So you’re new to project management or want to take your processing to a new level? I can tell you that you will learn, improve and grow with every project you are taking care of but so you don’t have to start from scratch I wanted to share some of my pointers to take care of in order to avoid critical issues throughout your project phases.
Effort spent on the planning of a project will reduce the issues and stress you might encounter at later project phases and often such mistakes are costly – so why not get it right from the start whenever possible. Also please note that there are many project management and IT management methodologies out there but my hints here should be generic enough to add value to your project regardless of the governing processes.
Questions to Ask When Starting a Project
- What led to this project?
- Who had the idea?
- Who will benefit from it?
- What would happen if the project is not completed?
- Who is the user base of the product?
- Who are the stakeholders of the project?
- Who is the project sponsor?
- What results need to be produced? (consider SMART objectives)
- Measurable (or evaluable)
- Achievable (or possible to be approved)
- Realistic (technological or based on available resources)
- Time bound
- What are the constraints to take care of?
- Limitations: External restrictions
- Needs: Internal restrictions
- What assumptions are in place?
- What work has to be done? (WBS)
- Processes and steps that each activity consists of
- What are the inputs?
- What are the expected results?
- Interdependency and relationships to other technology / projects / services
- How long does each activity take?
- When does the project start?
- When should the project be completed by?
- Are there dependencies that might cause in-activity / delay?
- Is a certain software / technology / tool required for this project? Costs?
- Who will perform the project work?
- What are their roles? Skills?
- What is their capacity? (8h / day?)
- A baseline cost forecast can be prepared after completing a high level project overview with tasks and their planned duration
- Will there be project budget? How much? (even internal projects that don’t require sourcing / billing should have a man-day budget to be measured against)
- What could go wrong?
- What is the plan for an “emergency break” and when should it be triggered?
Super Lean Project Initiation Alternatives
I know that not every project is planned for years and involving many companies and stakeholders. Regardless of the value of full documentation I also believe in compact and lean documentation. For instance I enjoy the TurnAround one-pager that often is able to fully replace a PID in all it’s glory. The methodology for TurnAround project management is in German language but we have translated the template for you.
Here is a list of artifacts you should consider to prepare in order to manage a project through. The complexity of these might vary depending on the size of the project but you should never just discard all of those. I separated this list in essential and non-essential groups for you to better understand the priority of these.
Essential Project Documentation
- PID (Project Initiation Document) or Project Charter
- Project Management Plan
- Project Plan
- RAID Log (template)
- High Level Timeline
- BRD (Business Requirements Documentation)
- Low Level Solution Design (Delivered by developing party)
- Project Change Log
- Next Stage Plan (can be an update to the PID / explanation)
- Resource Ramp-up Plan (Human Resources and Skill Plan, no template yet)
- RACI Matrix
- Product Breakdown Structure (example webpage)
- Product Change Request
- Highlight Report (weekly, fortnightly, monthly report to stakeholder and sponsors)
- Lessons Learned Report
- Project Closure Document
Non-Essential Project Documentation
- Transition Plan
- Communication Plan
- Training Plan
- Product Flow Diagram
- Benefit Realization Report
- Disaster Recovery Plan
- End of Stage Report
- Exception Report
- End of Project Report
- Operation Acceptance Test Plan
- Meeting Minutes
- RFP (Request for Proposal)
- Cost Estimation Guide
- Vendor Management Information
- Project Approval Processing Information
I hope these pointers are of value to you. Explaining each and every artifact was a little too complex for just one article but I’m certain any kind of Google research for a particular document will bear fruits and most likely provide you with free templates to leverage in your work. A lot of these can also be managed within project management software such as Microsoft Project or maybe even a SaaS hosted in the cloud.
While there are heaps of helpful books on project management and best practices out there I want to highlight the ISO 21500 pocket guide by Van Haren Publishing. It’s a compact handbook and gives a lot of neat information. This one is almost permanently present on my desk – check it out. 🙂