Planning – Lessons Learned

Below is a list of lessons learned relating to Planning, taken from a selection of recently completed programmes and projects across the NICS.

Issue 1 - Despite the relatively new concept the team were working on, a good foundation was provided by a strong knowledge base and appropriate technical support. Lessons were learnt from previous project experience of a similar nature.

Recommendation 1 - When planning a project, it is important to seek out lessons from similar projects. Beginning with senior and technical staff knowledgeable in the field provides sound foundations for the project.

Issue 2 - Constant review of project plan enabled exit activities to be rescheduled and a continual flow of exit activities to continue, but legal discussions resulted in less time to complete the exit of services and required replanning and condensed timeframes. Exit team had no control over service area procurements including revised timeframes. 

Recommendation 2 - Project plans should be developed at an early stage and monitored throughout the life of the project. The plan should be ‘owned’ by the Authority and contain sufficient contingency to cope with unforeseen circumstances.

Issue 3 - Documentation and guidance work (including staff guidance) takes much longer than previously anticipated due to the technical nature of the subject and links to other documents and pages.

Recommendation 3 - Early scoping of the detail and complexity involved in these tasks is key.

Issue 4 - Planning for new system integration not started early enough. Business units underestimated the complexity of integrating the new system with the legacy system, despite reverting to a standard interface. There was a delay in implementation of the new system.

Recommendation 4 - Identify and escalate key interdependencies and likely constraints for critical systems at an early stage.

Issue 5 - Manufacture of the various sub-components was carried out across several locations, and this sometimes proved to be difficult logistically. 

Recommendation 5 - Although it was generally agreed that it would not have been possible to create a single facility, it was felt that the logistics for multi-location delivery could have been better planned. Time should be taken early in a programme to consider this.

Issue 6 - Critical technical issues can arise when two different suppliers are working on an interface between two systems.

Recommendation 6 - These issues must be ironed out before user testing can commence. There should always be a system test carried out between the suppliers prior to handover for UAT.

Issue 7 - The new infrastructure provider was not involved in the build of the service which meant that all knowledge of the service was gained solely through knowledge transfer sessions and resulted in no post-transition service design prepared in advance.

Recommendation 7 - Any new infrastructure provider should be involved in the build of infrastructure or knowledge transfer sessions with the new infrastructure provider should commence early so that that there is a clear understanding of the environments to be supported and a service design and plans are in put in place.

Issue 8 - Design of facilities not future proofed to accommodate advances in technology.

Recommendation 8 - Utilise space at design stage to maximise potential for usage of facilities. Consider IT containment and future-proofing to take into account changes to technology and expectations.

Issue 9 - There were difficulties in obtaining on-site access due to busy on-site calendars and time required for cabling and technology refresh.

Recommendation 9 - Proactively agreeing with site managers a rollout schedule and prioritising site spaces to be upgraded. This involved Business Managers agreeing locally access and move of site business to alternative locations.

Industry guidance/ further reading

PRINCE2, Managing successful projects with PRINCE2, 6th edition (2017), chapter 9.

APM, APM Body of Knowledge, 7th edition (2019), chapter 4.

Commercial Delivery Group’s Programme and Project Management hub: Programme and project planning | Department of Finance (

Related articles

Back to top