Executing

In the Executing Process Phase, the project team performs the processes of the Project Management Plan (PMP). This involves coordinating people and resources, managing Stakeholder expectations, monitoring project performance, and making any needed course corrections.

See a graphic of all six Key Elements of the Executing Process Phase in the Additional Resources chapter. For a broader view, the CA-PMF Key Elements Table (.pdf) compiles all Key Elements across the Project Management Lifecycle (PMLC). This 11 x 17 inch document can be downloaded and printed for easy reference.

Each process phase Key Element is discussed independently below. Click on a Key Element title to expand the view and see the additional content.

Recommended Practices

The Executing Process Phase’s critical activities include coordinating people and resources, managing Stakeholder expectations, and performing activities in accordance with the Project Management Plan (PMP). Recommended practices for these activities include the following.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Projects can involve a large and diverse group of people all working together towards a defined goal. There is a consistent need to ensure that the project team recognizes what needs to be done and how each piece of the overall work affects other pieces. It is equally important to keep Stakeholders abreast of the project’s status and any critical issues. This requires active and frequent communication across the project.

Don’t Ignore the Users
Don’t forget about your users when your project starts the execution phase. Include users in project activities throughout development so that their business needs and requirements can be better understood and met.

For example your users should be involved in the feedback cycles necessary for continuous improvement. As part of an incremental delivery strategy as product is delivered to the user, the users are engaged to provide feedback which informs the goals associated with delivering the next product increment. This gives users a way to inject into the development process new or refined user needs and preferences and enables the team to better meet user needs.

Proper user research and engagement increases the likelihood that the project business and user needs will be met. In the end, IT systems exist to fulfil a business need, which is achieved through meeting user needs.

Capturing Action Items From Team Meetings
Project teams typically conduct many meetings, which in turn produce action items assigned to meeting participants. Tracking these action items can be critical to measuring project progress and maintaining team accountability. Concise and accurate written minutes should be prepared for each project meeting. The minutes should include a record of each action item considered or assigned at the meeting, the owner responsible for the action item, and the date the action item was completed or is scheduled to be completed. Approved minutes should be distributed to all meeting participants, project managers and other interested Stakeholders. Good minutes help coordinate and document project work and drive meeting action towards product completion.

Early and Effective Testing Can Prevent Major Project Cost Issues Down the Road
Testing is the process of planning, preparing, and evaluating software and related work products. Testing is performed to determine that the specified requirements are met, defects are detected, and ultimately to demonstrate that the system does the job it was designed to do.

The earlier defects are found in the development lifecycle, the more efficient and cost effective testing becomes. Testing can prevent problems when applied early in the process. It can continue to be used two detect problems once the software has been developed.

The difference between testing earlier is in the cost of defect correction. The cost of finding and removing defects increases each time the defect escapes to a later lifecycle phase. Industry practices show a multiplicative increase from the cost for defects found in the requirements stage compared to production.

For example, there is a cost increase from requirements to post-release of 1:5 for simple systems to as high as 1:100 for complex systems. Early detection and correction of defects in the development lifecycle is critical to the success of an IT project. This can be accomplished through well-planned testing strategies.

Problems Don’t Go Away – They Only Get Bigger Over Time
Managing conflicting goals and objectives is critical. Unresolved or unmanaged conflicts can quickly escalate and disrupt the project’s progress, as people spend more effort focusing on the conflict than working towards project and organizational goals. Any issues or conflicts between the project, program, contractor, and other Stakeholders only get larger, more complex, and costly if not resolved in a timely manner. It is therefore vital to address and resolve issues immediately as they are identified.

Engage the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Team Sooner
Maintenance and Operations transition planning will help the project team verify and document the primary activities needed to transition the project to Maintenance and Operations (M&O). The M&O team needs to be involved early. Transition planning is perhaps the most complex part of implementing and maintaining the future state of the project. Rolling out new solutions and maintaining processes, procedures, workflows, roles, and responsibilities across an enterprise requires careful planning. It is highly recommended to involve the M&O team early and often to ensure a smooth transition to the organization that will be responsible for maintaining the new system.

Leadership Is the Project Manager’s Job
Put simply, the Project Manager’s job is to lead. This means the ability to guide the project at times of project success and when the project is facing difficulties. The Project Manager must be able to openly and honestly communicate that a project is off track and requires corrective action to improve project performance. Effective Project Managers are able to focus on the immediate task at hand and lead the project team to achieve course correction.

