The purpose of the Execution Phase is to design and develop a solution that meets business needs. In this phase, the solution is designed by the developers and concept owners, developed according to the design, and validated from the functional and end-user perspectives. The execution method should be determined based on the complexity, restrictions and dependencies of the project. However, Agile methodology should be favored, as it gives possibilities for fast reaction to changes, enables better visibility on delivery and results in faster time-to-market.
The Design stage includes gathering the final list of Business Requirements, as well as ensuring the design is in line with the Business Case and that it doesn’t have functional or technical gaps. The solution may be a new system or a new business process description, but development still follows the same logical stages. While the solution is being built, the readiness of the organization is also promoted by engaging people in decision-making, gathering feedback, and involving the full organization in making the change happen.
The Development stage is equally important, as it is at this stage that organizational readiness is finalized through continuous involvement. At the Development stage, the solution is built according to the Design Specification. At the end of the phase, the solution is ready for testing. If the project is managed with a waterfall methodology, the stages are executed in sequence. Agile projects consist of sprints, each of which produces a deployable intermediate solution.
In the case of system development, the Validation stage is commonly divided into System and User Acceptance Testing, where the solution is validated and training material is finalized. The execution and reporting responsibility of User Acceptance Testing usually rests on the business. After the validation phase, the system is ready for piloting in the production environment. From the business continuity point of view, the transition to production is the most critical project phase, as it may include retiring old solutions while rolling out the new one. This phase is critical also from the end-user point of view, as users need to adapt to new ways of working. During the execution phase, the Project Steering Group must be aware of any changes in the Business Environment.
Figure 5.6.1 Agile Development with Gate-based Project Model.
Because projects are by nature in a continuous state of change, they have many more uncertainties than continuous operations. The uncertainties are often followed by needs for change to which professionally run projects apply well-defined methods. Costs resulting from project changes are subject to the “1 – 10 – 100” rule, meaning that the cost will be multiplied, depending on whether the change is made at the Planning (1 unit) or Development stage (10 units) or at Transition to production (100 units). In large projects and multi-project programs the importance of managing risks, requirements and resources increases; hence, the Business Case must be validated at each Gate.