Use a Separate “Discovery Project” to Plan a Large Project

Sunday, September 24, 2017, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

There are two reasons to create a Discovery Project. For very large projects, the planning work can become very lengthy and unfocused. Planning the work for very large projects may take enough time that it should be structured as a project itself. This is one reason to define a separate Discovery Project.

Second, some projects are hard to plan because there is so much uncertainly. Rather than try to set up a large project with so much uncertainty, a separate smaller discovery project can be established.

Use a Separate “Discovery Project” to Plan a Large Project

The purpose of the discovery project is not to complete the entire project – only to complete the planning portion for the larger project. The final deliverable for a Discovery Project is a completed Project Charter, Project Management Plan, budget and schedule for the subsequent large project. All the other project deliverables will be produced as a part of the next follow-up project.

Discovery Projects, like all projects, come in different sizes. The Discovery Project itself need to be chartered, scheduled and managed like a project. Smaller Discovery Projects may just need a simple service request to begin. A larger Discovery Project will be managed as any larger project with its own schedule, budget, Charter, etc.

When the Discovery Project is completed, the Charter, schedule, budget and Project Management Plan will need to be approved by the sponsor. Once they are approved, the Discovery Project can end, and the following, larger project can begin.

An advantage to the Discovery Project is that you don’t need to deal with the uncertainly of the large project at one time. Instead you will have two discreet steps – the smaller Discovery Project and then the more well defined larger project.

Remember as well that the Discovery Project completed the planning phase for the larger project. Therefore, when the larger project is ready to begin, it will not need to go through planning again. The larger project can start directly in the lifecycle phases. (Of course, you still need to manage and close the larger project, but the planning process can be skipped.)

Sometimes the planning for very large projects can drift and become unfocused. Managing the planning process as a Discovery Project brings clarity and focus to the purpose and allows you to complete the planning in a rigorous manner.

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This column is © copyright to and originally appeared in their weekly project management tip newsletter.

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