You’ve secured budget and stakeholder buy-in, and you’re ready to embark on a project that provides immense value to your organization. You think that with the hard parts over, everything from here on out will be smooth sailing. But without dedicating extra TLC to the project initiation phase, your hard work getting the green light may all have been for naught.
Careful project planning and management is key to successfully taking your project from approval to deployment and creating value for your business and customers. Success starts with strong project initiation and ends with you elevated to Superhero status! Here are 4 steps to ensure a killer project initiation.
Step 1: Have a plan
One of the toughest decisions when starting a new project is deciding what technology to use. With innovative technologies emerging every day, the options can be overwhelming. Putting a project plan together before a kick-off meeting will save you time and prevent headaches when all systems are ready to go. It’s better to brainstorm now when all you have to lose is a proof of concept or a prototype than it is to second guess yourself when you’re on the clock.
Step 2: Identify the team
Before you create a project timeline, you need to build a high performing Scrum team. Take the time to assign roles and clarify responsibilities. When you do, you should be clear about who is responsible for delegation and planning, communicating with the stakeholders, owning the work, and testing the work. Your Scrum team must be able to work independently to avoid creating bottlenecks once the project has started. Once you’ve identified the team, start asking these questions:
- Who can be available for the duration of the project?
- What other responsibilities will draw their attention away from the goals you’ve set?
- How much time can they expect to be available per week?
With the plan you created in step 1, and a solid team with clearly defined roles, you can move on to the next step.
Step 3: Set a deadline
Now that you’ve identified the puzzle pieces, it’s time to put it all together. Here are three questions that will help you determine your final deadline:
- What are the external deadlines that will influence the project?
- Given the project plan, how much time will the work take?
- Does the Scrum team you’ve assembled have the capacity to support this work or should you seek additional help before the kick-off meeting?
Use the team’s availability and strengths to ensure that goals can be met in a timely manner. Set milestones along the way so you can communicate progress with stakeholders.
Step 4: Communicate the plan with the whole team
This step is the key to a successful project initiation. Having answered the questions above, you’ll be prepared to communicate the plan with the whole team. We recommend the following two tools: a project charter and an in-person kick-off meeting. The charter will serve as a helpful resource throughout the project, and the in-person meeting is necessary to ensure that all parties understand its contents. The following topics should be covered in your document and reviewed in your meeting:
- The project objectives
- Any assumptions or risks that you’ve identified in the planning process
- The team and each member’s responsibilities
- Working agreements, like the communication plan and the rules each member, must follow to ensure a smooth flow of work
- Deliverables, specifying the standards that must be met for the work to be considered “done”
- Schedule, listing specific milestones and deadlines you have agreed to meet
Being able to call your project a success depends on the foundation you build at the outset. Putting careful thought and consideration into the project initiation paves the way to clear goals and expectations, smooth collaboration, and mitigated risks. One great tool for better planning is a standardized document that guides you and your team through all the phases of a Scrum project. Starting with this Scrum-planning framework can help you and your team anticipate bumps in the road before they turn into major obstacles.