Larger projects definitely need time up-front to define and plan the work. If you do not adequately plan a small or medium project, the consequences will probably not be too drastic. You don’t have that same luxury in a large project. The planning process is very  important. But there are some things to consider before you even start planning. These activities would be a part of project initiation and the work is often overlooked.

When you are assigned as a project manager on a project, don’t forget the following.

Gather baseline information

Look for all the information that may already be available for this project. This includes any previous project deliverables, memos, emails, etc. In many cases, before the project begins, the sponsor must perform a cost/benefit analysis or  Business Case. All of this information should be gathered as a starting point for understanding the work.

Determine the initial approval process

Work with your manager and the project sponsor to understand the approval process for the Project Charter and any other initial project deliverables. For instance, you can determine the people that have to approve the Project Charter versus those that should just receive a final copy.

Discover high-level requirements

The project manager needs to have some understanding of the high-level requirements of the project before he can even begin to plan the work. The project manager is getting the essence of the project during initiation. You are not uncovering the detailed product requirements at this time. The detailed requirements will be further defined as a part of the project lifecycle once the project is approved.

Identify the key stakeholders

Your manager and the sponsor should have a pretty good idea of the appropriate project stakeholders. These are people and groups with an interest in the project. You need to understand these people and their interests to be able to gather the correct information for project planning. If possible you should also meet or talk with the stakeholders at this time to start to get an understanding or their interest and attitude about the project.

Estimate the resources you need for planning

Depending on the size of the project, the planning process can be time consuming. The project manager needs to quickly understand the resources needed for planning. This might be a part-time or full-time project manager, and it may require other resources as well.

When a project manager gets assigned to a new project he needs a set of initial activities to get grounded and start to understand the nature of the project. These five activities will help you gain context and prepare you for the planning process.


Project Quickstart – Another Way to Define your Project

TenStep can quickly guide you through the project definition process. In one facilitated sessions we uncover project objectives, scope, deliverables, risks, assumptions, constraints, organization, approach, etc.  By the end of the session you will have:

  • Project Charter
  • High-level Milestone schedule
  • Project Management Procedures

Whether you are starting a crucial project, or just need general help with all projects, TenStep Consulting Services can help you get started right. Click here for more information.