Problem Solution Definition

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Problem / Solution Definition
Understand Customer Need Define High-Level Requirements Develop Candidate Solution Options Define Preliminary System Scope
  1. Understand Customer Needs
  2. Define High-Level Requirements
  3. Develop Candidate Solution Options
  4. Define Preliminary System Scope

1. Understand Customer Needs

  • Evaluate Initial Customer Request

    The purpose of this step is to understand the customer needs and to be able to clearly express it as a Problem / Opportunity Statement that can be addressed by an IT Service. This Problem / Opportunity Statement is used with the Project Management Proposal to develop the ITS Project Proposal. The execution of this step is the responsibility of the "Account Manager" for the client. In most cases this will be either the designated Divisional Liaison (DL) or an IT Service Manager. If the request does not fit a specific DL or IT Service Manager it should be referred to the PMG (Portfolio Management Group).

    The Account Manager should acknowledge the request with the customer and discuss the nature of the request within 5 working days of being contacted.

  • Select and Mobilize ITS Consulting Team

    Once the Account Manager has spoken with the customer to gather initial information on the nature of the request they should evaluate what additional ITS expertise may be required to define and understand the problem/opportunity if any. Working with the Resource Managers (or their designates) the Account Manager should assemble an ITS consulting team that has the best combined expertise to discuss the customers problem or opportunity. The Account Manager should schedule a meeting with the client and the team and brief team beforehand on the situation. In most cases, this "ITS Consulting Team".

  • Consult with Customer

    The IT team will meet with the customers and interview them to better understand the problem / opportunity and the scope of possible solutions. This activity may consist of one or more meetings and interviews to:
    • Understand the customer's situation and need
    • Understand what solutions the customer may have already considered
    • Understand the criticality and performance characteristics of the required solution
    • Define the broad data, security and privacy needs of the solution in terms of confidentiality, integrity, and availability
    • Identify any system interface needs
    • Identify the user base, key customer SMEs and the candidate IT Project sponsor(s)
    • Define the expected time frame for the solution
    • Identify any existing budget that the client has established
    During these discussions with the customer, the team should try to determine the required quality level of the final solution. Since no customer is going to expect or ask for a "less than quality solution", the answer to this question will have to be deducted from the customer's response to other questions about the longevity, available, security and other desired aspects of the solution. Questions such as "What impact would there be on your operations if the system was unavailable?" are useful in this regard. The intent of this dialog is to gauge the feasibility of achieving the expected quality level within the time frame and anticipated budget for the development effort.

2. Define High-Level Requirements

This stage defines and documents the high-level requirements discovered in the discussions with the customer in the previous stage and it represents a key integration point of the SDLC methodology with the High-Level Requirements Document will either be incorporated into a Project Proposal or Project Charter or attached as an appendix or supporting document for the Project Charter.

If a Project Manager is assigned to this stage, they will be responsible for taking this input from the technical team and creating the project management deliverables. If no project manager has been assigned, the Account Manager would complete this stage of work and invoke the help of the PMG in initiating the PM Process.
  • Confirm Purpose, Goals and Benefits

    The team should work closely with the client to document the clients' business rationale for the solution together with the goals and expected benefits. Both qualitative and quantitative benefits should be captured. This is a data gathering activity - not an approval. The Account Manager should conduct this analysis in a structured and objective way that best represents the client perspective. The necessary approvals will be obtained later through the IT Portfolio Management process with the involvement of the appropriate IT Governance entities.

    This activity also contributes to the success of the project by providing a common understanding of the project and its goals between ITS and the client. 
  • Define Development Objectives and Deliverables

    The specific development objectives and the deliverables required to satisfy the objectives should be documented. Where possible, objectives should be measurable.
  • Define Development Approach and Methodology

    Using the SDLC methodology and drawing from the experience of the ITS team, strategies for developing the solution should be identified, evaluated and discussed with the client. The results of this exercise may be captured in an initial Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), an approach schematic or a relative extract from the SDLC methodology. This output will be used to develop a project plan as a part of the PM methodology.
  • Prepare High Level Requirements Document

    The work of the team to date is then documented and published as a high-level Requirements Document to support the Project Charter or Proposal. For smaller projects this information may simply be included in the Project Charter Proposal.

3. Develop Candidate Solution Options

  • Evaluate Existing IT Inventory

    In a significant number of cases, the client needs can be addressed by extending or refining an existing IT Service or solution. To avoid "re-inventing the wheel" the team should evaluate whether any existing IT service or solution could be used as a basis for a solution.
  • Scan for External Solution Options

    If the client already identified external solution options, these should be evaluated in this activity, otherwise the team should scan for off-the-shelf solutions (commercial or open source).
  • Develop Candidate Solution Options

    The pros and cons of alternate solution options are summarized and compared by the team. The team should also prepare a recommendation for the client on the best solution to meet the requirements and the client budget (if known).
  • Conduct Preliminary Design Review

    It is strongly recommended that the project team confer with the Design Review Board (DRB) when considering candidate solution options. The intent at this stage is to use the DRB in a consultative capacity and not to conduct a formal Design Review.
  • Review Solution Options with Sponsors

    A formal review of the solution options and recommendations should be held with the users Sponsor and ITS sponsors. Based on this review, further refinement of approaches or options may be done or a particular solution will be selected.

4. Define Preliminary System Scope

The goal of this stage is to define the scope of the potential solution in enough detail to enable the client and ITS management to make a go/no go decision on whether to commit to a full ITS project. This is a "pre-feasibility" analysis based on the limited information that may have been collected up to this point. This analysis requires the right judgment to create an estimate with a sufficient level of accuracy for the decisions to be made. Therefore it is recommended that all estimates developed during this stage should be qualified as broad ranges and assumptions clearly articulated.

  • Estimate Development Resources Required

    Development resources effort should include ITS staff effort hours or FTE (Full Time Equivalents) by role for the duration of the project.
  • Develop Rough Order Magnitude (ROM) Development Budget

    The estimated development effort should be used to create a financial budget for the project. Any additional costs to establish the team and the development environment should be included in this budget estimate (SW licenses, specific development tools, and equipment, vendor and consultant costs). It is also good practice to estimate the end user effort required, though this cost may not be included in the final project budget.
  • Develop Cost/Benefit Analysis

    The Account Manager should work with the client to develop a cost / benefit analysis or "value proposition" for the project using the benefits identified by the client and the ROM development budget value. Established financial analysis techniques such as discounted cash flow may be used to calculate a return on investment (ROI), Net Present Value (NPV) or Payback Period for the project.
  • Create Preliminary Solution Scope with Sponsors

    The conceptual scope of the solution and estimated cost and benefit should be summarized and published in this activity. In most cases this information would be included and published as part of a project charter. If the project is small the scope may be summarized in the Project Proposal. If the project and proposed solution is large and complex it may be necessary to create a standalone Solution Scope document that is cross-referenced by the Project Charter. For clarity, it is recommended that the solution scope be graphically depicted via a Conceptual Systems Design diagram or a Context Diagram in addition to a textual description of the desired functionality. These diagrams should also indicate key system boundaries, interfaces, and data feeds.
  • Confirm Preliminary Solution Scope with Sponsors

    The Preliminary Solution Scope should be review and confirmed with all key project sponsors. The Preliminary Solution Scope Document should be updated with any review feedback and re-published if necessary.
    Finally, the information created in this phase should be incorporated into the Project Management process as input to the Project Charter or Project Proposal. Once this is accomplished, this signifies the end of the Problem and High-Level Solution Definition Phase.