Is your project team having problems seeing the project horizon? Improve their eyesight with this agreement on the high-level purpose and scope of the project using a Vision Document.
What this is
A 1-2 page document (from the Quality Rapid Product Development (QRPD) methodology), created by a team in the early days of a project. The project vision builds the case for doing a project, negotiates the overall scope and requirements at the highest customer-focused level, and obtains team alignment and captures agreement on the project definition.
Why it's useful
Early Vision-level work helps to flesh out the project definition before the team descends into detailed requirements specs. It allows an organization to quickly see if there is alignment on what's most important for the customer. It helps guard against scope creep by making sure that project goals are defined in terms of who the customers are and what benefits the project absolutely must provide to those customers. A project vision also gives the team a basis for early investigation work, so they can understand the effort and resources to deliver what the draft Visions are asking for. It then allows the team to discuss possible tradeoffs on scope, schedule, and resources at this high level and define a doable project that will still meet critical customer requirements. During the project, a vision document helps make sure everyone is staying true to the project's goals.
How to use it
You may want to draft a Vision in the early Concept phase, to crystallize the business justification or driving customer justification for the project, as well as any first take on major scope parameters (schedule, costs, implementation assumptions).
Hold a team vision meeting with representatives from all cross-functional groups early in the initiation phase once the full team has been formed. If a Vision has not yet been started, create the sections of the document by brainstorming bullet items onto flipcharts. If a draft Vision exists, review it with the team; then discuss, edit, and expand on it together. Record open issues and assign actions to resolve them. Then have the team investigate alternatives for fulfilling the customers' needs. Revise the Vision iteratively as design alternatives are reviewed and feature decisions made. At the end of the kickoff or investigation phase, the Vision becomes the contract for the project, documenting what the team has agreed to accomplish and why.
Use the Project Vision as a major starting point for any more detailed Product Requirements specifications or detailed hardware, software, or process specs. Alignment at the Vision level is achieved by focusing on customers and benefits, without delving into minute specification details. Then the Vision can drive the further detailed spec work.
Keep the document visible throughout the project so that it guides all more detailed design work and keeps the main goals at the forefront to help ward off scope creep. Refer to the document at every design review and major project status review and ask, "Is our project work still on track with what the Project Vision calls for?"
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