The Right Way to Start the Project

How we start a new project engagement can sometimes set its course for either success or failure. It's a hard concept to grasp that how we kickoff a project now can actually have that much impact later on, but it can. Take heed and don't take the beginning phases of the project lightly - they may not represent the actual 'heads down' work on developing the final project solution but they definitely are the most important.

In my opinion, in order to get the project off on the right foot, these three things need to happen:

Get a business analyst assigned early.  Getting a resource such as a business analyst assigned to the project as early as possible - preferably the moment you are handed the project - can help take a load of work off the project manager. Early project engagement work is all about understanding the customer’s needs, requirements and business processes and these are all things that are well within the business analyst’s area of expertise. The business analyst is often the expert at working closely with the project sponsor or the customer subject matter experts (SMEs) to extract critical business requirements and the business processes that will be affected by the proposed project. It’s important to involve this resource as early as possible so the true path of the project can be laid out…and if there are changes to the perceived customer need and the real customer need, now is the time to document those and start introducing any necessary scope changes/change orders. It will be easier to do that right out of the gate then at mid-project when re-work and timeframe overruns will be necessary.

Kick it off with a formal session.  Some individuals and organizations don't like to do this or don't require it as part of the process, but it is an extremely important step in the project life cycle. Expectations are set, assumptions are confirmed, the schedule and project next steps get agreed to and the 'management' process for the project gets laid out and explained. Basically, the PM gets to let everyone know he's in charge and this is how he'll manage the project and if changes to that process need to be discussed, then now is the time because everyone will be too busy later.

Pass all early project detail up to your senior management.  Once the project has been formally kicked off, expectations are set and everyone knows what's happening next, then it's the proper time to start making your project visible to individuals up the chain of command within your organization. The more 'friends' you have above you for your project the easier it will be to find someone to help you if and when issues or resource needs come up on your project. You don't have to fight those battles alone - making your project visible to the right people can definitely help.

Summary

No specific early actions will guarantee success on a project. However, what action you do take and how you go about it can definitely play into that success factor. If you want to start off on the right path toward project success, you will want to follow take these three actions. You may want to or need to tailor them for your specific project size or budget, but do take them.

 

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

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