After many years of managing project managers in various technology companies, I am always amazed at how many project managers struggle to get a project off the ground. They are given a project and don’t know how to move it forward. This can lead to them being stuck for weeks or months. Could it be that the project managers don’t understand the assignment or aren’t familiar with the technology used. None of these excuses is valid or relevant. However, project managers feel overwhelmed by the task’s complexity and lack of clarity. They don’t know how they should start the first step, and end up wasting precious time towards the end of their project. I understand that it can be overwhelming to have too many unknowns at the start of a project. However, if you have a clear plan on how to get your project started you will be able quickly to put your project into motion and get off to an excellent start.
How do you get a project off the ground? It’s easy to organize a kick-off meeting for your project as soon as possible. This will help you gather basic information about the project. Invite representatives from all stakeholders, including business experts, management, and members of your development team. This meeting will be used to discuss the project and begin high-level planning. These are the key points to consider when planning this type of meeting.
Meeting Objectives: What are we trying to achieve at the conclusion of this meeting?
Project Objectives: What are our goals for this project?
Project Approach: Define the main components or phases of the project. What is expected during the project? Are we following a specific method?
Deliverables: Document and discuss the expected deliverables for the project to avoid any misunderstandings.
Project Team: You may want to create an organization chart for your project that includes the main stakeholders, steering committee members, and subject matter experts.
Roles and Responsibilities: It’s a good idea also to identify the primary responsibilities for each role within the project team. This will help you establish expectations right from the beginning.
Change Control: Define the process to manage change, particularly scope change.
Communication Plan: Define the communication plan for the project: Status reports, frequency of meetings and project portal.
Risks: Identify the most significant project risks. This should be done as a mini-risk assessment session.
High-level requirements: This is an important part of the meeting. You can gather a high-level description for each requirement in a few lines. It is important that each requirement be identified with an identification number (or ID) and, if possible, with a priority indicator such as high, medium, or low. I have used a PowerPoint table to capture requirements in a meeting so that everyone can see them when they are projected on a large screen.
Timeline: Make a tentative timeline, but let everyone know that it will need to be confirmed once the detailed project schedule has been completed.
Depending on the project size, a meeting like this can take anywhere from a few hours up to two full days. You will notice that you have accomplished your main objective of clearly delineating the project and have enough information to complete your Project Charter documentation. If you are using agile methods, you can then move on to the detailed requirements phase or to your first “sprint” cycle.