Project initiation meetings are often skipped to fast-track projects. Once a sponsor is found, organisations go straight to project planning and execution. But based on our own experience, holding a project initiation meeting can actually eliminate many issues that may crop up in the future and hence may speed things up instead in the long run.
It is in the project initiation meeting where your project objectives and scope are clarified and all stakeholders are brought to the same page. Project sponsors and stakeholders will have to know in a nutshell what is needed from them, what the possible risks are, what different resources are required, and so on. So that, when it’s time to proceed to the next phase, everyone is already in-sync.
So what are taken up in such a meeting? Perhaps an actual example can help. Sometime in the past, we set out to work on an eCommerce website project. After conducting the project initiation meeting, these were some of the things we were able to accomplish:
- Identified deliverables e.g. site design, interface to payment system, etc.
- Come up with the project phases
- Agreed what should be in and out of scope
- Defined the acceptance test criteria
- Identified possible risks
- Identified the possible training and documentation work needed
- Established whether any analysis was required, e.g. as with regards to payment interfaces
- Formulated disaster recovery plans
- Defined roles and responsibilities
- Drafted timelines and due dates
Aren’t these covered in project planning? If the project is a big one, the answer is no. In a large project, project planning is a much more exhaustive activity. In a project initiation meeting, only the basic framework is defined.
Some questions may still remain unanswered after a project initiation meeting, but at least you already know what answers you need to look for. In the example we gave earlier, we left the meeting knowing that we needed:
- a list of all necessary hardware to estimate the costs
- to identify possible dependencies we might have with third parties
- to identify what software had to be bought and what skills we needed to hire
When it was time to proceed to project planning, everyone involved already knew what direction we were taking. In effect, by not skipping the project initiation meeting, we were able to avoid many potential obstacles.