Envision Service Management Function Overview

Published: April 25, 2008


Envisioning is the first step a project team takes to turn business requirements into a change in the IT infrastructure or into new IT services that can be delivered into production. It’s the process of unifying a team with a common vision and is a key requirement for ensuring a project’s success. A project team must have a clear vision of what it wants to accomplish and be able to communicate this vision in terms that motivate team members, their customers, and their stakeholders. The process of envisioning begins in the Plan Phase and concludes in the Deliver Phase.

During envisioning, project teams identify and analyze business needs and requirements so that they can begin planning a solution. That solution might be a single application, a full IT service, or an addition to or modification of existing IT infrastructure. The primary team role type driving envisioning is Product Management, whose main goal is to ensure that the customer’s identified business needs are addressed. More information about the Product Management role type, and other role types involved in the Envision SMF, can be found in the Envision SMF Role Types table that follows.

By creating high-level views of the project’s goals and constraints, envisioning serves as an early form of planning. It sets the stage for the more formal planning process that will take place during the project’s planning phase.

The guidance provided by the Envision SMF is designed to help:

  • Management choose the core project team and create the project structure document that specifies the roles and responsibilities of the team members.
  • The project team create the vision/scope document, perform a risk assessment, and complete the milestone review report.
  • The team members, customers, and stakeholders approve the milestone review report for the Vision/Scope Approved Milestone. At this milestone, the team, customers, and stakeholders agree on the overall direction of the project: the scope of features the project includes, the general timetable for delivering the project’s solution, and the risks associated with the project. After the Vision/Scope Approved Milestone, project teams continue to the planning phase.

Envision SMF Role Types

The primary team accountability that applies to the Envision SMF is the Solution Accountability. The role types within that accountability and their primary activities within this SMF are displayed in the following table.

Table 1. Project Accountability and Its Attendant Role Types

Role Type


Role in This SMF

Solution Manager

  • Accountable role
  • Owns all SMFs in this accountability
  • Acts as project director for all projects
  • Resolves conflicts between projects


  • Ongoing oversight

Program Manager

  • Drives design, schedule, and resources at the project level


  • Sets design goals
  • Describes the solution concept
  • Creates the project structure


  • Builds the agreed-to solution


  • Builds prototypes
  • Investigates development and technology options
  • Analyzes the project’s feasibility


  • Tests to accurately determine the status of solution development


  • Tests strategies
  • Tests acceptance criteria
  • Documents project implications

Product Manager

  • Acts as the customer advocate
  • Helps drive shared project vision
  • Manages customer expectations


  • Sets overall goals
  • Identifies customer needs
  • Determines project requirements
  • Produces the vision/scope document

User Experience

  • Acts as the user advocate on project teams
  • Helps define user requirements
  • Helps design to meet user requirements


  • Documents user performance requirements
  • Documents project test implications

Release Management

  • Evaluates the solution design
  • Documents operations requirements to ensure they’re met by the design
  • Creates a pilot, deployment plan, and schedule
  • Manages site deployment


  • Documents deployment implications
  • Documents operations management and supportability
  • Documents operations acceptance criteria

Operations Experience

  • Advocates for operations on the project team
  • Brings in operations experts as needed for detailed information
  • Coordinates with release management


  • Documents operations performance requirements

Test Manager

  • Owns all testing across all project teams
  • Develops testing strategy and plans
  • Ensures that best practice test methods are used


  • Ongoing oversight

Goals of Envisioning

The primary goals of envisioning are to form the core project team, prepare and deliver a vision/scope document that clearly communicates the project’s vision and the scope of that vision, and prepare a risk assessment. Table 2 shows the desired outcomes of the Envision SMF goals and lists measures that you can use to gauge how successfully you have achieved these goals after completing this SMF.

Table 2. Outcomes and Measures of the Envision SMF Goals



The vision and scope of the project are clearly documented and understood by the team and the customer.

  • No miscommunications and misunderstandings are found later on in the project.
  • The vision and scope remain largely intact throughout the project.
  • The vision/scope document is approved by the team and stakeholders.
  • Signoff on the Vision/Scope Approved Milestone occurs.

The project’s risks are clearly documented and understood by the team and the customer.

  • No unaddressed issues occur during the project.
  • Risk assessment is approved by the team and stakeholders.
  • Signoff on the Vision/Scope Approved Milestone occurs.


Key Terms

The following table contains definitions of key terms found in this guide.

Table 3. Key Terms




The customer is the person or organization that commissions and funds the project.

Interim milestone

Early progress indicators that segment large work efforts into manageable portions. The Deliver Phase suggests a set of interim milestones, but project teams should define their own interim milestones that make sense for their projects.


A project synchronization point. Major milestones mark the transition of a project from one phase to the next phase. They also transfer primary responsibility from one role to another role. The Deliver Phase service management functions (SMFs) correspond to major Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) milestones.


A view of the project’s vision limited by constraints such as time and resources. Solution scope describes the solution’s features and deliverables. Project scope describes the work to be performed by the team.


A coordinated delivery of technologies, documentation, training, and support that successfully responds to a customer’s business problem. Solutions typically combine people, processes, and technology to solve problems.


Stakeholders are individuals or groups who have an interest in the outcome of the project—although their goals and priorities are not always identical to the customer’s. Examples of stakeholders include departmental managers who will be affected by the solution, IT staff members who are responsible for running and supporting the solution, and functional managers who contribute resources to the project team.


The people who interact with the solution to perform their jobs.


Describes the fundamental goals of the solution.


This accelerator is part of a larger series of tools and guidance from Solution Accelerators.


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