Projects – How to Start

Stacie Jansen van Vuren
Updated on

As with many things in life, the manner in which you start a project can have a tremendous impact on how it finishes. A poor start can lead to the failure of the project and a good one can lead to great success. The PRINCE2® method takes this into account and teaches practitioners the best practices for starting up a project. The generic nature and tailoring ability of the PRINCE2 method allows it to be applied to projects of any nature – industrial, commercial and even domestic. The specific “Starting up a Project” process of the PRINCE2 method will assist in determining whether the planned project is viable and should be initiated. Below we will briefly discuss some of the key factors in starting up a project correctly.

Business Case – Using the PRINCE2 method, the Business Case is where the “Why?” question regarding a project is answered. The Business case is critical in any project and comprises of many fundamentals. It will examine the objectives of the project, the reasons behind the project, the project funding and information such as any feasibility studies that have already been completed. This is also the time during which to learn more about crucial elements such as key milestones and the quality expectations for the product that the project is to produce. The importance of the Business Case cannot be emphasised enough.

Viability – Obviously the first thing that needs to be addressed is whether or not the project is a viable option. The PRINCE2 method will assist in determining if the objectives of the planned project are realistic and worthwhile. Initiating a project that is not viable will result in failure and the loss of all the resources that have been used. Another beneficial aspect to determining project viability is that it can bring to light factors (both positive and negative) that may not have been considered and can now be addressed in a timely manner.

Think Ahead – When working in the world of Project Management it pays to think ahead as this can prevent the need to deal with problems at a later stage when they may have grown or be capable of causing greater harm to the project. The “Starting Up a Project” process of the PRINCE2 method is to make sure that you have considered things such as a valid business justification for initiating the project, having the authorities for initiating the project and making sure the correct information is available to define the scope of the project. If a project is begun correctly and with as much planned for as possible, the project will have a vastly increased chance for success.

The People – A very important objective of the PRINCE2 “Starting Up a Project” process is creating the right roles and filling them with the best people. The two roles that are usually created first are the Executive and the Project Manager. The role of the Executive is to represent the interests of the project stakeholders and to make decisions accordingly. The Project Manager’s role is to manage the project on a daily basis. After these two roles have been created and filled by appropriate people, the next task is to build a strong project team. The members of a project team have defined roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. This is so that every member of the project management team knows what they are to do and nothing gets missed or forgotten. Ensuring clearly defined accountability prevents “passing the buck” which is non-productive and harmful to a project. Creating a strong project management team is imperative to the success of the project.

Lessons – The PRINCE2 methodology actively encourages practitioners to learn from other projects and any other source that may have useful information which can be applied to the current project. Other Project Management professionals, magazines, books, blogs and articles can all impart knowledge that can aid in the success of a project. The PRINCE2 methodology itself is the result of the experience and knowledge of project experts and their experience shows that learning lessons from others will have a positive effect on everything from the Business Case to the personnel within the project team. Learn from your own lessons and the lessons of others and this will prevent making mistakes that have already been made and will improve the management of any project.

Project Brief – When thinking through aspects of a project such as security, legalities and resources, there are questions that will arise. Will it be more cost-effective to buy certain items in from an external supplier or to create them during the course of the project? Would it be better to create a new product or to modify an existing one? The PRINCE2 Project Brief will assist in answering these (and other) questions in an effective manner. Remember to keep the Project Brief clear and concise. It should contain the current status of the project, the scope of the project, the intended outcome of the project and various other factors. As with other project documentation, it is important not to overload the Project Brief with unnecessary information. Ensure that it contains what is necessary and no additional extras that could reduce its efficiency.

Planning – PRINCE2 puts great emphasis on planning and for very good reason. Planning is absolutely essential for the success of any project. Poor planning is one of the most common causes of project failure and it is one that can be prevented. Planning is a huge part of the “Initiating a Project” stage of a PRINCE2 project. Some of the tasks that need to be completed during this stage are: determining the time needed to create the stage plan, reviewing and analysing risks, reviewing the Lessons Log and gaining approval to initiate the project. Without correct planning, a project will almost certainly be doomed from the start. The PRINCE2 method uses planning to its full advantage and this is one of the reasons why PRINCE2 projects have a significantly higher success rate.

Although it may seem as though the PRINCE2 method requires a lot of extra effort and time, spending that time and energy at the correct key points will ensure a better managed project. The method has been proven time and again and the components of the method are born from real life project experiences. It is far costlier for a project to fail than to use resources where and when they can have the most beneficial impact. Start your project in the best way and you can be confident that the project will be likely to result in a successful product being delivered to a satisfied client.