Project Initiation

Project Initiation - "Let's Get This Party Started"

One of the first steps in the project process is the project initiation. During the project initiation process, validate that the project charter and proposal document clearly define a project that best fits the customer’s goals and objectives.

It’s important to have an approach for clearly identifying the measurable benefits that will result from completing the project.

Following the sign-off of the Project Proposal, the actual project ramp-up can begin.  Here are some suggested activities for the initial steps to be followed on a well-managed project.  Client requirements, the specific nature of the project, and other project variables will almost always necessitate project specific implementation variations, but the tasks as outlined should form the basis for the eventual implementation approach.

Request Job Number Setup from Accounting

To ensure timely project invoicing, it is critical that a job number be assigned as early as possible.  Fill out the Job Number Request Form and send it to Accounting.  Accounting will provide you with the new job number.

Start Project Management File

This file should include the Job Arrangement Letter, the Professional Service Agreement, and any Requests for Proposal from the client, any relevant correspondences, and important background material.  The file will serve as a repository for all ongoing materials relating to the project including Status Reports, Meeting Minutes, Invoices, etc…  The Project Manager for every job should create a project file.  The Project Manager is also responsible for forwarding copies of all Invoices, project proposals, and PSAs to the Company Chief Financial Officer.

Review Project Checklist

Tools & Templates II provides a generic project checklist that should serve as a guide for the Project Initiation stage.  The list is divided into several sections including Work Area, Telephones, Network, and Office Supplies.  Certain aspects of this checklist may not be relevant to a specific project, and each project will likely bring additional items to be addressed, such as travel policy creation.  The list simply serves as a guide in the project initiation process, and should serve as a basis for a project specific checklist.

Create Orientation Binder

For larger, multi-phase projects, an orientation binder is often warranted.  This binder includes any material required to bring new team members “up to speed” on the project and outlines the specific procedures and guidelines of the project.  Tools & Templates II provides a generic outline of items that may be included in a new Project Orientation Binder.

Review/Confirm Project Vision

Ensure you have a clear vision of what you are trying to accomplish.  Without a clearly articulated vision, team members will be confused as to what you want them to do (Read: Role to choose/accept).  It is not possible to delegate and empower a team to achieve an ill-defined goal.  Therefore, the first step must be to review the vision formulated in the opportunity assessment effort and verify that this vision is still valid.

Identify Skills Required

Once the project vision has been established, create a list of roles that must be filled.  Review the project’s work breakdown structure and assess the skills required to create the project deliverables.  Do not confuse internal management roles/titles with project delivery skills.  For example, your best facilitator may have the worst technical skills.  If you need to facilitate technical requirements gathering, define a need for a technical architecture role and a facilitator role.  When contacting the staffing group, try to cross-reference the available staff with the required roles.  You may find that some roles require two people.

Obtaining the correct staff with the appropriate skills will reduce project anxiety.  It is important to not be afraid to augment staff with another team member possessing a specialized skill (facilitation) for an interim period of time.  The use of specialized staff will not only reduce project anxiety, but also serve to provide a learning experience for the staff.

Recognize Incentives

Project managers should try to identify the possible “wins” for each team member.  If team members are given proper incentive, and they are aware of their personal wins, it will be possible to achieve accelerated change.  It is important to get incentives aligned between clients, consultants, and contractors.

Allocate Resources

Resources are defined as all personnel and things required to achieve the stated project goal.  Failure to secure appropriate resources leads to high frustration levels.  Providing adequate workspace, equipment, and appropriately skilled staff is critical to project success.  Managers should identify any resource shortfalls and create a plan for filling the gaps.  In addition, be sure to communicate this plan to all affected/associated parties.

Establish Action Plans

“Develop a clear plan for action”.  This plan must ensure appropriate timing of resource acquisition in conjunction with the project goals.  A well-defined action plan is essential to communicating the project’s vision to the team members.  The failure to develop an action plan will result in multiple false starts and a loss of efficiency as dependant tasks may wait on preceding task completion.

Maintain Lines of Communication

A critical requirement for obtaining team member buy-in in alignment with client expectations is the clear and concise communication of the project’s vision, team member’s expectations, available resources, and the action plan.  The failure to communicate over the course of a project leads to a damaging divergence of expectations.

Select a Project “Coach”

For all projects at Company, a “Coach” should be identified that will serve as an outside resource providing guidance and direction as required by the Project Manager.  On smaller projects, this relationship will likely be very informal, and the Company Business Unit Leader (BUL) will likely fill the "Coach" role.  As Company grows and project sizes increase, this role will become more formal and experienced resources other than the BUL will likely be called upon.  It is ultimately, however, the responsibility of the Project Manager to identify the Coach for the project.

The Coach is intended to be a Company resource that can offer time as required by the Project Manager to discuss issues and aid in keeping the project on track.  The client should be aware of the Coach’s role, and understand that the Coach is part of Company’s process for ensuring project success.  Company does not bill for any time the Coach commits to the project, and Coaches will continue to place their highest priority on their own current project or organizational duties.

Project Kick-Off Meeting

Once an initial project team has been constructed, the Project Manager should hold a project kick-off meeting to discuss the future that lies before the project team and outline critical drivers, objectives, etc… that will be significant to all team members involved.  Below is a list of areas that should be addressed in this kick-off meeting:

  • Expectations of customer/user/sponsors – Deliverables & "The Journey”
  • Expectations of team members
  • Expectations of Project Manager
  • Project “rules”
  • Resources available
  • Project mechanics (e.g. control procedures, schedules, milestones, etc…)

Much like the other initiation tasks in this section, the formality of this meeting will greatly depend on the size and scope of the project.  In any case, it is a critical step in building the team, and empowering the team members.  By drawing the team into the “big picture” from the beginning, the Project Manager will increase buy-in and build the appropriate mechanisms for communication within the project team.

As new team members are brought into the project, an informal meeting should be held for the new member in order to minimize the ramp-up time of the team member.