Solverboard allows you to consider and manage planning a project in the following three dimensions:
- Planning context - identifying your project approach, assumptions, constraints, critical resources and dependencies.
- Planning work - defining and scheduling of work.
- Planning costs - estimating a project cost budget.
Let’s explore some key terms and methods used in the platform in more detail, starting with the planning of work. Solverboard provides a structure to blend different project approaches while always remaining focussed on the ‘product’, defined as a project output.
Stages (organisation level)Stages are time-boxed sections of work that the project manager is delivering on behalf of the Project Board. Stage Reviews are held on the launch of the project and at the end of each stage, providing a mechanism to approve the project business case and authorise expenditure for the forthcoming stage. The naming, number of stages and criteria of each stage is typically defined in an organisation's project framework.
Release (project level)Releases are designed to breakdown the Stage into a sub-series of products that can be deployed as single entities to the customer or end-user. Releases encourage more rapid shipping of a project’s products and therefore, earlier feedback and realisation of benefits. Where the stage is likely to be governed by the organisation, the release can be defined and managed at the project team level. It also provides a mechanism for different teams within the project to work to a common goal.
Work Packages (team level)Work packages form a description of the work required to create a product. It is an agreed timing and specification between the project manager and the team manager. It allows for each team leader, and their teams, to plan their work to their preferred methodology, whether this is agile, flow or waterfall. At this level, Solverboard can manage this through work items (mentioned below) and/or using integrations with leading project tasking tools.
Work Items (team level)Work items are specific activities conducted to create a product. This could be a task, an epic or a story that is assigned to an owner. The status of work items flows back up through the plan to indicate overall project completeness.
To start planning, we recommend drawing out a product breakdown structure across your project stages and planned releases (in the future we may build this into the platform). This process enables you to visualise your project into manageable pieces of work to deliver something of value early as possible to your end-user community. Visually representing your project in this way helps to draw out where your assumptions, constraints and risks may lie.
One last consideration in planning is planning horizons. There is little point in planning out a project in detail over a medium to long term window as the plan will probably become out of date as soon as it developed.
This is where blending agile with traditional methods becomes beneficial.
Use stages and releases to drive a high-level view of the timeline, and use your product backlog to drive the detail of releases, backlogs, and sprints where you adapt to on-the-ground needs.
- Click the 'Plan' tab and select the ‘Planning Context’ jump link.
- Click the edit mode pencil icon.
- Describe your project approach. Every project is unique, and so a project team needs to take the time to determine which project management processes and practices are most appropriate for their specific project.
- State your assumptions. This section could be quite large at the start of a project. It should be continually assessed and managed throughout the project with assumptions either being discarded, transferred to scope (managed through the change process) or kept watch via the risk management process. Each assumption on a project should be added and mention how it may impact the project (positively or negatively).
- State the constraints the project is facing. Every project is likely to be faced with barriers or restrictions in some way, the most common of which are time, cost or quality. Stating the critical ones will help identify additional risks and issues, while also allowing the team to become creative and look for an opportunity to exploit it in a constrained environment.
- Identify the critical resources needed to deliver the project. We recommend highlighting the key resources not yet sourced, or made available to your project, on your issue register (within the Monitor tab).
- Add any dependencies of other initiatives or projects that will have a bearing on this project as enablers or blockers to your success.
- Keep iterating! Keep revisiting this in both the planning process and also when the project is live. Feed back any new learnings into either your project plan within ‘scope’, within the issue register as an issue or within risks or opportunities as appropriate. Do make sure any changes of scope are factored into your project cost estimate too.
- Click the 'Save’ button on the top bar to save your changes so far.
Section 2: Planning Work
Now that you understand your planning context and have set out your approach to managing the project, it’s time to create a high-level plan with work packages to allow teams to prepare their work tasks (Work Items).
As you do this, Solverboard creates a high-level Gantt chart to help project stakeholders see an overview of the project timeline and key events.
Planning your Stage
- Select the Stage you wish to plan in detail.
Note: Stages will be pre-populated with your organisation’s project lifecycle framework (see How to change stage names).
- Define your stage (see Defining your stages).
- Add and define any releases you wish to include in the stage (see Creating and managing a Release).
- Add and define any work packages. These can be assigned to the stage or to a release depending on how you wish to structure your stage plan (see Creating and managing a Work Package).
- Within the work package, create a work item (task) on Solverboard or use our integrations to link up with your preferred project tasking tool. Solverboard will manage the updates allowing the project manager to have an aggregate view of task status across multiple team sub-projects and platforms.
Section 3: Planning Costs
Your assumptions, constraints and approaches cascade through into your project plan as tasks and events to create project ‘products’ or outputs. To produce this work is a combination of time, materials and services all corresponding to an associated cost. You can estimate this cost on Solverboard to create your Project Cost budget and capture any of your cost planning assumptions. You can also upload a more detailed costing spreadsheet if you wish.
Solverboard uses the Project Cost estimate as a component in the investment appraisal metrics and that in turn, drives your whole portfolio analytics. So even if capturing costs at the simplest level is part of the key to understanding the value hotspots in your portfolio.
The total Project Cost in the red box is the sum of your direct, indirect and risk budget (as pulled through from your risk register).
- Select the ‘Project Cost’ jump link.
- Click the edit mode pencil icon.
- Select the start year that the project commences and press the ‘save’ button.
- Add the number of years the project will run.
- Add any direct project cost description as rows and add in the financial expenditure over your planned project years.
- Add any other associated indirect project costs, for example, insurance or royalties payments.
- Click on the edit button to save your changes.
- Click on the ‘Cost Commentary’ edit icon. Describe any assumptions you have made in producing or calculating your project costs and any other relevant information. Click on the same edit icon to toggle edit mode and save your changes.
- (Optional) ‘Click to upload attachments’ button to attach any supporting information or more detailed costing spreadsheets.
Congratulations, you have now produced your project plan and cost estimate!