Project Management 2. Identify Assumptions Underlying the Project

The budget, schedule, and skills needed to make a project succeed are based on assumptions about the project.

So, before you make a commitment to complete a product within a certain schedule and budget with the skills of a particular group of people, you need to identify and share with your sponsor the assumptions on which you make those promises. If these assumptions change later, or prove to be incorrect, you have a basis from which to renegotiate the schedule and budget with the sponsor.

Typically, the following issues affect the estimates of instructional design and technical communication projects:

  • Stability of subject matter. The less stable the subject matter, the more likely that you will need to completely revise sections that you have already written—not because the sections are poorly developed but because the changes to the subject matter render the material inaccurate. For example, suppose you are preparing a marketing brochure and the sponsor has not decided whether hospitals or HMOs are the primary market for the product. Your sponsor suggests that you orient the brochure to hospitals but decides, after the first draft, that the primary market is HMOs. You will have to revise the brochure to reflect the new audience.

Such changes in direction and composition are common with products under development. But the product development team does not always understand the implications of such changes. By accounting for this instability in your planning, you help make your sponsor aware of the potential impact of changes.

  • Specifically, focus on these issues:
    1. Identify, as specifically as possible, the aspects of the subject matter that are not stable
    2. State what is not stable about the subject matter
    3. Identify the sections affected by the unstable subject matter
    4. Determine how to respond to the instability. For example, you might double or triple your estimates of the schedule to provide suitable time to respond to unanticipated changes. Or, you might put conditions on the sponsor, stating that you must have certain issues resolved by certain dates or you reserve the right to miss your proposed schedule.
  • Material not covered by the course or communication product: Identify the material that you do not intend to cover. This should have been obvious from your needs assessment and the objectives accompanying it, but the sponsor might only have noticed what you included, not what you excluded.

By explicitly stating what you do not intend to cover, the sponsor is aware of another limitation of the product. If the sponsor is not comfortable with the information being excluded, you can revise your designs (and, as a result, budgets and schedules) now. Or, if your sponsor later asks you to add some of the material that you explicitly excluded, you have a basis for renegotiating the budget and schedule.

Stating these assumptions at the beginning of your schedule, budget, and staffing estimates helps you effectively manage the expectations of your sponsor. By managing those expectations, you are more likely to ensure the satisfaction of your sponsor.

Continue with the next post, Project Management 3. Establish the Proposed Schedule.

© Copyright 1996-2012. Saul Carliner. All rights reserved.  If sharing or excerpting, should be properly cited.


About idmodelsandprocesses

Exploring, reporting, teaching, and advising on learning and communication for the workplace and consumers.
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