Have Clearly Defined Go/No Go Checkpoints
Project checkpoints provide a basis for analysis and evaluation to determine whether the project is proceeding as planned or whether corrective action is needed. Every project development and process group phase should pass through a go/no go checkpoint to ensure that essential goals and deliverables are being met, and to identify potential risks before they become major issues to the project. Checkpoints must be structured to answer one primary question:  Are you ready for the next phase of the project and/or the next phase of development? If the answer is yes, the project proceeds. If the answer is no, corrective action is required.

Individual project elements should have metrics identified and tracked. As the project go-live date approaches, regular checkpoints need to be established to assess readiness and to consider contingencies if any metrics indicate a problem.

Be Honest About Project Progress to Continually Improve
If the project realizes that a significant milestone will be missed, immediately take the time to understand the reasons behind the delay. Was it:

  • An incorrect assumption?
  • An incorrect level of effort estimate?
  • A resourcing issue?
  • An additional constraint that wasn’t considered?

Take the delay as an opportunity to reassess downstream activities and re-plan if necessary. Continuous improvements to project planning and processes will help the team adapt and, hopefully, smooth the path ahead.

For projects undertaking an incremental or modular approach, lessons learned should be gathered at the completion of each module, if not more frequently, even when the project completed the planned scope on time and on budget. Taking lessons learned and carrying them forward to each module will make the project planning and processes even better and more efficient.

Think Globally and Act Strategically
The job of the Project Manager and project team is also to think. Project management processes, tools, and reports alone won’t achieve the desired result, nor will oversight get the project team to the goal. The project team has to reason, solve problems, and make decisions. Sometimes, Project Managers are too focused on green, yellow, and red indicators versus judgment and critical thinking. Red does not always mean disaster, and green does not always mean everything is on course.

Testing and Training Activities are NOT Schedule and Cost Buffers
It’s not recommended to reduce planned durations for activities such as testing and training to make up for schedule delays. This often results in reduced quality and additional schedule delays due to undiscovered defects and problems.

Warning Signs: Be on the Lookout
Watch for early warning signs that trouble is ahead. The following are some of the common indicators:

  • Inadequate resources and/or skills
  • Over-allocated resources
  • Disengaged Sponsor(s)
  • Frequently missed task or milestone completion dates
  • Frequent changes to the project scope
  • Confusion regarding requirements
  • Not adhering to best practices
  • Not adhering to established processes and procedures
  • Lack of leadership, decision making, support, or direction from executive management
  • Lack of involvement from the business area in the specification, design, testing, business process re-engineering, or implementation
  • Inappropriate development methodology

Don’t Skimp on Quality
Include processes and activities that determine quality policies, objectives, and responsibilities. This helps a given project meet the objectives for which it was undertaken. Quality management addresses the management of the project itself as well as the deliverables. Good quality management helps ensure that the project delivers and meets or exceeds expectations.

Don’t be Afraid to Pull the Plug
If the project is in trouble (such as if the vendor is not performing) you may need to do more than just send up a flare. If the environment has changed, the business value isn’t there, or a significant issue has arisen don’t just keep going.

Speak Up to Achieve a Project Win
Effective project leaders create an environment that is conducive to open and honest communication, giving project team members and other Stakeholders the opportunity to participate. In this preferred project environment, information is shared, issues are discussed, and people are more willing to voice concerns and offer innovative ideas.

Roles

The following table identifies primary participant roles and responsibilities for this process phase. In some cases, a project might have unique requirements that call for additional roles or responsibilities depending on the project’s size, type, and complexity.

Definitions of all roles referenced in the CA-PMF is provided in Project Role Definitions in the Additional Resources chapter.

Role

Responsibilities

Executive Sponsor(s)

  • Provides agreement for executive intervention to overcome organizational roadblocks.
  • Key to driving the project goals and objectives to align with the organization’s strategic direction.

Project Sponsor

  • Key to driving the project goals and objectives to align with the organization’s strategic direction.
  • Key to resolving escalated issues related to the Triple Constraint: scope, schedule, cost, and quality.

IT Sponsor

  • Provides technical information, resources, and support to complete tasks in the Executing Process Phase.

Business Owner(s)*

  • Provides information pertaining to a preferred product or solutions.
  • Able to validate that requirements are met.

Project Manager

  • Responsible for directing, managing, monitoring, controlling, and communicating all work associated with the project outcome.

Stakeholder(s)

  • Any person or group that has an active interest in the project outcome or process, and wishes to participate, or is invited to participate, in the tasks associated with the Execution Process Phase.
  • At this point in the project, a Stakeholder is usually receiving project status reports.

Department of Technology (CDT)

  • Provides input and guidance and receives updates on the project status and/or project activities.

