Project shaping is a high-level process to gain agreement between UVa researchers and project sponsors and stakeholders on a shared definition of success and to establish the external project conditions critical to achieving success.
Project shaping helps the project stakeholders to clarify their true needs, wants, and expectations. This is especially critical when the project involves novel technologies that create a new capability, solves a problem in a completely new fashion, or when there are multiple stakeholders and end-users with potentially different points-of-view.
Project shaping then focuses on establishing the project conditions so that these needs, wants, and expectations can be achieved by the project. This includes mapping project timelines, phases, funding, and scope in a manner that the project can be successful. High-level project risk is often assessed and addressed. This can be beneficial to the researchers as the project sponsors may be able to reach out to their network to provide technical assistance, subject matter expertise, or other input to reduce the risk.
The shaping process engages the sponsor to form a relationship between the stakeholders and the researchers so that as the project encounters various development challenges, all parties are aligned to jointly focus on overcoming the hurdle.
For two different projects current being managed by ARI with funding from the same sponsor, one project is being funded in three phases with gates between each phase while the other is funded as a single phase. This is a result of differences in complexity, development time and funding required, risk levels, and unknowns in the metrics for success.
In the case of the three phase project, the subject matter experts (SMEs) needed more time to develop an accurate use case and success metrics. The phase gate approach allowed the technology development to establish proof-of-concept while the SMEs refined the use case and metrics. At the start of Phase 2, the impact of the revised input from the SMEs on the scope, timeline, and funding was reviewed and incorporated into the project plan. This allowed the project to proceed as quickly as possible and the high level goals to be achieved.