When you initiate your project, you may be tempted – or pressured – to ‘get on with it.’ You must resist the ‘Just do it’ method and take the time to scope and plan your project properly. It is essential to set aside sufficient time to properly define and plan your project as this will pay dividends when you come to deliver it.
This is the purpose of the Initiating a Project process in PRINCE2. Initiation is the second of the PRINCE2 Processes and the Initiation Stage is always Stage 1 in a PRINCE2 project. The purpose of a successful Initiation is to answer to key questions such as:
- Why are we doing this project?
- What is it we must deliver and to what quality?
- How long will it take?
- Who needs to be involved?
- How are we going to monitor and control the project?
In my experience as a PRINCE2 Project Manager, the projects which answer and, most importantly, document, these questions at the start are much more likely to succeed than those which ‘just do it’ as they go along.
Failing to put the time in up front can often leave your project exposed to a considerable number of risks. No guarantees can be made that even a project which goes through a good Initiation Stage will be successful but it certainly provides a much better environment for successful delivery rather than relying on the ‘just do it’ approach.
How to Initiate a PRINCE2 project
Key elements to Initiating the Project include:
- Scoping and planning the project to a reasonable level of detail
- Ensuring that an acceptable PRINCE2 business case exists for the project and this is supported by a good understanding of the potential risks
- Understanding the quality aspects required to be met in project deliver
- Identifying the appropriate controls that will be used in the project
- Carrying out an appropriate Stakeholder analysis
- Setting up the structures in which we will capture the project information.
There is no doubt that stepping through each of these can take time but it is well worth the investment as each of these can have a significant impact on your Project Plan and Business Case. Our objective during the PRINCE2 Initiating a Project process should be to deliver the project in a controlled environment. The Initiation stage should be the point at which these controls are considered and agreed. This is a key point in the project when the approach to PRINCE2 Themes including Quality, Risk, Change and Progress control should all be defined so we can understand the impact on our project of each of these areas. We shouldn’t wait until we need them before we tailor them to the individual Project environment.
We need to ensure that we scope our project properly. Using PRINCE2’s Product Based Planning technique to prepare our Project Plan gives us a great tool to achieve this. It is important to define this before the project starts otherwise we leave our project exposed to uncontrolled changes in scope. Risk can have a major impact on the successful delivery of the project and understanding the risks involved and planning contingency measures in the initiation stage can reduce our project’s exposure to failure. Managing risk consumes resource and time therefore we need to identify these. Stakeholders can have a significant impact on project delivery and properly engaging with Stakeholders effectively consumes resources and time. Our PRINCE2 Project Plan needs to reflect the effort which this communication and issue management will take.
Time invested in initiating your project can pay real dividends during its delivery – it should never be underestimated. PRINCE2 provides a great description of what happens when you initiate your project. PRINCE2 resources or training events will step you through each activity of the Initiation process and provide templates and checklists to make it a success. It is well worthwhile utilizing this as it will support you in the effective delivery of your project.
So, don’t ‘Just Do It’ – Initiate It instead!
About the Guest Author
Alvin Gardiner MBA is a PRINCE2 Approved Trainer, Practitioner and Registered Consultant. Alvin is the UK Prize Winner for the best use of PRINCE2 following his work to introduce structured project and program management at the Registers of Scotland Land Registry. Alvin regularly lectures in PRINCE2 in Canada and is also a Management of Portfolios Approved Trainer