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How to Optimize IT Project Plans

How to Optimize IT Project Plans

At a glance

To optimize project plans you should do the following:

  • Accommodate the agility required by modern Dev Ops
  • Add a realistic ‘uncertainty’ buffer to plans
  • Utilize a standard, baseline project management template to reduce complexity


Do any of these conversations sound familiar?

      When will the project be complete?

            I don’t know. Maybe in a few weeks…

      What else do you need to do?

            Just wrapping up a few things…

      How will the new initiative impact your project?

            Hmm. I didn’t think of that. I’ll have to get back to you. 

One of the biggest challenges in any major business or technology transformation – whether they be a massive platform implementation or operational change management – is keeping track of the initiative. Are we on schedule? Are there any issues/risks we need to be thinking of?

The Hybrid Agile-Waterfall Project Plan Framework

For hybrid agile-waterfall project plans, it is important to maintain the overall time frame of a waterfall model while maintaining flexibility to respond to emerging requests and project changes. Include clear objectives and ample documentation at the start of the project to ensure success.

Formatting your project plans

Ongoing development initiatives will typically be the focal point for your project plans. Outlining all the steps required for execution will ensure that your projects cover all the bases, reducing the risk of going off track.

1. Project Planning & Management

Analysis and Design

Business Requirement Document

The business requirements document is where you outline all the changes requested by the client. The document should be kept simple so that the client and development team can easily understand the requirements. Detailed requirements review sessions should be held with the client to confirm understanding of the changes requested. Prioritizing each item will facilitate easily determining which changes to focus on


  • Business Requirement Document

2. Developing the Project Plan

Once the general requirements are clear you can work with your development team to develop the project plan. Review each change in detail, adding a time frame for each phase of development.



Dividing changes into sprints allows the development team to focus on a set of related functions within a predetermined period. Use internal testing at the end of each sprint to provide feedback for developers on any necessary fixes.

  • Development Requirements Review

The development team and the analysts plan the next sprint in detail. They review the requirements to decide how they are going to meet the business needs.

  • Tasks

During the development cycle, conduct Daily Scrum meetings that last no longer than 15 minutes to review all tasks. Discuss what has been done so far and what will be done next. Use the time to share any potential roadblocks or problems. Seek opportunities to streamline the working progress.

  • Internal Testing

This is your first chance to review the development progress before the UAT. Refer back to the requirements document to be sure that business needs are being met.

Code Review

Set up a time for another developer to conduct a code review with the main project developer. An objective set of eyes can provide insights into how to avoid potential issues and optimize the code. During the session, discuss alternatives and possible workarounds that might work better for the situation without insisting those solutions are the best or only way to proceed.


The overall objective of adding a buffer to your plan is to protect the project deadline. Analysis of multiple project management methodologies has determined that only 44% percent of projects finish on time (1). It is impossible to predict that all of your team members will be available or whether an “all hands on deck” emergency might divert resources from your projects. Adding two or three days can give you peace of mind to be able to handle the unexpected. Also, it’s not the worst-case scenario if you don’t use the buffer and deliver the project ahead of schedule!

3. Testing and Validation

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) Preparation + Test Case Setup

UAT Testing gives the client a first look at the changes and an opportunity to ensure that they meet their requirements. The test plan should be reviewed with the client team prior to the start of testing to confirm that the scenarios cover all the intended business cases. Also, the developer should prepare any necessary environments and test data.


  • UAT Test Plan

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and Bug Fixing

Tests should be carried out by subject matter experts, who should be real end-users of the application in development and have the authority to approve and disapprove features. The ideal scenario is a group conference environment where all stakeholders work together on acceptance test cases. A defect found by the user is noted in the test plan and fixed before the next session. The user then performs the test again.

UAT Test Results Review and Code Freeze

Finally, it’s time to move forward with the release. As soon as everything is working as it is supposed to, the user/client/customer representative will sign off on the application, indicating that it meets their needs and is ready to be used. The code freeze begins at this point, and the developers will not be able to make any more changes.

4. Training and Documentation

Create/Update Application Manual

End-user documentation should explain how to perform the application’s functions as simply as possible. The manual should reflect any incremental changes made to the application, allowing the document to remain current.


  • Application Manual

End-User Training

End-user training is one of the keys to the successful implementation of any application. When users are unsure of how to use the features of an application, the impact of a new implementation or change of software is diminished.

A training plan should be developed with the client to provide end-users with the fundamentals of using the application. The number one objective is to minimize any productivity losses resulting from the transition to a new business process. During training, real-life data should be utilized to make the application more relevant to your organization. For future reference, a recording of the training should be made.


  • Training Plan

5. Release

Draft and Review Production Script

The development team will create a script to migrate changes from the test environment to the production environment. Before making any changes, all potential unintended consequences should be considered.


