuitive user experience.

  4. Architecture Reviews: Evaluate the proposed system architecture for scalability, reliability, and compliance with established architectural patterns such as microservices or serverless computing.

  5. Security and Data Privacy Reviews: Perform rigorous assessments of security measures and data privacy protocols to ensure protection against breaches and adherence to regulations like GDPR.

  6. Set up Dev Instance: Establish a development environment that mirrors production settings but allows for safe testing and development without disrupting live systems.

  7. Backlog Creation: Compile a prioritized list of system requirements, bugs, and technical debt items that need to be addressed, often managed in a tool like JIRA.

  8. Sprints Creation and Release Milestones Identification: Break down project work into iterative cycles, typically 2-4 weeks long, focusing on delivering a subset of functionalities.


By weaving these technical specifics into the planning phase narrative, a clear blueprint emerges, one that fosters an environment where teams can navigate the complexities of IT project management with clarity and purpose.

 

Key Project Terms

 

Integration Requirements

Specifications for combining different technological components or systems into one cohesive unit. Example: Ensuring a new customer service platform integrates with the existing CRM system.


Design Review

 A formal evaluation process during which design documents are reviewed for completeness, accuracy, and compliance with standards. Example: A panel of experts reviews the interface design for a new application to ensure user-friendliness.


Dev Instance

A development instance is a separate application environment used for development and testing, isolated from the production environment.


Project Milestones

Significant points in a project timeline that mark the completion of major phases or the achievement of key objectives. Example: Completing the prototype model of a new software tool is a milestone indicating the end of the design phase.

 


4  Managing Large IT Programs Execution Phase Activities LIst

Project Execution Phase  - Development Activities

 

The Execution Phase is where the meticulous planning of an IT project materializes into tangible progress. It's the dynamic stage where teams sprint through development cycles, iteratively building and refining the product. This phase is characterized by a robust rhythm of planning, building, testing, and reviewing, demanding high levels of coordination, communication, and technical prowess. Agile methodologies often guide this dance of creation and improvement, bringing a flexible and adaptive approach to project management.

 

Execution Phase Activities List

 

  1. Agile Sprint Start, Set up QA Instance, UAT Instances: Kick off the sprint with clear objectives and tasks pulled from the product backlog. Prepare Quality Assurance (QA) and User Acceptance Testing (UAT) environments to validate functionalities developed in each sprint.

  2. Sprint Planning and Daily Stand Ups: Outline the sprint goals and distribute tasks among team members. Facilitate daily meetings to discuss progress, roadblocks, and immediate plans.

  3. Sprint Retrospective: Conduct a reflective meeting post-sprint to discuss what worked, what didn't, and how processes can be improved for future sprints.

  4. Sprint Demo: Present completed work to stakeholders, providing a demonstration of new features and progress.

  5. Test Scripts Creation: Develop structured test cases and scripts that will be used to verify that the system meets the requirements specified.

  6. SIT (System Integration Testing) Planning and Execution: Plan and carry out tests to ensure all system components interact correctly.

  7. Performance Test Plan and Execution: Design and execute tests to validate the stability, speed, and scalability of the system under various conditions.

  8. UAT (User Acceptance Testing) Operating Procedure & Trainings: Finalize the UAT approach and prepare training materials for end-users to ensure effective testing of the system in real-world scenarios.

 

Key Project Terms


Agile Sprints

Fixed-length iterations, typically 1-4 weeks, where a cross-functional team works to deliver incremental product improvements. Example: A team works on a two-week sprint to implement a new authentication feature.

 

Retro (Retrospective)

A meeting at the end of each sprint where the team reflects on the past sprint to identify improvements for the next one. After a sprint, the team discusses the challenges faced during the sprint and comes up with a plan to streamline the deployment process.


Demo (Sprint Demo)

An agile meeting where the team shows the work completed during the sprint to stakeholders for feedback.


