While every phase of a project is important, the first phase of the project management life cycle is generally considered to be the most critical – if something goes wrong early on, the rest of the project will be affected. In fact, many project failures can be traced back to mistakes or omissions that took place during the initiation phase.
Getting your project started on the right foot can save a tremendous amount of stress, time and money down the road. Whether you are new to the world of project management or are an experienced PM looking to enhance your skills, these strategies will help you stay up to date on industry best practices for project initiation.
Start with a Well-Defined Scope Statement
While it’s not the only element to consider during the initiation phase, your project scope statement should be your primary focus at the beginning of every project. Your scope document defines the purpose of the project and describes at a high level what different groups of stakeholders will responsible for doing over the course of the project. The elements listed below should be part of every scope document:
- A brief description of the business need the project is intended to address
- Descriptions of the project objectives and the deliverables that will satisfy them
- A list of acceptance criteria that the project deliverables must meet
- Any products or services that are specifically excluded from the project
Before you move forward, make sure that everyone involved in the project initiation, from sales personnel to senior managers, agree that the scope statement accurately describes the project.
Identify Project Stakeholders
Your scope statement will likely name project stakeholders using company names, department names and other general terms. Before work truly begins, try to identify the specific people (or at least specific roles or job titles) who will be working on the project, as well as those who will be approving or monitoring project tasks as they proceed. Some PMs find it helpful to collect the contact information of stakeholders at this time.
Typically, project managers should identify the roles and responsibilities of the following types of stakeholders:
- Executive sponsors and other key leaders
- Project and portfolio managers from each organization involved in the project
- Vendors or internal teams who will be completing deliverables
- Any other groups (employees, customers, business partners) who will not be actively involved in the project but need to be informed about it.
Ensure Resource Availability
Project managers at large organizations often struggle to find team members who have the right skill sets and are available at the right time. Using a robust project and portfolio management solution like Clarizen can take the uncertainty out of resource availability by helping you view current and future allocations across the entire company. The sooner you know about potential problems with availability, the easier it will be to adjust your project plan and set your project on the path to success.