Getting a project off the start line
Starting a project can be overwhelming and daunting. Often a project has come from a great idea or a real business need to improve something, but when faced with the reality of actually delivering you realise just how many unknowns there are.
Our team at Easyprojecthub has managed lots of projects over the years from small business process changes to major banking programmes. We’ve got our heads together and collated our top tips for starting a project. We find that it really helps to make a note of some key things:
#1 What is the background to the project?
The project could have come about for any number or reasons, so try to articulate what these are.
Hint: Are there…
- Problems with the way things are working?
e.g. existing IT systems don’t work / business processes are not efficient / there is too much data and it is not being managed well
- Something new that means the current way of working needs to change?
e.g. expanding business that carries out new functions / change in personnel / rationalisation of business
- Regulatory or other external changes being imposed on your business
#2 What are the objectives of your project?
The objectives of the project are the main outputs that you want from the project. It’s good to make sure your objectives are specific and realistic, not wishy-washy. It can also be helpful to get someone not involved to review what you’ve written as it might be clear to you, but not to someone with no background knowledge.
For example, if you are implementing a set of new policy documents for use of social media in the business you may include:
- New social media policy documentation completed for Europe
- Social medial policy documentation updated on all sites where it is stored for Europe
- Communication to all employees in Europe completed
#3 What does success look like?
It’s great if you can define what success looks like. Clearly you want to deliver your objectives, but you will probably also have some success criteria like:
- Delivering the project within budget
- Streamlining existing processes or standardising the way things are done
- Getting rid of old and costly systems
- Bringing the organisation up-to-date
- Reducing headcount or increasing productivity
#4 Who are the team?
You can put together a table or organisation chart that defines who is involved and what their role in the project is. If you haven’t figured this out yet, now is a good time to work out what resources you need to get the job done. Having the right people on the team will ultimately make the difference between success and failure, and often the difference between having fun along the way or not.
You’ll have a project manager, but there are some other roles that can help things go smoothly:
- Project sponsor (who the project is being delivered for)
- Stakeholders (interested parties)
- Business analyst (interfaces between the business and project)
- Technical lead (responsible for technical tasks)
- Third party lead (if you have a third party organisation involved)
#5 Figuring out the scope
The main scope is to deliver the objectives of the project, however it can be useful to be specific about what is in-scope and, just as importantly, what is out-of-scope.
- Is your business split into regions geographically? Are all of these in-scope?
- Do you have different functions in your business (HR, Finance, Manufacturing, IT etc)? Are all of these in-scope?
- Are there specific business processes that are in-scope? Are there closely linked processes that you are not going to work on i.e. that are out-of-scope?
- How about IT systems? Which ones are affected and which aren’t you going to do anything with?
#6 What is the timescale for the project?
It’s good to have an intended timescale for the project at the start, even if this is refined as you go along.
A great way of getting a timescale is to write down all of the key milestones or big activities that you are expecting to deliver and work out how long each one is likely to take. You can even put them on a timeline or into a spreadsheet or project plan to help visualise.
#7 Are there any risks, assumptions or dependencies that you want to make a note of?
It might be that you have known risks at the start of the project, such as technology that you are reliant on that might not work as expected. You may also have made some assumptions or have dependencies, for example on other parts of the business to supply resource to your team.
If you make a note of these at least others will be aware of the overall picture.
#8 Budget or finance
Just like the project timescale, it is good to have a budget in mind and understand where that money is coming from.
If you’ve thought all of the above things through you’re almost ready to go.
Before starting a project it’s a good idea to communicate with everyone involved, interested or impacted. The success, or perceived success of a project often depends on how well people work together and how much they feel they understand.
Finally, have fun and enjoy making an impact!
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