Project Initiation: Before the Project – What Are My Tools And Techniques?

October 23, 2008 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Lifecycle Phases

Project Initiation: Before the Project – What Are My Tools And Techniques? (#2 in the series Project Initiation – It Is Only A Start)
By Azra Duric

After you have the right orientation of your position in the organization, you need to look for your tools that will help you in your project management work. This is a very important phase and you should never rush through it, even if you are told otherwise. Just as you may not know the tools that a mechanic uses to fix your transmission, those around you may not realize what tools you need to develop your solution into a project.

The sophistication of your tools, or methodology and processes will greatly depend on the organizational structure and its maturity. The advantage of project- oriented, PMO-enabled and mature organizations is that they usually have a myriad of project management related tools and processes. A disadvantage is that they may be strict and impose them on you even if you feel that an alternative would better suit the situation.

If you are in a small, functional or a weak matrix organization, there most likely is no formal project management methodology. If you are in an average organization these days you probably have at least a Charter, Plan and Status Report templates. If you don’t, create them! Use this advantage and your creative senses to be a pioneer in helping establish a proper methodology for your organization.

The Project Charter should be your bible and your best ally. It should state clearly who is responsible for what on the project. This statement will frequently become very handy for some people who have short memories, unintentionally or otherwise.

The Project Plan should be your best friend and an all–in-one daily report, which you always have to keep in harmony with the Charter. Start the Plan like an empty book. Begin with the Preface (taken from the Charter), followed by the Table of Contents (written during the planning phase) and then Chapters will be written during the execution phase.

Your weekly Status Reports/Meetings are too important to miss, even if you are told otherwise. Those reports/meetings have a dual purpose as a great monitoring and control tool. They keep you in check, as you HAVE to know where your project is at all times and communicate it to others. While you are preparing for a status report you are also on top of your risks, issues, and of course status (time, scope, resources, and quality) of the project. If you are not required to have weekly meetings you should push the status reports in weekly e-mails to your management, sponsor and the client, at the very least.

It is very important to adopt project management standards, methodologies and procedures that work well in your circumstances. I understand the urge we all have to make shortcuts and try avoiding some stuff we find boring, such as documenting emails you get from your clients, or indicating in the Plan the exact outcome of your project and accurate measures of its success. What I discovered, however, is that my best and easiest project was the one where I applied project management methodologies taken from the industry best practices and tailored to my organization. I then followed, religiously in fact, the self-imposed process even in cases I was not asked to.

Finally, once you establish the methodology and processes, resist using Microsoft Project or any other project management application yet at this early stage. As I mentioned already, once you pass the stage of making sure that your project is right you want to make sure the project is done right. Make sure you establish a stable baseline first before entering your artefacts into the system to avoid the inevitable re-work imposed by changes.

Azra Duric is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with 15 + years of experience in the IT industry; spanning the government, financial, education and other non-profit sectors. She has a degree in Mathematics from the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and a Post Graduate Diploma in Office Systems and Data Communications from the University of Leicester, England. Since Azra moved to Canada in 1996 she has been working in a variety of government and non-profit sectors in Ontario and has been professionally working as a project manager for the last five years. She is a member of the PMI-CTT (Project Management Institute Canada Technology Triangle) Chapter and WIPMSIG (Women in Project Management Specific Interest Group). Azra lives in Guelph, Ontario and can be contacted at More information about Azra can be found on her blog

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