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How To Create A Project Initiation Checklist

How To Create A Project Initiation Checklist, Project Management Blog
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When we talk about projects, the first thing that comes to mind is – Ohh, ok so what is it about?

What will you build or deliver?

And followed up with how much will it cost and by when do you think you can complete the project?

Well, they reveal far from what goes on in making a project successful. This is where a project initiation checklist is introduced.

It goes without saying that the implementation of a project involves hundreds of small or large activities with varying degrees of complexity. And the difficult part is not all are closely related and hence the project manager is required to deploy a whole range of skills to get them done.

Take a quick look at the list of activities that need to be done to successfully complete a project.

  • Business case
  • Requirements gathering
  • Scope review and sign-off
  • Budget approvals
  • Milestone delivery schedules
  • Stakeholder and sponsor expectation management
  • Resource requirements
  • Identifying skills
  • Infra, equipment, and training
  • Hiring
  • Communication
  • Tasks breakdown & planning
  • Risk management
  • Project progress tracking
  • Tool requirements
  • Financial planning
  • Vendor Management

The above items are still at a very high level. Each of these can be further broken down into several hundred activities. And tracking each one to closure is vital.

Now, the only saving grace is the fact that not all projects may include exactly all the above activities.

But still, it’s an uphill task!

Imagine a single person i.e. the project manager responsible for getting all of these items planned, scheduled, monitored, and closed.

He will inevitably miss some of these critical activities, lose sight of them, and fail completely.

Hence, starting off your project with a well-defined project initiation checklist has proven really handy.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.

What is a Project Initiation Checklist?

In the simplest of terms, the project initiation checklist is “the project bible” and nothing less.

The more robust and leakproof your project initiation checklist the fewer are the issues that will arise and even less are the chances of getting derailed ever!

In more project management terms, it will include:

  • Project scope, goal – end-to-end requirements
  • Resources – skills, cost, duration
  • Stakeholders – RACI
  • Project team
  • Communication plan – type, medium, frequency
  • Project Budget
  • Tools and frameworks – everything from project methodology to communication, collaboration, and project management tools, licenses, etc.
  • Risks – identification, mitigation plan, funding
  • Deliverables, schedule, acceptance, or success criteria
  • Reports, metrics, KPIs

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It is a live and working document. All answers to your operational woes are listed here.

Project Definition

Define project goals and objectives – Clearly define the reason for developing the project and describe in detail the end results of this project. The next step is to figure out ways to achieve those project goals as well as create realistic project objectives that can be achieved in incremental and iterative phases.

Develop milestones – At this step, the project manager should prepare and define the milestones to be achieved in each project cycle.

Determine project scope – At this stage, you need to define the boundaries of the project such as types of tasks, client requirements, possible risks to overcome, and geographic area to be covered.

List of the tasks that stakeholders might expect or assume to be included. The more specific your project scope is the fewer chances there are for misunderstanding and misalignment in the later stage of the project.

List resources required – Estimate your resources including factors such as tools to be used, technologies to implement, team members who will be working, define the timeline and schedules to follow, man hours to assign, and other such elements defined in the resources allocation process.

Decide final deliverables – Next step is to determine and list out the deliverables and outputs. Here you can describe deliverables and documents that need to be presented at each stage of project completion.

These reports will include reports, metrics, actual products, project work plans, requirement documents, communication plans, training plans, issue logs, meeting notes, etc.

Determine project assumptions – What are the assumptions you are making at the start of the project which includes deliverable expectations from clients, risks involved, resource availability, and other such assumptions.

Business Case

List project benefits – Define why you are carrying out the project and what benefits will you deliver to your costumes. As well as include information on how these benefits will be measured.

Complete cost evaluations – Next step project managers have to evaluate the costs of the project and compare it with the returns. Project managers need to evaluate the cost and return on the basis of manhours employed time allocated, and resources utilized.

Identify potential risks – Determine the risks involved in the project and how you can mitigate these risks. Next project managers will also need to define ways to mitigate and prevent these risks. Team leaders will also need to routinely assess the risks associated with the project.

Roles and Responsibilities

Project Organization Structure – Create a chart or diagram to outline and define the point of contact, hierarchy, roles, and responsibilities for authorizing tasks reporting to each team member.

Project Sponsor – The project sponsor is the product owner who has the ultimate authority and control over the project and its implementation.

Project Manager – Define who will be the project manager, and what are his or her responsibilities.

Team Members + Skill Sets – Who are the key team members and what are their key skill sets, their roles and responsibilities, job descriptions, and capabilities. Moreover, project managers will also determine to whom they will report on a daily basis.

