Boundaries process


The delivery phase of smaller projects may not be divided into stages. The delivery phase of more complex projects and all programmes will be divided into stages or tranches respectively.

The initial impression of a boundaries process may be that it all takes place between the end of one stage or tranche and beginning of the next stage or tranche. In reality it is rarely that clear cut. In programmes, tranches of work often overlap and even in projects where stages are sequential, the activities will span the end of one stage and the beginning of the next.

In some cases successive stages or tranches may be largely a continuation of the same type of work. In others they may represent a step change in the type of work being performed necessitating changes to the management infrastructure and new resources. The process described below will need to be tailored to suit but the main goals of managing boundaries will always be to:

  • conclude a stage or tranche in a structured way;
  • prepare for the next tranche or stage.


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The links between the activities are purely indicative. Where stages or tranches overlap, it may be that mobilising later work comes before the closure of earlier work. This is very much a process that must be tailored to the context of the project or programme.

The manager and sponsor should work together closely throughout this process to ensure the smooth transition from one tranche or stage to the next, or possibly terminate the work early if the business case no longer provides justification.


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Close and review previous tranche/stage

Closing a stage or tranche may be as simple as reviewing performance, updating and archiving the relevant delivery documentation. In more complex contexts the conclusion of a stage or tranche may involve demobilising some parts of the project or programme and mobilising new resources.

Common sense dictates that any new work should be planned taking into account the experience gained from the work done so far. The closure of a tranche or stage should include a review of lessons learned, estimating accuracy, effectiveness of risk responses, stakeholder satisfaction, actual vs. planned performance and so on.

The link from this activity to assemble documentation in the process diagram indicates that the documentation pack submitted to the sponsor should demonstrate how plans for the next tranche or stage have taken performance to date into account.


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Plan next tranche/stage

Where stages and tranches are employed, the planning done during the definition process will normally take the rolling wave approach. Therefore, this activity is primarily about taking the high level project or programme delivery plans and expanding the detail for the next stage or tranche of work.

Looking at the three main areas of documentation in more detail:

  • Project or programme management plans

  • In most cases the policies and procedures that describe the governance of the project or programme will not need to be changed from stage to stage or tranche to tranche. However, there may be circumstances where the environment changes significantly at a boundary and therefore, changes are necessary to some management plans.

  • Business case

  • At a stage boundary (i.e. within a project) the project business case should simply need an update based on the latest information and new planning detail.

    Tranches usually have their own business case that is a justifiable subset of the main programme business case. A new tranche business case will be prepared and the main programme business case updated accordingly.

  • Delivery documents

  • The management team must decide whether stage or tranche delivery documents are simply a continuation of the existing project or programme delivery documents or whether new documents are created. This depends entirely on the context and may be consistent across all functions. For example, a stage may have its own risk register but share its stakeholder register with the project as a whole. Tranches are more likely to have their own set of delivery documents to align with the tranche business case.

All the planning work within this activity should use the experience gained from managing previous stages and tranches to improve the quality of the new or revised plans.


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Assemble documentation

The purpose of this activity is to prepare a submission to the sponsor with the objective of having the next stage or tranche authorised.

Care must be taken to provide essential documentation that is not burdened with unnecessary detail. For example, documents that are unchanged since any previous authorisation need not be resubmitted but a note to confirm the lack of change is advisable. Changes to management plans should be summarised rather than resubmitting the changed documents in their entirety.

Detailed delivery documentation will be summarised into delivery plans. Where the delivery plans are produced on a rolling wave basis it will be necessary to submit the stage or tranche plans in full but only summarise the changes to the top level project or programme delivery plans. A similar approach will be taken with the business case(s).


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In smaller projects the great majority of mobilisation work will be performed earlier in the life cycle. For larger projects or programmes it may be more efficient to mobilise different resources on a stage by stage or tranche by tranche basis.


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Pre-authorisation work

The conclusion of all planning work before the commencement of any delivery work on the next stage or tranche is sometimes impractical. Specialist materials or equipment may be required that are subject to long lead times; selecting suppliers through competitive tender may need to start early; applying for statutory or regulatory approvals can be time consuming.

In parallel with planning, the management team should identify any necessary pre-authorisation work that should be done before it is fully authorised. The cost of placing provisional orders for materials or initiating a tendering procedure must be weighed against the risk that the next stage or tranche is not authorised.

The performance of pre-authorisation work should be planned and agreed with the sponsor. The completion of this work must be reflected in the plans but the fact that pre-authorisation work has been completed should not be an influencing factor in judging the continuing viability of the business case when the request for authorisation is made.


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Projects and programmes

The principles of managing boundaries does not vary greatly according to the complexity of the work. The only significant factor is whether the stages and tranches are serial or parallel. In a less-complex project with a small number of stages, they will typically be serial. As one stage comes to a conclusion the next is being started.

On larger more complex projects, the stages may overlap and in a programme the tranches are usually performed in parallel.

This is because stages tend to reflect areas of work that are naturally sequential for technical reasons, whereas tranches are created for managerial reasons such as quick wins or distributing the impact of change management on business as usual.


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