A project mandate doesn't formally start a project. The project mandate triggers an investigation and information gathering process named Starting up a Project. The purpose of Starting up a Project is to make sure sufficient information is made available for a decision to formally start the project:
- An outline Business Case is prepared. It is the justification to start the project.
- A Project Brief describing the objectives, scope, approach and management team.
- An Initiation Stage Plan is prepared, documenting how to plan and prepare the project in more detail.
The above should take into account lessons learned from other projects and should be presented to the Project Board for approval. In addition the outline Business Case needs to be approved at the Corporate/Programme level.
Before the outline Business Case and Project Brief can be compiled, the roles of Executive and Project Manager needs to be in place. The Executive should appoint the project board before approval for initiation is requested.
Summarized, the six main activities in Starting up a Project are:
- Appoint the Executive and the Project Manager
- Capture previous lessons.
- Design and appoint the project management team.
- Prepare the outline Business Case
- Select the project approach and assemble the Project Brief
- Plan initiation stage.
- One can easily spend too much time in Starting Up a Project, especially if the approval of the project is obvious. Some try to get final numbers for time and cost documented in the Objectives section of the Project Brief, doing detailed planning far into the Initiating a Project process before Starting up a Project is completed. The intention is rather to document the solution space in the Objectives section in such a way that detailed planning is not done based on incorrect assumptions.
- While some do the mistake of building the whole project plan as part of the Project Brief, other do the same with the Business Case. Remember, in Starting up a Project, it is an outline Business Case –not a full and final version.
- A more general attitude pitfall is to produce the documents mentioned above for the documents sake. If writing and approving the documents becomes a formality only, value of reflection and alignment is lost. Use the Project Brief as a workshop agenda and an interview guide to make the needed information is shared, aligned and approved before throwing a team into detailed planning.
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