By Emily Walsh, Director
Launching a project can be one of the most important and exciting phases - the launch sets the tone for how the project will be managed and perceived moving forward. At the start of a new project, the excitement and eagerness surrounding the new work can sometimes lead project managers to rush through the beginning, particularly if the business is eager to get results and move forward quickly.
Although it can be difficult, a controlled start to a project ultimately sets the project up for long-term success. The effort you put into your project at the beginning will pay off in later stages of the project. The checklist below will help you ensure that you are controlling the start and setting up your project for long-term success.
Controlling the Start: A Project Pre-Launch Checklist
IDEA: All projects start with an idea. Maybe it's an idea to improve a business process, implement a new technology tool, or develop a new automation process. What is the concept that is driving your project?
FEASIBILITY: Is your idea feasible? Can the goal be achieved with your staffing and resources (or is the organization willing to invest in making it happen?). If there is any uncertainty about feasibility, consider conducting a feasibility study.
BUSINESS CASE: Assuming the idea is feasible, you should be able to outline the business case. A well-developed business case for a project should document the expected benefits against the project's likely costs.
BUSINESS APPROVAL: Once the business case has been developed, it needs to be approved by the business users who will benefit from and support the project. Based on the cost-benefit analysis outlined in the business case, the business user should decide if the project is worth advancing and provide their endorsement and support of the work.
PROJECT SPONSOR: If the business endorses the project, a senior-level individual within your organization needs to sponsor it. This person will take ultimate responsibility for the project and its outcomes.
PROJECT MANAGER: One of the first tasks for a project sponsor is to identify and assign a project manager. This person ideally has an understanding of the business and project goal. They will manage the day-to-day work of the project and are accountable for ensuring that timelines are set and met, risks are escalated, and the project remains on track and within budget.
PROJECT INITIATION: ONce the project manager has been assigned, a good PM should ensure that they have a clear understanding of the items in the checklist (above) before they initiate the project.
If you're a project manager who's been tasked with launching a new project for your organization, it's essential to make sure you have a clear understanding of the items listed above. If you can't check these items off the list (or if you're not sure of the context or background for a few of these), then you may need to ask yourself if the project should be launched. For example, if there is no clear business case and the business is not prepared to "own" the work it will take to accomplish the project, then the project should not proceed. A controlled start is the best way to set your project up for success and ensure that you do not launch a project that may be set up for failure in later phases. If you need help launching new projects related to business processes, technology, or systems, please don't hesitate to reach out!