In a previous blog, “Imagine Cup 2010: Cool Projects, how do you get started on Imagine Cup 2011”, I would like to make it clear, the Opening event 12 (sam stokes)Millennium Goals are guidelines for your project, it not required that you follow these specific goals.  Your technology solutions needs to have a clear problem statement and goals.  This is the same for any project that you work on as a software designer or architect.  In some jobs, you may work on an as need requirement, but that usually means that you create the problem statement and goals on the fly.

Since I enjoy ocean sports I am going to start off with doing a simple problem statement and goals.

Objective: Trash that flows down to the Ocean (Environmental Sustainability)

Well that is a pretty general statement, and I can do pretty much anything I wish at this time, if I want to, I could use a magic wand to make the trash go away.  In the real world, we may find that there is an extreme shortages of magic wands.  Our project problem statement might look like:

Determine the cost of magic wands from three different companies that manufacture magic wands

Nope, that isn’t a problem statement, it is a goal.

Try again at the problem statement:

Stop 100% of all trash that flows from the land into the sea

This problem statement is measurable, states the object or objects (trash) that our project will control or fix.  The problem statement also has a verb (flows in this case) and indicates what we improve, change or repair.

Now we have a problem with our problem statement: What is trash, flow, land, sea? 

There are general definitions for these words, but where do we get these definitions? 

Let’s state for now that these words will be defined for http://www.dictionary.com

However, there is another problem that that is the verb “flow”.  Even if we know what the definition of “flow” is, there are civil engineering definitions.  For now let’s state that the “flow” is anything coming out of the pipe on the beach except for fresh water.  Let’s leave the definitions for now, as you may have guessed, fresh water would need to be defined as well.  In a real project document, you should keep a glossary of the terms as you use them.  Then when you do the documentation for your customer, you can attach the glossary to any proposals, etc.  Use a word processor, notepad, or other file structure , then you can just keep it on your computer, update it when you use a new word.

Now we can create a project goal, and we  already to have one:

Determine the cost of magic wands from three different companies that manufacture magic wands

The problem with this is that it isn’t measurable, that is, there is no completion date, you may make a change so it reads like this:

Determine the cost of magic wands from three different companies that manufacture magic wands in 5 workdays from the start of the project

Ok, good, now it is measurable and it is measured from the start of the project.  You need to assign this to someone on your project, when the assignment or task is given to someone and they confirm that they have taken on the assignment or task, that will make this goal actionable and someone is responsible.

Now that you have a problem statement and a goal.  Once you get the information, what will you do with it?  This is a milestone.  A milestone is a type of goal with zero time.  In this case, when you have the three prices you will need to put the data somewhere, for now put it in a folder named project.

In the next blog post, I will talk about how you use Excel to create project tracking.  For the Imagine Cup, you won’t get paid, unless you win, but it is a good idea to keep precise track of your time to do things.  This is important experience.  Let me say that again: Tracking the time you do is important.  What does important mean?  It means you need to track your time using a timesheet.  This is what managers do, they estimate how much time it takes to do things.  Nothing happens in zero time outside of milestones, and venture capitalists want to know how long it takes to do something.