The initiation phase is the beginning of the project. In this phase, the idea for the project is explored and elaborated. The goal of this phase is to examine the feasibility of the project. In addition, decisions are made concerning who is to carry out the project, which party (or parties) will be involved and whether the project has an adequate base of support among those who are involved.
In this phase, the current or prospective project leader writes a proposal, which contains a description of the above-mentioned matters. Examples of this type of project proposal include business plans and grant applications. The prospective sponsors of the project evaluate the proposal and, upon approval, provide the necessary financing. The project officially begins at the time of approval. Questions to be answered in the initiation phase include the following:
- Why this project?
- Is it feasible?
- Who are possible partners in this project?
- What should the results be?
- What are the boundaries of this project (what is outside the scope of the project)?
The ability to say ‘no’ is an important quality in a project leader. Projects tend to expand once people have become excited about them. The underlying thought is, ’While we’re at it, we might as well …’ Projects to which people keep adding objectives and projects that keep expanding are nearly certain to go off schedule, and they are unlikely to achieve their original goals.
In the initiation phase, the project partners enter a (temporary) relationship with each other. To prevent the development of false expectations concerning the results of the project, it makes sense to explicitly agree on the type of project that is being started:
- a research and development project;
- a project that will deliver a prototype or ‘proof of concept’;
- a project that will deliver a working product.
The choice for a particular type of project largely determines its results. For example, a research and development project delivers a report that examines the technological feasibility of an application. A project in which a prototype is developed delivers all of the functionalities of an application, but they need not be suitable for use in a particular context (e.g. by hundreds of users). A project that delivers a working product must also consider matters of maintenance, instructions and the operational management of the application.
Many misunderstandings and conflicts arise because the parties that are involved in a project are not clear on these matters. Customers may expect a working product, while the members of the project team think they are developing a prototype. A sponsor may think that the project will produce a working piece of software, while the members of the project team must first examine whether the idea itself is technically feasible.
Wouter Baars has a Master of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and Management Science. He has been a project manager for several years for The European commission, Waag Society, KPN (Dutch telecom provider) and many smaller organizations. He is specialized in creative projects such as serious game development, e-learning and software development. Currently he is teaching project management and coaching organizations that are working on their project management. More info on his work: www.projectmanagement-training.net.
Originally published by DANS – Data Archiving and Networked Services – The Hague