Department of Finance (DOF)

  • Provides input and guidance and receive updates on the project status and/or project activities.

Project Support Staff

  • Supports the project with activities as needed during the Execution Process Phase of the project.

Solutions Vendor

  • A contracted company that provides goods or services in support of the project.
* May also be referred to as Business Sponsor.
Processes

The following processes are associated with this process phase. The list below contains a high-level description of these processes. See the Processes and Activities section of the Executing chapter in the CA-PMF for more detail.

  • Assemble the Resources - At this point in the project’s development, the Project Manager is ready to begin Executing Process Phases activities. This includes assembling a team to staff the project and conducting a project kickoff meeting. If the project is engaging a contractor to do some of the work, contractor onboarding activities are also conducted at this time.
  • Prepare for the Execution Process Phase Activities - Major preparation activities for the Executing Process Phase include executing the Project Management Plan, integrating project and contractor plans (if a contractor is involved), reviewing and updating the RACI Matrix, and confirming project scope and requirements. If the project will be assigning a different Project Manager for the Executing Process Phase, the transition takes place at this time. 
  • Direct and Manage Project Work - Directing and managing project work consists of leading and performing the work defined in the project work plan to achieve the project’s objectives. Key Project Manager responsibilities include managing the project team, the contractor (if applicable), Stakeholders’ expectations, and directing project communications and work.
  • Monitoring and Controlling Project Work – Monitoring and controlling involves comparing actual performance with planned performance, and taking corrective action to reach the desired outcome when significant deficiencies exist. Baselines generated in the Planning Process Phase give the Project Manager a way to understand project progress. Monitoring activities include collecting, measuring, and reporting actual project performance-related data and comparing it with the baseline (schedule, cost, scope, quality). Controlling activities include taking preventative and corrective actions.
  • Develop Project Status Reports - Project status reports are key to effectively managing projects. The reports ensure the timely and appropriate collection, generation, and distribution of project information. Status reports ensure the delivery of information to keep Stakeholders and project team members informed, and assist in the decision-making process to authorize changes.
  • Executing Process Phase Review - After all Executing Process Phase activities are complete, the Project Manager prepares the Execution Process Phase completion materials, including the phase completion checklist. The completion materials are used to document that the process phase has concluded and the project is reading to proceed to the Closing Process Phase.
Activities

The following activities are undertaken in support of the processes that are associated with this process phase. The list below contains a high-level description of these activities. See the Processes and Activities section of the Executing chapter in the CA-PMF for more detail.

