The typical project life cycle involves different project management phases. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) by the Project Management Institute (PMI) emphasizes that the determination of the number of phases rests on the project team and project type. The PMBOK Guide – Seventh Edition outlines an organizational strategy comprising the following five phases: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control, and closure. In this article, we will focus on the first phase—the project initiation.
Read on to learn more about this phase in project management, why it is important, its key components, and the common pitfalls encountered during this stage.
Objectives and Goals of Project Initiation
During project initiation, you establish why you’re doing the project and what business value it will deliver, then use that information to secure buy-in from key stakeholders. The main objectives and goals of the project management initiation phase are to define the project’s purpose, establish clear and measurable objectives, and identify the key people involved in the process.
The Importance of Proper Project Initiation
The initiation phase is a crucial step to starting a new project. Doing this properly allows you to lay a strong foundation for the project, establish governance, define roles and decision-making processes, and secure buy-in from the right people. A well-executed project initiation not only sets the project’s direction, scope, and foundation, but it also increases the probability of achieving set goals and achieving successful outcomes.
Key Components of Project Initiation
Several key steps should be followed during the initiation phase of project management. These steps include defining what the project is for, what it is expected to achieve, and the people involved in the process. Below are the key steps observed during the project initiation phase.
- Establishing project scope: Determine the boundaries of the project, including what is to be included and left out of the work.
- Defining project objectives: Set clear and measurable objectives that align with the project’s purpose.
- Stakeholder identification and analysis: Perform an exercise in identifying all stakeholders involved in the project and analyzing their needs and expectations.
- Team assembly: Carefully build a team with the necessary skills and expertise to execute the project successfully.
- Documentation. Create a project charter, define the project’s scope, outline the project definition, and host it all in a centrally available place.
Common Pitfalls and Challenges During Project Initiation
Several typical pitfalls and challenges could arise during this project initiation phase, including:
- No proper kick-off: A proper project kick-off is essential to ensure that everyone is aligned. Without a well-organized kick-off, team members will find it difficult to understand their roles and responsibilities or what the work goal is, leading to confusion and delays.
- Inadequate stakeholder analysis: Identifying and analyzing stakeholders is important in making sure their needs and expectations are met. When there’s inadequate stakeholder analysis, misunderstandings, conflicts, and delays occur.
- Undefined project scope: Defining the project’s scope is essential to ensure that everyone involved in the project understands what is included and excluded from the project. Undefined project scope can lead to scope creep, which causes delays and budget overruns.
- Lack of clear objectives in project charter: The project charter is a document that outlines the project’s purpose, goals, and objectives. Lack of clear objectives in the project charter leads to confusion and misunderstandings among team members.
- Poor team formation and communication: Having a team with the necessary skills and expertise helps boost project success. Poor team formation and communication often lead to misunderstandings, delays, and conflicts.
The Role of Project Management Software in Project Initiation
Project management tools can help project managers ensure that their projects are starting on the right track.
There are several recommended project management tools that can be used during the Project Initiation Phase. Here are five of the best software solutions available:
- Asana: Asana is a cloud-based project management tool that helps teams organize, track, and manage their work. Top features include task management, team collaboration, and project tracking, which can be useful during the project initiation phase. Asana also offers templates for project initiation, which can help you get started on any initiative quickly.
- Trello: Trello is a web-based tool that uses boards, lists, and cards to organize and prioritize work. Features for task management, team collaboration, and project tracking come in handy during the project initiation phase. Trello also includes templates so you don’t have to start from scratch.
- monday.com: monday.com is a cloud-based project management tool that offers task management, team collaboration, and project tracking features that are useful during project initiation. monday.com also has built-in templates for almost any type of work scoping.
- Wrike: Wrike is another cloud-based project management system used in planning, tracking, and managing projects. Through its wide range of features, Wrike makes project initiation and the rest of the phases of the project lifecycle easy to execute all in one place.
- Smartsheet: Smartsheet is a popular cloud-based project management tool that boasts a user-friendly interface that is like a cross between excel and Microsoft Project. The tool’s templates, dashboards, and reporting features make planning and managing work not seem like work at all.
Each of these tools has its own unique features and benefits, so it’s important to evaluate them based on your specific needs and requirements. Some of the factors to consider when choosing a project management tool for project initiation include ease of use, scalability, cost, and integrations with other tools and systems you may already be using.
Next Step: Project Planning
After completing the project initiation phase, the next step is to move to the project planning phase. In this stage, we will explore the steps needed to achieve project goals; establish budgets, timelines, and milestones; and source materials and necessary documents. This includes how to calculate and predict risk, put change processes into place, and outline communication protocols.
The planning phase is critical to the success of the project, as it provides a detailed roadmap for the project team to follow and ensures that everyone involved in the project is aligned when it comes to the project’s goals, objectives, and scope throughout the project life cycle.