SIT (System Integration Testing)

Testing that verifies the interactions between different system modules or services work as intended.


UAT (User Acceptance Testing)

A testing phase where end users validate the completed system to ensure it can perform required tasks in real-world scenarios. 


5  Managing Large IT Programs Testing Phase Activities LIst

Project Testing Phase  - Ensuring Quality

 

In the lifecycle of an IT project, the Testing Phase is the final dress rehearsal before the big premiere—the system's launch. It's a methodical process designed to confirm that all system components are performing in unison, flawlessly executing the tasks they were designed to handle. The thoroughness of this phase is critical, as it seeks to iron out any creases before the solution is exposed to real-world pressures. Each step is crucial, involving specialized tests and plans that ensure the project's resilience, usability, and readiness for deployment.

 

Testing Phase Activities List


  1. Systems End to End Testing: Conduct comprehensive testing to validate the complete and integrated system against the overall business requirements.

  2. User Acceptance Testing: Facilitate sessions where end-users test the system to ensure it aligns with their expectations and the business needs it was designed to meet.

  3. Data Migration Plan: Outline the strategy for transferring existing data to the new system, including details on data cleansing, mapping, validation, and the actual migration process.

  4. Support Plan: Develop a plan for ongoing technical support post-deployment, detailing support tiers, contact points, and escalation procedures. This might include a 24/7 IT helpdesk setup for the first month after the new system goes live.

  5. Deployment (GoLive) Plan: Detail the steps, timing, and resources required for the deployment of the system into a production environment. For instance, a detailed checklist and timeline for the launch of a mobile app, including app store submissions and marketing announcements.

  6. Hypercare Plan: Define an intensified support structure immediately following the GoLive, to swiftly address any issues and support the users in transitioning to the new system. This could involve onsite support teams available round-the-clock for the first two weeks post-deployment.


Key Project Terms

 

Migration

The process of moving data from one system to another, which often includes transforming the data to fit the new system's requirements.


End to End Testing

A testing methodology that examines the functionality and performance of an entire software application from start to finish, in a scenario that mimics real-world use.


Go Live

The moment when a software system becomes operational and users begin to perform their jobs using the new system.


Hypercare

A period of increased support following a new system's Go Live, to ensure any issues are resolved quickly and the system operates smoothly.


6  Managing Large IT Programs Go Live Activities LIst

Go-Live Milestone and Hypercare

 

Reaching the Go-Live Milestone in an IT project is akin to the opening night for a grand performance; it's the moment where all the rehearsals and preparations face the ultimate test—the live audience. This milestone is a crucial transition from a controlled testing environment to the operational setting where real users interact with the system. Hypercare follows as a safety net, ensuring any teething problems are addressed swiftly, and users feel supported in this new phase. The activities surrounding these stages are pivotal, marking the culmination of hard work and the beginning of real-world utilization and value delivery.


Go Live Activities List

 

  1. Go / No-Go Decision: Convene a meeting with key stakeholders to review test results, system readiness, and risk assessments to make the final decision on whether to proceed with the deployment.

  2. Deployment & Go-Live: Execute the plan to transition the new system from the testing environment to the production environment, making it live for end-users.

  3. Hypercare: Provide an elevated level of support immediately following the Go-Live to resolve any issues promptly and ensure system stability and user satisfaction.

  4. Post-Deployment Review: Conduct an assessment of the deployment process to identify successes, challenges, and lessons learned for future projects.

  5. Transition to Support: Shift from the intensive Hypercare phase to a standard support model, ensuring that the usual support team can manage and maintain the system effectively.

 

Key Project Terms

 

Deployment

The process of moving an application from a final staging area into production, where it can be accessed by its intended users.


Post-Deployment Review

A retrospective analysis conducted after a project has been deployed, aimed at capturing insights and identifying any areas for improvement.


Transition to Run Phase

The process of moving from the project-oriented tasks of deployment and hypercare to the ongoing operational support and maintenance activities of the system.


