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In all walks of life, a strong start can significantly increase the chances of achieving success. From tall skyscrapers to a football game, everything requires a strong foundation, and managing projects is no different! All projects start with high hopes and a motivated team. However, if projects are not “initiated” correctly, the threat of reeling off-course and ending up directionless is very real during the life cycle of these projects.

Initiation is the first phase of the project life cycle and is often considered the most important. As the name suggests, initiation is where the entire process of defining a project starts.

Before going into the details of the project initiation phase, it’s best to discuss the five phases of project management. Read on to learn more about the importance of the project initiation process and the steps you should take to ensure the project’s success.

The five phases of the project life cycle are:

  1. Project initiation
  2. Project planning
  3. Project execution
  4. Project monitoring and control
  5. Project closure

What is project initiation?

Project initiation is the first phase of the project management life cycle and in this stage, companies decide if the project is needed and how beneficial it will be for them. The two metrics that are used to judge a proposed project and determine the expectations from it are the business case and feasibility study.

Why is it important?

  • It lets you take major decisions to establish the direction and resource requirements of a project. In this phase, the stakeholders of a project arrive at a clear objective to ensure everyone stays on the same page in terms of how the project should proceed.
  • The initial planning for a project happens in this phase. While there will be multiple checks during and after execution to prevent miscommunication and to ensure the project stays on track throughout its course, without proper project initiation, precious time and resources will get wasted (totally undesirable).
  • Effective project management requires you to maximize benefits and minimize costs while delivering ‘value’ to the customer. Having a clear objective helps you achieve all this.

Project initiation lays down what a project should accomplish while it is in progress and once it is completed. It also defines a tentative plan and schedule for how resources, finances, manpower, etc, will be handled. The purpose of project initiation, in essence, is to get all stakeholders interested in and excited about a project.

What is the project initiation process? (and 6 key steps to follow)

Now that we have established what project initiation is and why it is so important, it’s time to see what are the key steps in the project initiation checklist and how effective managers initiate their projects.

steps on how to initiate a project

Let’s see how to initiate or start a project right from the scratch:   

Let’s see how to initiate or start a project right from scratch:

1. Create a business case

The business case is an important document that explains how a project’s goals align with the company’s long-term plans. This document explains why the company should spend its technical, financial, and human resources on a specific project.

An ideal business case does not talk about any technical details of the project and focuses solely on the business aspects. It is made to convince upper management to approve a project and answer their concerns related to possible financial and business-related risks.

A business case should be persuasive, particularly when it is being presented for a marketing-oriented project. After all, a good business case is instrumental in a project gaining acceptance from higher management

As the head of a marketing team, before making a business case, it is important to identify not just the goal of the project but also why it is being taken up and how it will contribute to the overall OKRs of the team. Also, keep in mind that Successful marketing requires extensive research. The insights obtained through initial research create a solid foundation for thorough project initiation.

2. Conduct a feasibility study

After the approval of the business case, the next step is to determine the likelihood of the project’s success after considering all factors. The feasibility study identifies the high-level constraints and assumptions of the project and decides whether the project is worth working on or not.This step in essence identifies if the organization has the wherewithal to go through with the project and achieve its goals.

Cost is among the primary constraints of any project and the project manager is responsible for overseeing and controlling it. Marketing project managers have the additional responsibility of performing Return on Investment (ROI) analysis that shows the expected conversion and overall benefit to the organization.  Additionally, it should be made clear if  there is sufficient manpower available or arrangeable to take on the project.

3. Establish a project charter (or a Project Initiation Document)

The project charter is perhaps the most comprehensive and important part of the project initiation process. It answers the 3 Ws to identify the scope/objective, team members, and the possible timeframe of the project.

The charter is, in some ways, the first document of the project that identifies the necessary details like the goals and the constraints of the project. It also identifies the project scope and lists the required resources for the completion of the project.

Alternatively, a Project Initiation Document (PID) could be used. A PID is typically more detailed than a project charter and is more suited for larger teams and projects where more resources are involved.

From a marketing perspective, the project charter (or maybe Project Initiation Document) will deal with what functions (organic, paid, PR-based, etc.) will need to be represented within the project. Additionally, it will also delve into the time requirements of each function and the extent of their role within the wider project

This is the stage at which KPIs will be defined for measuring project success. Often, breaking the larger project down into smaller sub-projects and setting timelines will also be looked at during this stage.

4. Identify stakeholders and make a stakeholder register

Communication and negotiation are a huge part of effective project management and a large part of a project manager’s time is usually spent dealing with stakeholders. PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) identifies stakeholders as anyone who can be influenced or has an influence on a project. Project stakeholders can either be internal or external and each type has its own communication requirement.

It’s the responsibility of the project manager to ensure the means and frequency of communication with each stakeholder according to their influence and interest in the project. A common practice is to maintain a stakeholder register or a stakeholder map to decide the frequency and means of communication for each stakeholder according to their influence and interest in a project.

A simple rule of thumb is this: Communicate early and often. No one likes to be taken by surprise or participate in a discussion that lacks an agenda.

In the marketing context, the internal stakeholders would be all the team members working on a project while the external stakeholders would be higher management and clients. Collaborating with different departments and external entities takes up a majority of the time for marketing teams. The project manager is responsible for ensuring effective communication between all parties and keeping everyone on the same page.

5. Assemble the team and establish a project office

No project can be started without a project team. Assembling a working project team and assigning members roles and responsibilities is a vital part of the project initiation phase. Assigning roles and responsibilities early on increases the overall accountability of the entire team and can help you as a manager in the later phases of the project life cycle.

From a marketing purview, assigning roles should begin with recognizing the specialization of each team member toward content, design, SEO, paid marketing, and the like. Ultimately, getting it all down on paper and defining what each person needs to do makes for a solid start.

6. Final review

Finally, it’s a good practice to review the entire project initiation stage to ensure nothing was missed. In later stages, you’ll continue reviewing your work as monitoring and controlling is another key aspect of the project management life cycle.

What is the next step after project initiation?

Project initiation is followed by project planning. And then execution, monitoring and control, and finally, closure.

This is the textbook process (by phases) of project management.

Project planning is what happens after a project receives approval and is good to go through with. Without a doubt, a project plan will contain many of the components of a Project Initiation Document (PID) but will deal with them not as a project proposal but as a working plan.

What does project initiation require?

Project initiation, without a doubt, requires a clear understanding of the needs of your organization and the immediate steps to be undertaken to get a project off the ground.

Furthermore, a good project management tool goes a long way toward easing the process of documenting all the requirements of a project.

The best tool to go with would be a cloud-based solution that allows for collaboration and painless tracking. A variety of views coupled with in-depth reporting capabilities would be a great add-on.

Llewellyn Lazaro

Llewellyn Lazaro

A well rounded certified Project Manager with experience in Government and Corporate sectors and a proven track record in leading high performing teams to successfully deliver large-scale projects, as well as recent experience in Program Management and strategy.

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