  • Acquire the Project Team and Commit Resources - The Project Manager executes the project staffing approach approved in the HR and Staff Management Plan, confirming the availability of staff with the correct skills. The Project Managers also begins team development activities, which may include additional training for staff and team building to create a highly collaborative team environment.
  • Conduct Contractor On-Boarding - Timely and carefully planned on-boarding is essential if the project is using a contractor. The Project Manager should bring the contractor on board using the procedures created in the Planning Process Phase. These activities typically include site preparation, technology configuration, finalization of contracts, security and badge access, and signing of conflict of interest statements and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
  • Hold Executing Process Phase Kick-Off - Every project should have a kick-off meeting to help ensure everyone is on the same page and understands the reason for the project, its schedule, and team responsibilities. It is highly recommended that the Project Sponsor attend the kick-off meeting to convey how the project supports the organization’s strategic direction and, in turn, how the organization supports the project’s goals.
  • Transition the Project Manager Responsibilities - Some projects may transition to a new Project Manager at the beginning of the Executing Process Phase. This is typically in cases where special skills and experience are required. In any case, the new Project Manager must be fully briefed on the status of the project, the construction of planning documents, and open risks and issues.
  • Execute the Project Management Plan - The Project Manager should review the Project Management Plan and all subordinate plans in preparation for beginning Executing Process Phase activities. All plans have been baselined and are now under the project’s change control process.
  • Integrate Project and Contractor Plans – If applicable, the Project Manager and contractor-assigned Project Manager integrate state and vendor Project Management processes and procedures. Contract documents will determine whether the contractor will maintain a separate or integrated Project Management Plan (PMP), project schedule, Issue Log, and Risk Register. In either case, a significant level of planning and coordination  is required.
  • Review and Update the RACI Matrix - The RACI Matrix identifies the deliverables for a project and the role of various Stakeholders. It is drafted during the Initiating Process Phase and updated during the Planning Process Phase. If additional System Development Life Cycle (SDLC) artifacts and deliverables are identified during the Execution Process Phase, the RACI Matrix should be updated based on the new information.
  • Confirm Scope and Requirements - Confirmation of scope and requirements ensures everyone is on the same page as to what is actually going to be accomplished during the project. Project contractors should be familiar with the scope and requirements of the project based on the Request for Proposal (RFP), Statement of Work (SOW) or other contract documents. Contractors and appropriate state staff should review the project vision and expected outcomes together in a formal walk-through.
  • Lead and Manage the Project Team - To lead the project team, the Project Manager influences the team’s behavior, resolves conflicts, motivates staff , supports the project vision, and fosters a productive and collaborative team environment. To manage the project team, the Project Manager analyzes project performance data, tracks team member performance, resolves issues, address staffing changes, and implements strategies to optimize the team’s overall performance.
  • Manage the Contractor Team - Specific processes are required to manage the approval and on-boarding of contractor staff , the review and acceptance of contract deliverables, and dispute resolution and escalation when there is disagreement between the state and contractor. Contractor staff should be integrated with the project team to the extent possible to promote collaboration and communication.
  • Manage Stakeholder Expectations - The Project Manager should implement strategies developed in the Stakeholder Management Plan and/or the Communications Management Plan to keep Stakeholders informed of project status and progress. Effective Stakeholder communications helps to increase their support of the project, minimizes resistance, addresses Stakeholders’ needs and requirements, and helps prevent future misunderstandings.
  • Carry Out Project Communications - The project executes its Communications Management Plan with the goal of ensuring effective, clear, and efficient project communications. This can be accomplished through project team meetings, presentations, status reports, emails, project portals, and other communication activities. All communications should be appropriately timed and include the appropriate information for the target audience.
  • Monitoring and Controlling Project Activities - Monitoring and controlling activities measure and analyze project performance at regular intervals to ensure project plans are being followed. The process oversee the tasks and metrics that ensure that the project is within scope, on time, on budget, and within quality thresholds. Key activities include Schedule Management; Cost Management; Scope Management, Requirements Management, and Change Control; Quality Management; Performance Reporting; Risk and Issue Management; Contractor Performance;  Project Surveys; and Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Transition.
  • Complete the Executing Process Phase Checklist - The checklist identifies the key activities that should be completed during the Executing Process Phase.
Tools

A number of project management outputs are developed during the Executing Process Phase. The outputs are associated with tools available for your use.

For a complete list of all tools that are part of the CA-PMF see the templates page. A list and definitions of all Templates referenced in the CA-PMF is provided in Which Templates Should I Use and When? section in the Templates chapter.

Tool/ Output

Definition

Project Status Reports (Oversight)

Includes status reports that communicate the current overall status of a project. It should be distributed to appropriate team members, Stakeholders, and sponsors on a regular basis.

Deliverable Expectation Document (DED)

DEDs provide a basis for the development and submission of deliverables. It is a tool to avoid miscommunication, to ensure that the state and contractor possess a mutual understanding about deliverable content and scope.

Work Authorization

Used to authorize the contractor to complete work that is not specifically outlined in the contract, but is aligned with the overall scope of the contract. This work is unanticipated and discovered during the course of the contract, and funds must be available in the contract.

Process Improvement Plan

Identifies quality management-specific standards and practices, assessment, monitoring, and correction of the core Project Management processes followed by the project.

Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA)

Is part of the transition of the project’s software release or other end product to Maintenance & Operations and the production environment. The assessment provides and documents a comprehensive analysis of all facets of readiness, including organizational readiness and contingency planning, prior to the implementation.

Formal Product Acceptance

Used by project teams to document formal acceptance of a major deliverable, phase, or completion of the project.

Sponsorship Commitment Survey

Used by project teams to assess the involvement and support provided by the Project Sponsor.

Team Effectiveness Survey

Used by project teams to assess the effectiveness of how the project team works together.

Executing Process Phase Checklist

Identifies the key activities that are to be completed during the Executing Process Phase.

Outputs

The following deliverables are created as a result of the processes and activities completed during this process phase; these are called outputs. Many of these have an associated CA-PMF tool for you to use. These are described in the tools section. The outputs associated with this process phase are listed below:

  • Completed System Development Lifecycle (SDLC) Documents
  • Completed Status Reports (Oversight)
  • Completed Deliverable Expectation Document (DED)
  • Completed Work Authorizations
  • Completed Process Improvement Plan
  • Completed Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA)
  • Completed Formal Product Acceptance
  • Completed Sponsorship Commitment Survey
  • Completed Team Effectiveness Survey
  • Completed Executing Process Phase Checklist