Project Initiation: A Guide to Starting a Project the Right Way
It’s common knowledge that in all walks of life, a strong start can significantly increase the chances of achieving success. From tall skyscrapers to a football game, everything requires a strong foundation and managing projects is no different! All projects start with high hopes and a motivated team. However, if they are not initiated correctly, the threat of reeling off-course and ending up directionless remains looming throughout the project life cycle.
Initiation is the first phase of the project management lifecycle and is often considered the most important. In the following sections, you’ll learn more about the importance of the project initiation process and the steps you should take to ensure the success of your project.
Before going into the details of the project initiation phase, it’s better to discuss the five phases of project management. All projects are temporary endeavors which means they have a specific timeframe and a lifecycle. For simplicity and better control, project managers divide the entire project into five distinct phases that are interconnected and have their own start and end-points.
The five phases of the project life cycle are:
- Project initiation
- Project planning
- Monitoring and control
- Project closure
What is project initiation and why is it important?
Project initiation is the first phase of the project management life cycle and in this stage, companies decide if the project is needed and how beneficial it will be for them. The two metrics that are used to judge a proposed project and determine the expectations from it are the business case and feasibility study.
Major decisions that establish the direction and resource requirements, like the project charter and selecting the stakeholders, are made during this phase. The stakeholders arrive at a clear objective to ensure everyone stays on the same page in terms of how the project should proceed.
There will be multiple checks during and after the execution to prevent miscommunication and to ensure the project stays on track throughout its course. However, precious time and resources might get wasted which is undesirable.
Effective project management requires you to maximize benefits and minimize costs while delivering ‘value’ to the customer. Having a clear objective helps you achieve all this.
What are the steps in the project initiation process?
Now that we have established what project initiation is and why it is so important, it’s time to see how effective managers initiate their projects. Here are the key steps in initiating a project process:
Creating a business case
The business case is an important document that explains how the project’s goals align with the company’s long-term plans. This document explains why should the company spend its technical, financial, and human resources on the specific project.
An ideal business case does not talk about any technical details of the project and focuses solely on the business aspects. It is made to convince the upper-management to approve the project and answers their concerns related to possible financial and business-related risks.
Conducting a feasibility study
After the approval of the business case, the next step is to determine the likelihood of the project’s success after considering all the factors. This study identifies the high-level constraints and assumptions of the project and decides whether the project is worth it or not.
Establishing a project charter
The project charter is perhaps the most comprehensive and important part of the project initiation process. It answers the 3 Ws to identify the scope/objective, team members, and the possible timeframe of the project.
The charter is, in some ways, the first document of the project that identifies the necessary details like the goals and the constraints of the project. It also identifies the project scope and lists the required resources for the completion of the project.
Identifying stakeholders and making a stakeholder register
Communication and negotiations are a huge part of effective project management and a large part of a project manager’s time is usually spent dealing with stakeholders. PMBOK identifies stakeholders as anyone who can be influenced or has an influence on the project. Stakeholders can either be internal or external and each type has its own communication requirement.
It’s the responsibility of the project manager to ensure the means and frequency of the communication with each stakeholder according to their influence and interest in the project. A common practice is to maintain a stakeholder register or a stakeholder map to decide the frequency and means of communication for each stakeholder according to their influence and interest in the project.
Learn how effective project communication can be done with the stakeholders.
Assembling the team and establishing a project office
No project can be started without a project team. Assembling a working project team and assigning them roles and responsibilities is a vital part of the project initiation phase. Assigning roles and responsibilities early on also increases the overall accountability of the entire team and can help you as a manager in the later phases of the project life cycle.
After performing everything, it’s a good practice to review the entire project initiation stage to ensure you missed nothing. In later stages, you’ll continue reviewing your work as monitoring and controlling is one of the five phases of the project management life cycle.
After the project initiation process is completed, you’ll have to plan the entire project to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible. To facilitate you and your team during the entire project management life cycle, there are multiple innovative tools and software available in the market.
Nowadays, project management professionals are favoring cloud-based SaaS software tools like Kissflow Project that can help you with each aspect of your project and can be accessed from anywhere. With its powerful analytical and reporting tool, you’ll always be on top of all your projects. Try Kissflow Project for free.
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