California Educational Data Processing Association
DataBus - Vol. 38, No. 3
April-May, 1998
Tactical Planning--Turning Vision Into Reality

Implementation: Objectives, tasks and monitoring keep your plan on track.

George Sullivan, Northrop-Grumman

Editor's note: This is the second installment of a three-part series on Network Technology Planning. The first installment appeared in the December-January issue of the DataBus.

With the completion of the overall Strategic Technology Plan for your district and buy-in obtained from your superintendent, board, and other stakeholders the next step is to turn this plan into one or more "Projects" which implement your strategic plan.


In order to plan and execute a project you will need a firm grasp on the following concepts:

Objective - What the plan will accomplish and what it will not accomplish. It is extremely important to be clear, lest you foster false expectations. Your project might be installing category 5 wiring in a school. That's it, this is not a complete Local or Wide area network project, it is simply installing infrastructure. Only in conjunction with many other efforts do you have a complete network.

Task List - What will be done? Who will do it? And When will it be completed? The interrelationship of tasks is important here as well. Those of you who cook dinner for your families are good project managers. Some tasks are done in series, and some tasks are done in parallel towards the goal of a satisfying meal served in the proper way. You also learn to allocate resources such as burners on the stove, and food processors, etc. The principles learned here easily apply. If someone can use project management software, it should be used early. It will help manage the project, but more important the graphs produced will make the relationship between tasks clearer. In our wiring project the technical staff might check the blueprints for accuracy, a consultant might design the wiring plan, and a wiring contractor might do the work.

Resources - The plan should identify the resources needed. This should include resources currently available and those needed. The plan asks Who or What is needed, how long and the approximate cost. Remember! Diverting a resource owned by the district isn't free, include the cost implications. Don't figure "we pay that person to do that anyway!"

Project Budget - This is at once essential but almost always initially inaccurate. The costs will be tuned during the RFP process but try to stay within 10%. Potential vendors and colleagues who have done similar projects are excellent potential sources for estimates. At the very least your budget should identify the cost elements. Also, you should explicitly state the risks associated with project slippage both from a schedule perspective and a cost perspective.

Metrics - You grade your students, and project metrics are used to grade the Tactical Plan's effectiveness. These metrics can be divided into two categories: Those which judge the plan's performance and those which judge the effectiveness of the technology which the plan invokes. Why put yourself through this? "Nothing breeds success like success" As you work your tactical plan and your administrations see the results your credibility will rise and things go smoothly. Metrics you might include:

You can hedge your bets here. Set realistic time and expense targets. Estimation is an art and the way to perfect your form is practice. Look at cases where you were right and cases where you were wrong. Incorporate these lessons into this new exercise. You will get better!!!


In order to procure the needed resources you will have to write one or more RFPs--"Request For Proposals." This is a formal process where you communicate your needs to a group of potential vendors. It is important that your needs be expressed clearly and concisely. When the responses arrive they must be evaluated. It is wise to determine your evaluation criteria before sending out the RFP. In the case of complex proposals it is often wise to hire a consultant (such as Northrop Grumman) to assist in the evaluation. The committee doing the evaluation should represent the stake holders since each group has a different perspective.


One individual should be appointed to manage the project. There are three guides to managing the project:
  1. The Task List
  2. The Project Budget
  3. The Vendors' Statements of Work as contained in their contracts
Another important aspect of project management is vendor management. This insures that you are getting what you were promised, that the price is as stated, and that work is done in a manner and quality consistent with your requirements. The heart of this effort is the Acceptance Test Plan, which should be incorporated within the vendor's statement of work. In the case of a network or computer lab this test plan should exercise all of the features and functions outlined in the vendor's proposal and the product literature. The vendor is responsible for the performance of the systems supplied. The way to insure compliance is a "Hold Back" where 15 or 20% of the total payment owed the vendor is held back until the system or service passes the test.

It is important to report meaningfully on progress and costs while work is underway. As mentioned above project manager software makes this a simple task, but even a hand written report highlighting Tasks Accomplished, Tasks Remaining and budget left will update your boss and highlight potential problems. When the project is complete then the next step is to define an Operation Plan. This will be discussed in the third and final in this series on planning.

George Sullivan is Senior Network Architect at Northrop Grumman. Contact Bob Shupe, Major Accounts Manager at Northrop Grumman, for additional information or followup. He can be reached at (714) 838-9849, by FAX at (714) 838-7949, or by e-mail at [email protected].

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