This hut assumes that your project has already been selected, and that a Project Charter has been produced. A Project Charter is generally a document that provides a short description of the project and designates the Project Manager. Sometimes a commercial contract also leads to the initiation of project especially in firms specialized in providing professional/consulting services.
Your project has been selected, and you have been appointed as the Project Manager. You should now use the Project Charter or commercial contract, to get the wheels spinning in motion. At the minimum your Project Charter should:
- Designate you as the Project Manager with the authority to use resources to bring the project to completion — this is formally done by the project sponsor/main stakeholders.
- Provide a short description of the result, outcome, product or services to be produced by the project.
- Refer to the commercial contract as the basis for initiating the project (if there is such a formal contract).
After having reviewed the Project Charter, do the following:
- Ask the Project Sponsor and main stakeholders to share with you any emails, letters, memos, project feasibility, meeting minutes, requirements or other documents related to the project.
- If a similar kind of project has already been completed, get your hands on all the documentation that was produced for that particular project. Set up a meeting with the project manager of that project to ask for advice.
The SOW (Statement of Work)
The next thing that you want to do is start working on your Statement of Work (SOW), a crucial document that you will constantly update and use as a baseline for your project. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, and your knowledge about the subject matter, you will need to organize meetings with the stakeholders in order to refine the SOW and get it approved. A well-thought out SOW generally contains the following sections:
An Executive Summary
Provides a short overview on the purpose of the project, its background, its scope and sometimes a high-level project plan.
Describes the objectives of the project. The majority of project management literature recommends SMART objectives that are:
- Specific: your objectives must be clear so that if someone reads them, he or she can interpret them without ambiguity.
- Measurable: you should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.
- Achievable: do not try to attempt more than you can.
- Realistic: do you have the resources to achieve your objective?
- Time-specific: specify when an objective will be attained (date).
Details the scope that you identified in the Executive Summary of the SOW. In this section, describe the work that will be done. Also, if required, explain what will not be done – this is especially useful to avoid confusion. Note that the Scope section is one of the most important sections of the SOW. Therefore, be very specific when writing it.
A list of the deliverables to be produced by the project. Describe each deliverable in an unambiguous manner that is understood by the team member responsible for it.
Project assumptions and risks
There might be a number of unknown issues while you are planning your project. For such issues you need to make assumptions, which constitute a risk. Typical project risks are associated with timeframes, and availability of resources (funding, project team members, supplies, etc). Detail the identified risks in your project and include contingency plans for each risk.
A list of all the stakeholders identified so far in the project. You may also want to detail roles of each stakeholder in this section.
TIP: Get your SOW approved by the stakeholders. Once this is done, you will be ready to start planning.
Manjeet Singh has over 17 years of experience acquired in a wide variety of industries with a focus on project and program management at Software Makers and Global IT Services companies throughout the world. Manjeet has an Executive MBA from the HEC Management School, and is the author of the website www.projectminds.com that provides a free guide to project management, and offers other project management-related resources.
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