  • Production Script

Draft and Review Migration Plan

A migration plan outlines all the steps needed to release the application. This should include pre and post-execution activities, along with quality assurance checks at key points of the migration.


  • Migration Plan

Execute Migration Plan and Application Release

When the release window is reached, an official go-ahead is given to the development team to begin work on the development release.

6. Post Release

QA in Production Environment

A new release should be reviewed in the production environment to ensure all features are functional. Since you are now in a production environment, you may not be able to run a full suite of tests, but at least make sure that the application’s basic features are still working. Upon completion, the client’s team can use the application.

Finalize Documentation

Post-release any related documentation should be compiled for future reference. A release log should list out all the features in the new application version.


  • Release Log

Standardizing Project Plans

Aligning your plan formats into a common data framework is the final step in optimizing your projects. Standardizing all project details will facilitate easier access to information, improve the efficiency of project management, and reduce the timeframe for release cycles. Project statuses, resource allocations, and deadlines should be tracked for all projects. Without a unified data framework, information may be misappropriated or lost due to naming differences. The standardization of terminology and frameworks is a step towards moving from “intuitive” project management to an organization with greater operational maturity.

Establish a baseline Project Plan Template format: 

  • Gather a sample set of successful plans used in previous projects
  • Determine which KPIs should be used in the baseline project plan template
  • Format the template to include actual and proposed project start and end dates to monitor project completion variances


  • Standard Project Template with Data Framework

Do you need help developing hybrid agile-waterfall project plans for your organization?

It is a well-known saying that you cannot manage what you cannot measure. At Karma Advisory, we have experience transforming disparate initiatives into cohesive project plans that achieve measurable results.

For more information about how Karma Advisors can help you with establishing a hybrid agile-waterfall project planning framework, please email

Knowledge Transfer: An Approach For Executing it Effectively

Knowledge Transfer: An Approach For Executing it Effectively

It’s Monday.

Just when you think everything is going smoothly in your IT group, a key resource notifies you of their departure from your organization.

To make matters more pressing, you only have 2-weeks to extract all of their knowledge and make it accessible.

Maybe this person is a software developer who built a key system from scratch, a database administrator who is the only person who actually understands the data model, or a business analyst who has vasts amount of system and programmatic knowledge stored in their head.

In any case, you need an effective way to transfer knowledge from their brains to your organization. An approach to capture, document, and distribute their knowledge across your team instead of losing it.

Because well documented and accessible shared knowledge is never lost.

Keep reading to learn how to effectively transfer knowledge within your organization, so you can maintain business as usual.

What is Knowledge Transfer?

Knowledge transfer is the method of capturing responsibilities, ideas, skills and personal knowledge from one or more individuals and sharing between one or more other individuals within an organization. Typically, this involves an employee who is leaving the organization or transitioning to a new role.

“Knowledge” isn’t just what is in a person’s head. It’s also what they do. The activities and responsibilities they perform in order to meet operational objectives.

Some of these activities may even go unnoticed by an individual and those around them. Especially if they’ve been doing it long enough. Those user accounts that get deactivated like magic every 6 months?

Maybe that is a task that your soon departing Business Analyst has in their notes saved to their local PC.

How to Effectively Execute a Knowledge Transfer Plan

There are an endless number of ideas and activities that a single employee is a part of throughout their time within the organization. It is impossible to capture every chunk of knowledge, but it is certainly possible to capture the pieces that your organization needs to continue operating as usual.

You’re short on time with your departing resource, so you can’t afford to waste time planning out and executing complicated methodologies. You need a simple plan of action to help your organization transition from personal knowledge to shared knowledge.

Assuming that you have already identified a replacement, here are the steps:

Knowledge Transfer Process

1. Develop a Topic Coverage Plan

The time you have with your departing employee is limited. So, take some time to develop a baseline high level list of all known topic areas you need to cover. This will maximize your time during knowledge transfer sessions, so you can focus on the unknowns and the details.

The areas of most importance will be first on everyone’s list. Involve the individuals who collaborated with the departing employee, so they can add their interaction points. And most importantly, take time to go through with your departing employee during or before your first knowledge transfer session.


  • Topic Tracker

2. Hold Knowledge Transfer Sessions

Now that you have the high level areas to cover, it’s time to dive into the details and potential unknowns. The best way to do this is simply by spending time with your departing resource. If you have a replacement employee identified, it’s time for he or she to become a sponge of knowledge.

There are a few things that can help make knowledge transfer sessions as productive as possible:

Take detailed meeting minutes

Documented knowledge is only going to be as robust as what you’re able to capture during knowledge transfer sessions. Meeting minutes need to be as detailed as possible. Organizing and categorizing these notes can happen outside of meeting time.

Capture knowledge through screen recordings

If possible and applicable, recording knowledge transfer sessions can be a huge benefit. This is especially useful when working through specific multi-step tasks that your departing employee completes. You know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth a million.

