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Frequently Asked Questions

A Framework for Software Product Line Practice, Version 5.0

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Organizational Planning

Organizational planning pertains to strategic or organizational-level planning. (For information on the foundations of planning, see the "Technical Planning" practice area.) Organizational planning relies on these same foundations, but its scope transcends individual projects.

As discussed in the "Technical Planning" practice area, when considering the planning activity, it is useful to distinguish between the process by which plans are created and the plans that result from that process. The process for generating plans is often very similar regardless of the organizational level at which it is applied. The process should differ primarily by who is involved and the scope of the effort to be planned. For organizational planning, senior and mid-level managers are often primary participants. The scope of the organizational planning process should include planning for cross-project activities or activities that are outside the scope of any project.

Regarding the plans themselves, there are different types of plans for addressing different purposes. Examples of organizational management plans include organizational strategic plans, funding plans, technology adoption plans, and organizational risk management plans.

As discussed in the "Technical Planning" practice area, a collection of interrelated plans is often more appropriate for accomplishing larger tasks than a monolithic master plan. Because of the broad scope of organizational planning, you should expect dependencies to exist among these plans and subordinate project plans. These relationships should be an explicit part of the plans.

Aspects Peculiar to Product Lines

There is nothing fundamentally different about a planning process for product lines. However, there are certain types of organizational management plans that are unique to product lines including

Besides these plans, other organizational plans that you might find in any development organization will take on a decidedly product line flavor. Organizational planning is used to facilitate the implementation of any of the technical management or organizational management practice areas that have organizational implementations [Clements 2005a]. The major plans are associated with

There may be a recurring need to develop some of these types of plans. For example, in the case of a phased rollout in different parts of the organization, it may be useful to develop tailorable plan templates or provide examples that serve as core assets themselves to seed the planning process.

In addition to the plan dependencies that result from being at the organizational level, there will be additional dependencies owing to the product line approach. Organizational plans will have dependencies with project plans, and project plans will have external dependencies among other project plans. Organization-level plans may be necessary to coordinate project-to-project dependencies. In a product line context, the project plans can relate to core asset development, product development, or activities that cross between them.

Application to Core Asset Development

Organizational plans strongly related to core assets include those for

And, as is the case with technical (or project) plans, the organizational plans themselves (or parts of the plans) make fine core assets. Ideally, reusable plans should be tailorable in the same fashion as other core assets–that is, they have defined points of commonality and variability. Cost, effort, and schedule estimates may be useful candidates, particularly for reuse, as are work breakdown structures, goals, strategies, and objectives.

Application to Product Development

Typically, product development planning is handled below the organization level. Organizational planning would primarily provide constraints and priorities to guide project planning. Specifically, that might include

Example Practices

Some characteristics of a good planning process and good plans are described in the "Technical Planning" practice area. These characteristics are equally applicable to organizational planning.

Practice Risks

The primary risk is that the organization may fail to identify and effectively plan the activities that require organization-level planning, resulting in a muddled product line effort that will fail to meet its goals and expectations. Other risks cited in the "Technical Planning" practice area are also relevant to organizational planning.

Further Reading

[Clements 2005a]
Clements, Jones, McGregor, and Northrop discuss project management in a software product line organization.

[SEI 2006a]
CMMI for Development, V1.2 provides guidance about project planning.

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