1. Identify Your Stakeholders & Create a Project Charter
To most new project managers, the initiating process appears to be the simplest of all, but can often actually be the most difficult! Surprisingly, it can be very difficult to actually identify all of your ‘stakeholders’ on the project and even more difficult to define what each person’s expectations are. The term ‘stakeholder’ is often used in project management and simply refers to all the people who are involved or are affected by the outcome of the project (either positively or negatively).
Say, for example, that I launch a project to build a new house. The stakeholders for my project could include my spouse, my kids, my dog, my new neighbours, the general contractor, the local county/city building approvals board, the local utilities etc. All of these parties have an interest in my project and ultimately can potentially affect whether the project is a success or a failure. The job of a PM is to constantly manage your stakeholder’s expectations and make sure they are on-board with you. Never lose sight of the importance of making sure all your stakeholders are happy!
It is important at project initiation to get an understanding of the project scope, objectives and constraints. Project scope is one of the ’3 pillars of project management’. If you do nothing else, you must keep a handle on the ’3 pillars’ (the other 2 being cost and schedule which will be discussed later.) You must make sure that the project scope, including scope exclusions are formally documented. This will eventually form your project baseline and will allow changes in the scope to be managed.
At initiation, the document that is created (and becomes the formal approval to proceed) is the Project Charter. This is usually a fairly simple document which outlines the scope of the project, assumptions, constraints, high-level budget, schedule and also identifies the key stakeholders and project personnel. The Project Charter must be signed off by the person authorizing the project! The formal signing of the charter is an important first step in the project management process as it gives you the authority to commit resources to the project. Click here for a high quality Project Charter Template that will get you up and running in no time!
Different organizations have different standards for what is included in a Project Charter, but I often like to include my project scope statement right in the project charter. I base this on what works in actual practice and on the 80/20 rule. It is best to keep the number of documents small rather than create volumes of different documents that can often lead to confusion among your project team members.
Formal authority for a project typically comes from the “Project Sponsor” who is also one of your stakeholders. The project sponsor is usually the person who has the authority to give you the funds ($) to complete the project. You need to make sure your sponsor is always happy and informed! Make sure you identify your key stakeholders and also make sure you identify what project success looks like for each of them. If you can understand what their expectations are at the outset, that will go a long way to delivering a successful project. You will have a hard time delivering a successful project if you address the wrong problem or wrong need. You can most certainly succeed, however, if you clearly define the problem and ensure you are on the same page with all of your stakeholders.
Tip: Never surprise your sponsor. Make sure they are constantly ‘in-the-loop’ as to the goings on for the project. They shouldn’t be involved day-to-day, but need to be at an arms length to the project.