Utilize your topic tracker to facilitate discussions and capture status

Your topic tracker is going to serve multi purposes as you work through your knowledge transfer sessions. It will drive discussion topics, help capture new topics that come up during meetings, and capture the status of each topic (covered, not covered, etc.). In addition, the location of meeting minutes and screen recordings for each topic should be added for organized referencing.


  • Topic Tracker – Updated with coverage status of topics and where to find the captured details of each topic
  • Knowledge Transfer Meeting Notes
  • Knowledge Transfer Screen Recordings

3. Document and Distribute Knowledge

You have your knowledge documented. Think of the meeting notes, recordings, and tracker as your raw data. Now, you need to get that data into presentable form, so it can truly be transformed into shared knowledge.

As you work through organizing your notes and topics, you should keep the knowledge transfer goal in mind. That goal is to transform personal knowledge into shared knowledge. So, you need to create some form of a knowledge base that can be referenced by your organization. Not only is the creation of this knowledge base a great exercising for educating your replacement employee, it is also a way to keep the captured knowledge safe for the future.

How you want to create the knowledge base is a preference, depends on the situation, and how your organization currently shares information. But, it needs to be highly organized and easily searchable. MS OneNote works well for application knowledge bases. Word documents that point to the appropriate files in a shared folder work well for more technical resources that have many work products that need to be referenced.

At this point, your departing resource may be gone or inaccessible. And that’s okay. Because you maximized your time with them and translated their personal knowledge into shared knowledge. But, if you do have access to them, it would be a great exercise to have them review your knowledge base.


  • Knowledge Base

How to Execute Knowledge Transfer: A Real World Case Study

A key resource and owner of a state based agency’s system of record is departing. Citizens and entities of the state apply for benefits across multiple programs using the system. These benefits are then distributed to those applicants found eligible. Nonetheless, this system is critical to meeting the agency’s objectives and more importantly, serving the public.

With this departure, the organization is at risk of losing extensive technical and programmatic knowledge that was gained while working in a Project Manager / Business Analyst role since system implementation over 7 years ago.

A new employee was quickly hired and rolled onto the project. This individual was new to the organization and had no experience with the system. So, a comprehensive transfer of knowledge was required to maintain business continuity. And due to different circumstances, the organization only had 1 hour per day for two weeks with the departing employee.

Let’s look at the knowledge transfer steps that were executed to ensure minimal knowledge loss and operational downtime.

1. Case Study – Develop a Topic Coverage Plan

Prior to the first knowledge transfer session, the employee’s manager developed a list of key topic areas to cover. This included recurring system maintenance tasks for which step-by-step details were needed, general system and programmatic knowledge transfer, and project management details.

This list of topics was added to an Excel spreadsheet and organized by importance. The items with the highest priority – such as audit coverage and recurring system maintenance tasks required to maintain operations – were to be addressed first. The first knowledge transfer session was then used to go through the list and capture any other items that needed to be covered.


  • Topic Tracker
Knowledge Transfer Topic Tracker Sample

Topic tracker sample.

2. Hold Knowledge Transfer Sessions

Knowledge transfer sessions occurred via 1 hour web meetings for two weeks. They included the replacement employee, program manager, and program director in addition to the departing resource.

These sessions were recorded and detailed meeting notes were taken by the replacement employee. The replacement employee was tasked with facilitating the meetings, taking notes, and organizing as needed.

The topic tracker was updated after each meeting to include the updated status of topic areas and the references of where to find the covered topics in the meeting notes and recordings.


  • Topic Tracker – Updated with coverage status of topics and where to find the captured details of each topic
  • Knowledge Transfer Meeting Notes
  • Knowledge Transfer Screen Recordings

Knowledge Base Development Process

3. Document and Distribute Knowledge

Upon the completion of the 2 weeks of knowledge transfer sessions, the organization was armed with over 27 pages of detailed meeting notes and screen recordings of each session.

Using these notes and newly acquired knowledge, the replacement employee was tasked with building out an MS OneNote knowledge base that was segmented into an operation manual, the release management process for new system builds, and processes for supporting various groups in the organization such as legal and audit.

To put the icing on the transformation to shared knowledge cake, the knowledge base was loaded to a SharePoint folder that the rest of the organization had access to.


  • Knowledge Base

Do You Need Help Sharing Knowledge in Your Organization?

If you’re losing a key resource or in need of better knowledge distribution across your organization, then we can help. At Karma Advisory, we’ve assisted organizations like yours in transforming tribal knowledge into useful organizational knowledge.

We believe that an IT organization’s strength lies in its shared knowledge. And siloed, inaccessible expertise is a risk.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help document and distribute your knowledge across your organization, then email or use the contact form below.

For a Conversation on Knowledge Transfer, Check Out the Karma Insights Podcast