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Next Step To Project Initiation Checklist

Project Charter Review

After developing the project charter it’s time to review it before finally submitting it for approval. The project charter phase goes through 5 stages to prepare the document that needs to be signed off for final approval.

  • The project charter documents are reviewed by both project managers and project management officers (PMO) to define the deliverables, and artifacts as well as make changes if needed.
  • The project charter documents are signed off by the project manager and PMO
  • The finalized copy of the project charter document is shared with the project sponsor, stakeholders, and team members involved in the project during the project kickoff meeting.
  • All team members included in the project will review the document and share their concerns with the concerned officials.
  • After receiving recommendations on changes the project charter page is finally complete which will be signed off and submitted for review.

Project Charter 1, Project Management Blog

Project Planning Phase –

  • This is the phase where team members begin taking action on the project processes as mentioned in the project initiation documentation.
  • At this phase, you will be planning your project’s timeline, defining schedules, and assigning tasks with defined expectations.
  • Project managers who have knowledge of the assigned project are most suitable to take the necessary steps.

Project managers will also create communication guidelines to ensure the team members communicate in an effective way.

Project Planning 1, Project Management Blog

Project Execution

  • After completion of the project planning phase, the project moves to the execution phase which starts with a project kick-off meeting.
  • This is the official beginning of the work based on the plan created before.
  • At this stage, you will need to monitor the progress of the project and provide support to your team in ways needed to increase productivity.
  • Check-in with stakeholders and project members on a daily basis which must have been defined in the initiation phase.
  • Managers may integrate the project development phase with a project collaboration tool such as Orangescrum to manage and keep track of the progress.

Project Execution 1, Project Management Blog


Project Monitoring

  • This is the step post-execution phase where project monitoring and control are done alongside the execution of the project.
  • At this phase, the team members ensure that the deliverables are produced to the concerned product owners on time as well as meeting all the business requirements of the clients.
  • This is also the phase where you measure your task and generate metrics and reports to get a visual map of the progress of the tasks in the project.
  • This will allow you to discover any errors that may have been made during the project execution phase as well as give you insights into preventing these errors in new projects.

Project managers may also track the costs of the project to determine if the projected cost aligns with the actual cost of delivery.

Project Monitoring 1, Project Management Blog

Project Closure

During the final phase of the project lifecycle, the project manager will finalize all aspects of the project development lifecycle. It will include signing off the deliverable and conducting a retrospective meeting.

A few tasks involved in the project closure stage include:

  • Review project expectations.
  • Running final tests.
  • Provide deliverables and sign-off documents.
  • Project retrospective meeting.
  • Documents on the lessons learned in the project development.
  • Conducting accountability meetings.
  • Recognizing team members for their exceptional work.
  • Review growth plans for the team members.

Project Closure Process 1, Project Management Blog

Keeping this checklist active and updated at all times is a must.

The project initiation document (PID) as it is known has the details of all activities you will undertake during the course of the project, how you will perform them, when, and with what costs, time, and quality!

It would be best to meticulously list all activities performed from project initiation to project completion.

Consider this as your task breakdown of the overall project and not just the actual execution part.

The project initiation document is a mix of the strategic as well as tactical activities required to get the project off the ground and deliver it with all success criteria met.

Benefits of a Project Initiation Checklist

It is evident by now that the checklist is the final blueprint of your project. Savvy project managers would break the activities down by the respective phases as defined in the project management lifecycle.

This allows them to strategize well to know whom to engage when and how.

It is one of the key critical success factors for your project. Hence, defining this checklist will provide you the following benefits:

  • Ensure you are clear on all activities
  • Clarity of the business objective, goals
  • Transparent management of stakeholder expectations
  • Ability to organize and execute project activities better
  • Prevent resource conflicts
  • Timely allocation of budget, resources, equipment
  • Improved control over the project
  • Ability to define the right processes and flows
  • Proactive risk identification and mitigation
  • Lay a solid foundation for the execution, monitoring, and closure phases

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Enough said! The key is to identify the most important activities to do first. And starting with a PID is the best thing you can do for the project.

It acts as the guide or say an instruction manual for every problem you may encounter with your project.

You will not only stay on top of all activities but will be in absolute control of the project. You clearly know what to do, when, how and with whom. There is no guesswork.

A man with a plan is more likely to succeed than one without one.

Next time, you start off with a project, do devote enough time and effort to get the PID in place and follow it till you have delivered the project successfully.

You can make the PID within Orangescrum itself. Sign up free now to get your first project initiation checklist ready!

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