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Inception Phase

The overriding goal of the inception phase is to achieve concurrence among all stakeholders on the lifecycle objectives for the project. The primary objectives of the inception phase include:

  • Establishing the project's software scope and boundary conditions, including an operational concept, acceptance criteria and what is intended to be in the product and what is not.
  • Discriminating the critical use cases of the system, the primary scenarios of operation that will drive the major design trade-offs.
  • Exhibiting, and maybe demonstrating, at least one candidate architecture against some of the primary scenarios
  • Estimating the overall cost and schedule for the entire project (and more detailed estimates for the Elaboration Phase that will immediately follow)
  • Estimating potential risks (the sources of unpredictability)

The essential activities of the inception phase are:

  • Formulating the scope of the project. This involves capturing the context and the most important requirements and constraints to such an extent that acceptance criteria for the end product can be derived.
  • Planning and preparing a business case. Evaluating alternatives for risk management, staffing, project plan, and cost/schedule/profitability trade-offs.
  • Synthesising a candidate architecture, evaluating trade-offs in design, and in make/buy/reuse, so that cost, schedule and resources can be estimated.

The deliverables of the inception phase are:

Vision Document

The Vision Document is a general vision of the core project's requirements, and provides the basis for the more detailed technical requirements. The Vision captures very high-level requirements and design constraints, to give the reader an understanding of the system to be developed. It communicates the fundamental "why's and what's" related to the project and is a gauge against which all future decisions should be validated.

Use Case Model Survey

This report describes the use-case model. It gives an overview of the results of use-case modelling, and includes brief descriptions for every actor and use case. It is used to define the functional scope of the system.

Stakeholder Requests

This will contain any type of requests a stakeholder (customer, end user, marketing person, and so on) might have on the system to be developed. It also contains references to any type of external sources to which the system must comply.

Examples of external sources the Stakeholder Requests can refer to are:

  • Change Request (CR)
  • Statement of work
  • Request for proposal
  • Mission statement
  • Problem statement
  • Business rules
  • Laws and regulations
  • Legacy systems 
  • Business models
  • Any results from requirements elicitations sessions and workshops


The Glossary defines important terms used in the project, it is used to define terminology specific to the problem domain, explaining terms which may be unfamiliar to the reader of the use-case descriptions or other project documents. It is particularly important to developers, especially when they need to understand and use the terms that are specific to the project. Often, the Glossary can be used as an informal data dictionary, capturing data definitions so that use-case descriptions and other project documents can focus on what the system must do with the information.

Initial Risk Assessment

The risk list is designed to capture the perceived risks to the success of the project. It identifies, in decreasing order of priority, the events which could lead to a significant negative outcome. It serves as a focal point for project activities, and is the basis around which iterations are organised.

Business Case

The main purpose of the Business Case is to develop an economic plan for realising the project vision presented in the Vision Document. Once developed, the Business Case is used to make an accurate assessment of the return on investment (ROI) provided by the project. It provides the justification for the project and establishes its economic constraints. It provides information to the economic decision makers on the project's economic worth, and is used to determine whether the project should move ahead.

At critical milestones, the Business Case is re-examined to see if estimates of expected return and cost are still accurate, and whether the project should be continued.



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