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What is design maturity and why is it important to be able to understand it and measure it during the life-time of a project?

Author: Martin Paver Director at i3Works

Design starts (inception) from an outline business case in that it is carried out starting from a blank sheet of paper to achieve something tangible that will support options selection to help identify one or more preferred solutions.

The preferred option will then be developed further to what is know as a ‘concept design’ to a point that it can be cost estimated to support the business case; in some cases value management is also necessary such that the solution (and maybe modified requirements) aligns better with the business case.

On development projects, and as risk mitigation, it is sensible to do some up front activity (often known as front end development), such as finding a site and achieving outline planning permission for example, ensuring the customers requirements are understood, better defined and in doing so, engaging with key stakeholders. These are all the key tasks that are deemed necessary, such that without them being complete, the risk of proceeding into scheme design may not be acceptable.

Concept Design; it is important that the design is sufficiently mature across all disciplines to achieve confidence with respect to:

  1. Requirements
  2. Risk register
  3. Assumptions
  4. Cost estimate
  5. Contingency based on risk (2) and uncertainty

The above if done well should support the viability of the business case

Note if this isn’t the case; ‘Value management’ can be applied; this being a process of bringing into alignment the requirements with the business case.

So the level of maturity at concept phase surely has to be just sufficient to achieve the above with confidence. What’s more; that confidence must be tested at a formal sanction point involving the steering group, which basically asks the question:- ‘is this business case now founded on a viable solution that is supported by a level of confidence, such that 1 to 5 above can be approved for configuration’

So concept design culminates in just enough work to a level of design maturity that has been tested at sanction point, validates the business case and permits a configured base-line for the deliverables listed 1 to 5 above.

In terms of the RIBA Plan of Work www.ribaplanofwork.com this is completion of stage 2.