Project Planning Facilitation (Research & Development/Public)

Project planning and project management process development for public-sector research & development organization.

The organization, a well-respected and internationally known research institution, had won an engagement to replace the control system (the correlator) of the Very Large Array radio telescope, based just west of Socorro, New Mexico. The project represented Canada’s contribution to the project to expand the Very Large Array, increasing the capabilities of the telescope by at least an order of magnitude and extending the serviceable life of the observatory complex.

Interthink Consulting was engaged early in the development to assist with the development and definition of a project plan to support the project team through its work. This involved facilitating a series of workshops with the core project team to scope out the project and identify the work necessary to successfully deliver the project. Ultimately, we supported the development of a comprehensive work breakdown structure, schedule and budget for the project, and helped to define a management strategy that would enable the project team to continue to successfully manage delivery of the project.

Managing pioneering research and development projects of this scale is a particular challenge, given the large scope, complex technologies and risk and uncertainty that is associated with innovation projects of this magnitude. The resulting schedule, nearly ten years in duration, would see the project team develop the hardware, design and fabricate custom chips and develop the software necessary to deliver the overall solution. The project was ultimately delivered on time and on budget, with the new Expanded Very Large Array commissioned and brought online starting in 2010.

As a result of Interthink Consulting’s work with the organization, they were able to realize a number of significant and valuable outcomes, including:

  • Development of a realistic and comprehensive work breakdown structure that served as the basis of all subsequent planning, management and delivery of the project. The resulting structure was tied to concrete and clearly defined deliverables that enabled members of the project team to understand the required work, how that work interrelated with other activities in the schedule and enable them to clearly define what needed to be produced in each activity in order to successfully support delivery of the overall project.
  • Identification of a number of key risks and challenges, resulting in a risk management strategy that enabled the project team to proactively address and incorporate into the work plan activities that mitigated or avoided a number of significant challenges. This was particularly meaningful with respect to procurement, enabling the project team to identify a number of activities that would be required early in the project’s lifecycle in order to support pre-qualification, justification and procurement of complex and technical services, products and resources.
  • Establishment of a project management strategy and development of a project management database that enabled the project team to organize, track and monitor overall project progress, including tracking and resolution of issues, risks and change requests. This enabled the project team to continue to maintain control over an extensive amount of project information from the outset, providing complete traceability of decisions related to each activity over a very long project duration.
  • Transition of responsibility for on-going planning and monitoring support to the internal project management team. Given the extended duration of the project, it was extremely important for the team to have primary responsibility for on-going maintenance and updates to the project plan, as well as monitoring and managing overall project progress. After development of the plan and management strategy, we worked with the project management team to provide transition knowledge and support and enable them to assume full on-going responsibility for management of the project.