We began the chapter by looking at the IT project management steps that you can use to get a visual idea of where we are in the process. The first step is Defining the Project and we looked at the flowchart that shows the inputs, actions, and outputs. The summary is shown here in Figure 5.9 The documents or data that are the defined results of this step in the project planning process, Defining the Project, are shown in Figure 5.10
Figure 5-9. Summary of Defining the Project Step
The problem statement identifies the unique problem to be solved by the project. Remember, some problems are better solved by a new or modified process rather than a project.
The mission statement describes the desired outcome. By defining both the problem and the desired outcome, you are essentially describing the gap between where you are and where you want to be. That helps define the potential solutions that will fill that gap.
Developing a list of potential solutions should be an energizing, creative undertaking if possible. Thinking outside the box can help you come up with innovative solutions that might have been missed if you'd simply listed the most logical solutions. Even if the solution has been handed to you or assigned, going through this process will either validate or invalidate that assigned solution so you'll at least know how close or far off the mark this required solution is. This may give you adequate information to go back to the project sponsor and make the case for a different, more optimal solution.
Figure 5-10. Results of Defining the Project
Once you have developed potential solutions, you'll need to rank them according to pre-defined criteria. These criteria vary from company to company, but some include alignment with corporate and IT strategies, alignment with market requirements or needs as well as other criteria. In the absence of formal criteria, you can also look at which solutions are the most logical, feasible, desirable, and affordable. Once you've created your ranking criteria, you can match your solutions to these criteria and develop a ranked list of potential solutions. The most optimal solution(s) should rise to the top of the list. A bit of human intelligence might be needed to review the list and make sure the results make sense. Select your top choice(s) to submit to your project sponsor for approval or prepare data explaining why the assigned solution is not the optimal solution.
Once you've compiled all this data into a project proposal, you should bring it to your project sponsor for approval. Formal approval, whether in writing or in e-mail, is critical to ensure you and the project sponsor are in agreement about the fundamentals of the project. It's also important to have project sponsor approval in case something in the project goes wrong later. It's more difficult to start pointing fingers when things are clearly spelled out.