Project Definition & Initiation
The purpose of Project Initiation is to evaluate proposed projects and to reach a consensus on the projects to be selected. During Project Initiation, the Project Charter is presented, and the strength of a project’s Business Case and the viability of the proposed solution are evaluated. A determination is made as to whether the project is consistent with the institution’s business and/or strategic plan, and if the Project Planning (High Level) budget is affordable.
The Project Charter process may actually be part of the budget cycle, serving as the justification for budget requests. In this case, Project Charters may need to be created a full budget cycle prior to the project’s anticipated initiation.
Each organization has its own approach to green-lighting desired projects. There are some general principles, however, that apply to any effective evaluation and selection process:
The purpose of Project Planning (High Level) is to begin to define the overall parameters of a project and to establish the appropriate project management and quality environment required to complete the project. The major deliverable for this process is the Project Initiation Plan.
- The deciding body must have enough information about the merits of the project’s Business Case and the viability of its Proposed Solution to make a meaningful evaluation.
- The selection process must take into consideration the project’s fit with the organizational mission and strategic plan, and be prioritized against other projects.
Development of the Project Initiation Plan is a pivotal starting point for the project that will serve as the foundation for all future efforts. The completion of this process is marked by the sign off and approval of the Project Initiation Plan.
Successful projects begin with a detailed project definition that is understood and accepted by Stakeholders. Putting everything down in writing helps ensure a commitment among Project Team members and between the team and the Stakeholders. As part of Project Planning (High Level), a Project Initiation Plan is developed which is comprised of the business case (refined from the Charter), overall goal, specific objectives, success criteria, scope, high level schedule, stakeholder accountabilities, the communication plan, benefits and costs, governance and resource plan, the management approaches and a high level risk plan These documents, once approved, ensure a consistent understanding of the project, help to set expectations, and identify resources necessary to move the project to the next level of detailed planning. Potential problems are identified so that they can be addressed early in the project.
One of the primary deliverables of the Project Initiation Plan is a high-level Project Schedule that includes a list of all the Key (Major) Deliverables and Milestones for the project. This is the basis for the high level Budget. It is developed as the roadmap for Project Planning (Detail Level) and Project Execution and Control. This high-level schedule will be refined continuously over time, and will serve as the primary source of information regarding project status and progress. An accurate, realistic, and complete schedule, rigorously maintained, is essential to the success of a project.
Sponsorship of the project and the assignment of the Project Manager must be confirmed or gained during Project Planning (High Level). Having a Project Sponsor and/or Project Director, and securing approval early in the project management lifecycle, helps to ensure a commitment to the project. The assignment of the Project Manager will provide the management needed to develop the High Level Plan and manage the entire project cycle.
The purpose of Project Design (Detail Level) is to define the exact parameters of a project and ensure that all the pre-requisites for Project Execution and Control are in place.
Project Design (Detail Level) builds upon the work performed during Project Design (High Level). The project definition and scope are validated with appropriate Stakeholders, starting with the Project Sponsor and/or Project Director, and Customer Decision-Makers. The Triple Constraints – Project Scope, Budget, and Schedule – are refined and confirmed, and risk assessment activities advance to the mitigation stage. The Project Design (High Level) deliverables – the components of the Project Initiation Plan are further developed, enhanced, and refined until they form a definitive plan for the rest of the project.
Additional Project Team members are brought on board and familiarized with the project objectives and environment.
Project sponsorship and commitment are re-confirmed at the end of Project Design (Detail Level), with approval signifying authorization to proceed and commit funds for Project Execution and Control.
Project Design (Detail Level) is an opportunity to identify and resolve any remaining issues and answer outstanding questions that may undermine the goals of the project or threaten its success. It is an opportunity to plan and prepare, as opposed to react and catch up.
The purpose of Project Execution is to develop the product or service that the project was commissioned to deliver. Typically, this is the longest part of the project management lifecycle, where most resources are applied.
Project Execution utilizes all the plans, schedules, procedures, and templates that were prepared and anticipated during prior work. Unanticipated events and situations will inevitably be encountered, and the Project Manager and Project Team will be taxed to capacity to deal with them while minimizing impact on the project’s Triple Constraints.
The purpose of Quality Control is to monitor project results to ensure compliance with the appropriate established quality standards and to eliminate causes of non-compliance.
Quality is enforced through Control Documents; for example, Scope Statements, Requirements Documents, Functional Specifications Documents, Performance Specifications, and Documentation requirements themselves. These forms of documentation establish a foundation for the control of a project. When agreed to by all stakeholders, they ensure processes are followed and products are delivered to requested and specified requirements. Quality is maintained and controlled by the adherence to the contents of these documents.
Quality Control is administered and stipulated throughout the project lifecycle.
The purpose of Project Transition is to assess the project and derive any lessons learned and best practices to be applied to future projects.
Project Transition begins with a Post-Implementation Review. The review may start with a survey designed to solicit feedback on the project from the Project Team, Customers, Consumers and other stakeholders. Once feedback has been collected and evaluated, an assessment meeting is conducted to derive best practices and formulate lessons learned to inform future efforts. Ideally, the best practices and lessons learned should be stored in a centralized organizational repository, facilitating access and retrieval by managers of future projects.
Project Transition ends with administrative closeout – providing feedback on Project Team members, updating the skills inventory, capturing key project metrics, and filing all pertinent project materials into the project repository.
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