A Quick Guide to Project Management Methodology

Phase 2 – Exploration

I refer to Phase 2 as the exploration phase. Ideally, the customer has performed some process analysis and requirements analysis on their own prior to the kickoff of this phase of the project. The customer should aspire to head into the exploration phase with a decent – and hopefully documented – concept of their current business processes as well as what their future state (ie, post-implementation) processes need to be. The primary goal of the exploration phase is to nail down the overall business requirements for the project so that both teams leave the exploration phase with a common understanding of the requirements that the system or software will be developed against.

The primary deliverable of the exploration phase is the Business Requirements Document (BRD) and it should require a formal customer signoff. Without that signoff, the Project Manager could be chasing scope issues for the duration of the engagement. In my opinion, and usually general practice for external customer projects, every one-time deliverable on every project should receive a formal customer signoff. The BRD deliverable from this phase is the document that lays the groundwork for the creation of the Functional Design Document (FDD) or Functional Requirements Document (FRD) – depending on what you want to call it – which is your primary deliverable for the next phase of the project – the Design phase.

It’s worth noting here that on projects that are smaller or with very tight timeframes, the exploration phase and the Design phase can be compacted into one combined phase. I usually refer to this combined phase as the Design phase. I don’t recommend it if it can be avoided as separating the phases allows a deeper dive into the business requirements and provides you with a better chance to go into Design with a common understanding of the requirements you will be developing the system to meet. However, it’s not always possible so this is a good chance to gain some time back for the critical Development and Testing phases if the timeframe is tight.

The exploration phase should kickoff with a meeting of both project teams. At this point, the delivery team really still only needs to be comprised of the Project Manager and the Business Analyst – at least that’s all that absolutely needs to be in front of the customer during this phase. The customer team should be represented by the project sponsor and the SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) from the relevant business areas or units affected by the project so that the business processes and requirements can be discussed in detail and finalized.

Weekly status reports and formal weekly project status meetings – usually held remotely – begin with the exploration phase and continue throughout the rest of the project. Issues and risks are revisited and re-assessed throughout the exploration phase and documented as part of the weekly status report or as an addendum to the weekly status report in the form of a risk register or issues list.

Exploration Phase Deliverables:

  • Business Requirements Document (BRD)
  • Revised Project Schedule
  • Revised Risk/Issues List
  • Project Status Reports
  • Weekly Project Status Meetings

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