In response to an article about a workflow process for creating software, TechRepublic member Robert Cicalese sent us a workflow process he uses in his work at Uncommon Concepts, a management and technology consulting firm specializing in assessment, project planning, research, and strategy development services.
A defined workflow process provides consultants with a structured way to deliver products and services. The process framework helps when defining goals, milestones, and timelines, and when assembling a team to complete a project. By following a standard set of procedures, consultants can be sure they're covering all bases while they're making progress toward the client's goals.
Use Cicalese’s methodology as a starting point to create your own process or compare it to your own workflow to find possible improvements.
Uncommon Concepts' process
During the last 10 years, Cicalese has continued to craft his methodology. "The process evolved by actually using it and adapting it in the management of a fairly broad range of technology projects," Cicalese said. "As I see things that work well, I continue to adapt and modify the steps."
Cicalese said the process is straightforward, easily understood by project teams, and flexible enough to be adapted to most work scopes. The method involves six phases, with multiple steps taking place in each phase. Cicalese provided definitions of the uncommon terms.
Phase one: Qualify
During the Qualify phase, consultants should:
- Define goals and expectations.
- Identify and enlist a Project Champion.
Cicalese defines a Project Champion as a senior business executive who understands the project benefits and is willing to use clout and influence to ensure the project has enough resources to be successful. The Project Champion will also ensure that all entities involved are aligned in terms of philosophy and are prepared to adapt their organizations accordingly. The direct and continuing involvement of these leaders is vital to the success of the project.
- Determine the boundaries of the concept.
The concept boundaries dictate the scope of the work. "You can't build a house if the number and size of the rooms keep changing," Cicalese said. "The boundaries of the concept are the proverbial 'stakes in the ground,' where the business leaders must decide what's in and what's out before beginning to move forward."
- Develop an Order of Magnitude estimate.
The Order of Magnitude estimate is a rough financial estimate developed to provide a sense of the scale of the investment. This number is used to determine whether the project makes any sense at all before spending time and money to define it further. "The Order of Magnitude Estimate should be at a 50 percent confidence level," Cicalese said.
Phase two: Quantify
Steps within the Quantify phase include the following:
- Quantify the functional and technical aspects/features/requirements.
- Quantify the technical architecture/infrastructure.
- Develop a prototype.
- Align all participants.
- Identify and evaluate the risks and plan for them.
- Develop a High-confidence estimate.
A High-confidence estimate is developed after the project's concept has been defined to a fair level of detail and final decisions are made in order to move forward. At this point, the project scope should be firm and the boundaries should be clear. "ROI should be based on this number and the confidence level should be in the plus or minus 10 to 15 percent range—a confidence level of 85 to 90 percent," Cicalese said.
- Quantify the business case.
- Develop the plan and prepare to execute it.
Phase three: Execute
The Execute phase is more than just building the product or performing a service. The steps in the Execute phase are as follows:
- Review and revalidate (the expectations, requirements, and risks).
- Review and revalidate (postdesign).
Phase four: Validate
During the Validate phase, you'll confirm that you've achieved your goals. The steps of the Validate phase are as follows:
- Validate flow, feature, and function.
- Inspect and validate requirements.
- Assess worthiness.
When you assess worthiness, you're asking if the product or deliverable that's been developed is valuable in terms of quality, functionality, and client expectations, Cicalese said.
Phase five: Release
Depending on the service agreement you have with your client, the Release phase may never end. These five steps are included in the Release phase:
- Train and prepare.
- Stage for release.
- Assess readiness.
Once you have a "worthy" product, you need to assess whether the organization is ready to implement and use it, Cicalese said. To assess readiness, consultants should ask questions like, "Has everyone been trained and briefed appropriately?" "Do process and procedure changes need to be made?" and "Does infrastructure need to be put into place?" By asking these questions, you can ensure that the organization is in a position to reap the value the project was intended to give.
- Support and maintain.
Phase six: Review
The Review phase is the last step in the project, and your client will be the best tool you can use to find out if you've met your goals. The steps of the Review phase are:
- Review, monitor, measure, evaluate, and learn.
- Assess and adjust.
A process is only as good as the consultant who uses it
Cicalese said that his workflow process is still a "work in progress," and he still finds ways to improve it. But no matter how good the process becomes, it only works as well as the consultant who applies it, he said.
"The secret is really in the application of the methodology," Cicalese said. "It's about the discipline, communication, and common sense that's applied throughout the process."
Do you have a process to share?
Do you have a method of serving your clients that you'd like to share? Send us your outline, checklist, spreadsheet, or formula along with a brief explanation. If we use it in a future article, you'll win a TechRepublic coffee mug.