7  Managing Large IT Programs Closure Phase Activities LIst

Project Closure  - Completing the Cycle

 

The Project Closure Phase is the final chapter in the project lifecycle, where activities shift from operational to reflective, ensuring that every administrative and financial aspect of the project is concluded. This phase is as critical as any other because it confirms the project's fulfillment of its goals and provides valuable insights for future endeavors. It’s a time to tie up loose ends, reflect on the journey, and celebrate the successes while learning from the challenges faced.

 

Closure Activities List


  1. Financially Close Project: Review all project financials, ensuring all accounts are settled, and financial obligations are fulfilled. Confirm that all project-related invoices and payments have been processed.

  2. Lessons Learned: Conduct a session with the project team to discuss what went well and what could be improved. Document these insights to refine practices for future projects.

  3. Archive Artifacts: Securely store project documents, records, and materials for future reference or audit purposes. Ensure that all project data is complete and easily accessible for a set period.

  4. Close Project in PPM system: Officially mark the project as completed within the Project Portfolio Management (PPM) system. Update the project status and archive its details in the PPM tool.

  5. Benefits Realization Review: Assess the project outcomes against the initial goals to evaluate its success. Measure the tangible and intangible benefits realized by the project and report on its return on investment.


Key Project Terms


Lessons Learned

Critical reflections on the processes of a project, encompassing both the positive experiences and the areas of difficulty, aimed at improving future project performance.


Project Postmortem

Often used interchangeably with Lessons Learned, a project postmortem is an evaluation conducted after project completion to analyze what went right, what went wrong, and how things can be done better in the future.

 

Conclusion: Steering Large IT Projects to Success


Large IT projects can veer off schedule and over budget for various reasons, but common culprits include scope creep, underestimated resources, and shifting stakeholder expectations. Successfully managing these complex undertakings requires a balance of vigilant oversight, strategic foresight, and dynamic resource management.


To mitigate these risks and guide projects to a successful finish line, here are consolidated points and tips:

  • Enforce Rigorous Scope Management: Establish a clear definition of the project's scope from the outset and adhere to it, with a well-defined process for managing any changes.

  • Enhance Stakeholder Engagement: Maintain open lines of communication with all stakeholders, ensuring their needs and concerns are addressed, and they remain engaged and supportive of the project's direction.

  • Implement Proactive Risk Management: Actively identify potential risks early in the project and develop contingency plans to address them before they impact the schedule or budget.

  • Accurate Resource Allocation: Carefully estimate the resources needed and ensure they are allocated appropriately, considering both the immediate needs and the future demands of the project.

  • Adopt Agile Methodologies: Utilize flexible project management approaches, such as Agile or hybrid models, to accommodate and adapt to changes without significant disruptions.

  • Prioritize Quality Assurance: Integrate quality control measures throughout the project lifecycle to maintain standards and avoid costly rework later on.

  • Regular Progress Reviews: Conduct periodic reviews to monitor the project's progress against its timelines and budget, allowing for timely adjustments as needed.

  • Foster Team Accountability: Build a team culture that values responsibility and ownership, where every member is committed to the project's objectives and quality outcomes.

  • Celebrate Achievements: Recognize and celebrate milestones, not only to maintain morale but also to motivate the team towards continuous progress.


Managing Large IT Programs | Project Planning & Activities List Hope by integrating these strategic points with hands-on tips, program managers you would exert greater control over the unpredictable nature of large IT projects, enhancing their chances of delivering on time, within budget, and ensuring sheer customer delight.


Video Summary:


Coming up in the next blog - 'Agile Estimations Techniques'.

Note 1: This blog is part of a 100 Days of Learning Series on Digital Project Management frameworks and best practices published on Program Strategy HQ. For more details on the 100 days of blogging campaign check out Blog 0.


Note 2: Reach out to programstrategyhq@gmail.com for any queries.


Note 3: Program Strategy HQ Disclaimer for Reference.

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