How to Manage A Project: Starting a Project

In this new series from Replicon, we cover every step in project management from A to Z. In our first segment, we discuss step number one: starting a project. 

The road to project success is not a straight line – inevitably there will be pit stops, redirections, and potholes somewhere along the way. Even the most promising ideas can go astray without a proper project plan in place; actually acting on a good idea relies on careful structure and preparation from the get-go. This preparation is the project initiation phrase – a necessary function of project management, in which the key question is asked: Why are you doing this project? Or phrased differently: How does taking on this project benefit the business? The project initiation phase’s role is to provide an answer, as well as set expectations for objectives, scope, stakeholders, and more. Read on to learn more about what steps you should take to start your projects off on the right foot. 

Create a Project Charter

With the initiation phase in progress, the next step is assembling a project charter, a document that clearly outlines both the purpose and criteria of the project. It details the objectives, stakeholders, deliverables, and scope, as well as overall project structure and planned implementation. A project charter also sets the groundwork for the team to assess and determine the best pathways and decisions as the project moves forward. 

Determine Scope
Like the project charter, the scope defines the goals and requirements of a project. But where the charter describes the high-level objectives and purpose, the scope gets down to the nitty-gritty – addressing the deliverables, limitations/constraints, and criteria for acceptance of the finished project. 

Project scope uses these specifics to encourage accountability throughout the process. This way, stakeholders can ascertain whether or not a project is on schedule, going as planned, or most importantly, completed. Uniquely, the scope document is regarded as a “living document”, meaning that goals can actively change as new information is discovered along the way. 

Stop Scope Creep in its tracks: Don’t let Scope Creep derail your projects!

What is Scope Creep? Check out our infographic to learn more.

Identify The Right People
Not much happens on a project without people. Starting with your team, the people you choose to work alongside each other on a project is key in successfully delivering the best your business can offer.  Creating a quality project team involves outlining the roles for each member as clearly as possible to keep everything progressing smoothly. There are several things to keep in mind when considering team members for your project – namely their skills, experience, and availability. Resources with the right combination of these qualities will be best suited to carry out the tasks outlined in the scope. 

As integral as the team members are, they don’t comprise everyone playing an essential role in the project’s timeline. Stakeholders determine both when the project has met the requirements to begin, and when it can be considered complete. Identifying who exactly qualifies as a stakeholder, then, is crucial to establish early on. You may consider using a responsibility assignment matrix, also known as a RACI chart, to aid in this process. This useful tool represents an acronym derived from the four key responsibilities generally used: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. By assigning each key player into one of these categories, it becomes significantly easier to provide more clarity around the roles and responsibilities for each stakeholder and participant. 

Resource Management: Streamlined.

Manage Expectations

Last but not least when managing a project, keep everything straightforward and sincere. Setting both unambiguous and realistic expectations regarding objectives, requirements, timelines, resources, and deliverables are the only way to guarantee your project’s success. 

But no one can see the future – despite your best efforts, issues and complications will still arise. The best protection against the unknown is simply staying as prepared as possible. Check and double-check your project charter, set milestones, invest in a quality project management software, share the project throughout the process, and if things go wrong, be truthful. And with that, you’re on the road to project success. 

Stay tuned for future posts in our series: How to Manage a Project. Next up: Planning a project. 

Sara Longini
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sara Longini
Sara works in Content Marketing and Social Media at Replicon. Replicon provides award-winning products that make it easy to manage your workforce. With complete solution sets for client billing, project costing, and time and attendance management, Replicon enables the capture, administration, and optimization of your most underutilized and important asset: time.
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