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Stage Definition and Planning

This process constitutes one of the most important set of activities the PM will perform on a regular basis during the entire Project lifecycle. The main objective of this process is to prepare the necessary steps to allow for the decision making process the Project Board will have to go through to ascertain whether the Project is still in line with the strategic objectives and the benefit realisation plan is still forecasted to produce the expected benefits in the long term.

It is at this point that the PM will start creating the stage plan for the following stage and will update any necessary documentation with the actual data derived from the stage about to finish and the new forecasts for the continuation of the Project.

In practical terms the process consists of two main activities:

  • Planning
  • Reviewing/updating the project’s documentation

The trigger for the PM to launch this process is the approach of the end of a stage. At this point the PM will start planning the next stage and prepare for the end stage assessment the Project Board will perform on the current stage.

In much the same way this process is also used when applying the Management by Exception principle in response to an exception situation for which the PM has been asked to produce an Exception Plan (the Exception procedure  is outlined in the Risk, Issue & Change Management Chapter)

Before commencing a new stage the PM should take into consideration all the different variables that may impact the decision to continue with the project.

  • How has the stage just ended performed?
  • What has been the impact on costs and timescale?
  • Has the stage delivered what was forecasted?
  • What has been the impact on the risk situation?
  • Were there any issues which might have a recurring effect or were not closed?
  • What is the overall situation of our Business Case and Project plan at this point?
  • What do the new forecasts suggest should be our next steps?

The end of a stage constitutes a key control point during a project and as such the PM4SD approach provides a structured series of activities and recommended actions for the PM to take.

These activities will cover:

  • Preparing the Stage or Exception Plan for the following Stage
  • Updating the PID paying particular attention to the Business Case and the Project Plan
  • Perform and Report an End Stage Assessment


Prepare the Next-Stage or Exception Plan

Towards the end of the current stage the PM will start gathering the necessary information relative to the current stage (actuals, delivered products, issues and risks) and any information from the stakeholders which may be relevant to the continuation of the project. At this point the PM can start producing the plan for the next stage. On completion of the plan a request will be sent to the Project Board seeking authorisation to continue with the Project. The PM can count on the support of members of the project management team when creating or updating a plan. The members of the project team will provide the PM with the many different pieces of information needed to create a viable plan.

In case of an Exception situation, the procedure the PM will follow will be the same as an Exception Plan and is, in reality, a Stage Plan created as an emergency and meant to replace the part of the current Stage Plan that no longer works. In actual fact the PM will, in this manner, split one stage into two stages (one covering the original plan up to the point the exception was raised, and another covering the new plan to counteract the problem) needing a control point and an authorisation between the two before the project can continue.

The planning activities are covered in the Planning Component (chapter 4).

The PM should carry out the following actions:

  • Review the PID and consult the Project Board on any updates, changes that might be needed
  • Produce the Stage Plan for the Next Stage
  • Create the Configuration Records (See Planning Chapter) for the products to be delivered
  • Review and if necessary update the Issue and Risk Log
  • Update the Quality Log with the planning of the quality activities for the next stag

Updating the Project Initiation Document

Once the Next Stage Plan has been created the PM will have both the actual data from the current stage and the new forecasts for the next Stage. The next objective will be to review, and where necessary update, the components of the PID. In particular the PM will need to review and update the Business Case and the Project plan, as it will be mainly on the continuing viability of the project based on these two documents that the Project Board will grant authorisation to continue. Also, the PM will review all the other parts of the PID making sure than any deficiencies or lessons are properly recorded and dealt with. For instance, the PM might need to ascertain the efficiency of the Risk and Issue Management plan as there might be changes relative to the new products to be delivered during the next stage. At the same time the Project Team structure might need revising in order to incorporate new team managers or additional suppliers who will work on the next stage’s products. Consequently the Communication Plan will need revising to incorporate these new stakeholders and team members to ensure continuous and efficient communication. One of the major factors that might impact the reviewing and updating process is the risk situation. This needs to be kept constantly in check when making updates and changes as the Project itself is limited by the maximum exposure to risk permitted by the Corporate or the Programme Organisation.

Although the activities to update the PID might seem fairly straightforward, the recommended actions within them merit a more detailed look:

  • Revise and update the Communication, Configuration, Quality and Risk and Issue Management plans
  • Update the Project Plan
  • Update the Project Management Team Structure
  • Update the Business Case
  • Update the Benefit Realisation and Review Plan
  • Review and Update the Risk and the Issue Logs
  • Update any relevant records,,configuration, quality, standards etc.

Perform and Report an End Stage Assessment

To carry out this activity the PM will need to work in close collaboration with the Project Board. The advantage of having to do so is that this activity gives the PM an idea of what the outcome of the decision making process of the Project Board will be, Once the request to proceed onto the next stage is sent, this sub-process can be approached in two main steps:

  1. A performance review covering the current stage
  2. Sending the request to continue to the Project Board accompanied by the Plan for the next stage, the updated PID and the End Stage Report with an overall account of the project’s progress, and a preliminary assessment of the performance so far against the forecasted objectives.

This is also an opportunity for lessons to be analysed and reported as part of the learning from experience principle. Once again, this is an opportunity for the PM to make sure the Project is still in line with the Corporate or Programme’s strategies and to identify possible threats to the continuation of the project.

The core activities for this sub-process are:

  •          Review the Updated Business Case and the Benefit Realisation and Review Plan for any details regarding benefits to be achieved during the current stage.
  • Review the current stage plan to confirm the objectives have been met
  • Review the Project Management Team Performance during the current stage
  • Report on the effectiveness of the PID.
  • Review the status of the Project’s products at this stage against forecasts
  • Create a lessons report
  • Compile the End Stage report
  •  Request Approval from the Project Board to close the current stage and open the next