In 1996 Computer Sciences Corporation (a project firm) completed a complex new IT system for Rolls-Royce & Bentley Motor Cars. In a company where each car was built to a unique customer order, it was essential to make sure that every detail of the specification was accurate and that all the right parts came to the production line at the right time. The company also had to be able to cope with a customer changing their mind about what they wanted almost to the actual point where the car was built.
This was to be a highly specialised application, so how did CSC make sure that Rolls-Royce got the right system for their needs?
Every project has a life cycle made up of a number of phases. Descriptions vary but mine is definition (decide what you want to do), planning (work out how to do it in detail), decision (get the decision-makers to give you the go-ahead); production (create the output); delivery (persuade the customer to accept the output); and progression (learn from the whole experience and build useful knowledge). Decision and delivery are not generally recognised but are very important because so much of project management is about convincing, negotiating and selling. Traditionally the project life cycle is shown as circular, like this:
In real life these phases do not run in a sequence. They overlap substantially, and this diagram shows a more realistic sequence.
Note how Decision starts on day one of Definition, Planning does not stop until the end of the project, Delivery begins on day one of Production, and Progression is a continual activity throughout.
The Decision phase needs to start at the start of Definition because work has to be done to shape the proposal so that the decision-makers will make the first big decision – to allow significant time and money to be spent on planning the project in detail. Persuasive efforts need to carry on throughout Planning to give the best chance that the decision-makers will make the next big decision to allow the project to go into the Production phase, and start creating the actual output.
Delivery starts at the beginning of Production for the same reason: to stay close to the decision-makers so that there is the greatest possible chance of them approving the output smoothly at the end of Production. This is because any concerns and issues have been dealt with along the way. Planning runs on through Production – albeit with fewer planners – because the plan will need continual adjustment in the light of events. Progression starts at the beginning and runs all the way through because there are lessons to be drawn from how every facet of the work had gone.
CSC public domain information given in technical presentations and marketing documents
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