7 Steps to a Great Solution Design

7 steps solution design

According to an old legend, the Taj Mahal was originally supposed to be made out of black marble. But the emperor’s architects couldn’t find enough black marble stones. So, white marble was used instead. The solution design stage on the project is all about designing something that will meet the most amount of requirements possible but it still feasible in terms of cost.

Thinking About the Solution Increases the Chance of the Project Being Successful

Taking the time to think through possible solutions rather than rush straight into building something has the following benefits:

  • Examine all possible options
  • Reduces the chance of building the wrong thing
  • Increases the chance that all the costs are accounted for
  • Identify all project resources early

Generally, the more visual elements you use during the design, the better. Even if you’re building something intangible like a software program, there’s always something to draw. All programs have some type of user interface, for example. Even abstract business processes can be sketched out.

Visuals are even more effective when they’re attached to numbers. So, below each sketch adds the following information: estimated build time and estimated cost. Below those numbers, you provide some additional data: assumptions, dependencies and pros and cons.

Visuals are even more effective when they’re attached to numbers. Click To Tweet

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The Steps to a Good Solution Design

After capturing what is wanted each requirement needs to be examined and a solution needs to be designed. Before Project Managers assign tasks to resources, they need to think through every part of what needs to be done. Each requirement should be broken down into groups of small, easy-to-manage components. After all the components are created, tested and put into play, the project will be ready to go live. Project Managers should annotate each solution with at least one:

  • Picture. It’s a cliché because it’s true: a picture is worth 1,000 words. Flow charts and sketches should be used whenever possible.
  • Time frame. Draw upon past experiences to estimate how long it will take to create the whole solution.
  • Cost estimate. The estimate doesn’t have to be exact, but it should be realistic.
  • List of assumptions. Specific required resources should be listed out here if assumed as available.
  • List of dependencies. If several other tasks must be completed before work on a particular task can start this should be noted.
  • Pros and Cons. State the pros and cons of the proposed solution.
  • Approach. The best way to develop the solution. Iterative – develop, review, re-develop or Waterfall – develop, test, go live

To ensure that you have provided balance you should try to provide a minimum of 3 different solutions. However to make it easy for the person approving the project state which of the options your recommend and your reasons why.

By taking your time with this stage and coming up with a well thought through solution with balanced pros and cons will increase the chance of the project being successful. In addition, the basis of any good business case will need to demonstrate that the solution will not only meet the requirements but also prove good value for money.

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