Sharing the concept of how things will be done

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When embarking on a challenging piece of work it is important to have a sound concept of how things will be done. This needs to be captured, communicated and maintained.

Key factors

Inevitably, there are key choices and approaches that will have a great influence on whether a scope and vision can be successfully delivered and on how difficult and expensive it will be to develop. They can determine whether a “Rolls Royce” solution or a “minibus” is offered to meet a given need. They can swing the balance between the cost of development and the cost of operation. Choices can add or remove months if not years to the time it takes to deliver. Sometimes there are items that have to be determined in some detail to guarantee delivery is actually feasible.

The scale of things

Key factors can range from “big picture” to “fine detail”. At one end of the spectrum could be a high level architectural concept for the solution that defines what will be off the shelf and what will be written and how is it to be accessed. In the middle could sit an outline of the key features of the service covering topics such as whether complex and costly data analysis reports are to be provided ‘on demand’ or overnight and what length of outage is permitted for a system update. Further down the scale the choice of a key algorithm may need to be made, trading accuracy for cost of execution. In some cases a detailed specification of how something will work, possibly even prototype code, may be warranted.

Doing the groundwork

A conceptual baseline captures the groundwork for the programme. Groundwork that clarifies the key choices made around the nature of the solution. Groundwork that has achieved enough definition and design to show feasibility, to demonstrate an approach to foreseeable risk, to allow formulation of a delivery route-map, to permit budgetary costing and to enable an assessment of the value of what it is planned to deliver.

Relationship to other definition elements

A Scope and Vision defines “What” from the perspective of those who will benefit from the solution. The Conceptual Baselines addresses “How” from the perspective of those who will conceive, build, deliver, deploy and operate the solution. The two are related, the concept needs to offer the possibility of delivering a solution that complies with the Scope and Vision and also meets the Quality Criteria.


There can be no hard and fast rules governing what it is important to cover off in a concept. Every situation is different. This section lists some of the topics that it could be appropriate to include. Could does not mean should, only items that will have a material impact should be included.

  • The big picture manual and technical architecture
  • A narrative description of the way challenging demands will be executed
  • A description of how workload will be migrated across to the new system without disrupting in-flight activities
  • The process for updating the system
  • How the system will be reconciled.