01. An Introduction: NPR 7120.5

In an effort to better define and explain what requirements and procedures NASA Program and Project managers are required to adhere to, the following pages provide a concise view of each major component in NPR 7120.5E. To help understand how the original document was intended to be interpreted, this will focus on how each component applies to NASA programs and projects and not necessarily how each is to be executed in minute detail.

Digesting this information will provide a level of understanding to the reader in that one can speak more freely about procedures and requirements under the NASA program and project umbrella and the authority at which one may posses.

To start, its important to understand the hierarchy NASA has built into 7120.5, and what each component governs. This includes not only the difference between programs, projects, and their life cycles, but also approval, governance, appropriate roles, and technical authority and how they relate to NASA’s four part management process. This is what will be tackled first.

Overview of NASA’s Four Part Management Process

Space Flight Programs and Projects are executed within NASA’s four part management process, which starts with Formulation, Approval, Implementation, and ends with Evaluation. While only four parts, this process contains great breadth within each segment as to what’s expected and required to move to the next piece. It should be noted that this process is applicable to all NPRs.

Formulation – identifying if Agency’s strategic goals are met with program or project; its feasibility and risk; a variety of business strategies and requirements; criteria for measuring success; an industry analysis; project/program estimates of cost and schedules; and control systems to ensure performance of project/program fit Agency’s strategies.

Approval – the program/project has met Formulation requirements as dictated by the Decision Authority and can proceed into Implementation.  This approval commits the Decision Authority to a technical scope and schedule that rolls up to a time-phase cost plan necessary for Implementation.

Implementation – Plans for program/project are executed upon along with the usage of all control systems as outlined in the Formulation process, which align performance to the Agency’s strategic goals.

Evaluation – self and independent assessment that continues for life of program/project, with incorporation of findings, insuring performance is in accordance with Formulation plans and requirements.

Program vs Project – How does NASA define these? Its not as easy as you may think.