May 2014

Launching a project : 5 questions to ask

You have been appointed Project Manager but you’ve never had any training in project managment. We can help...
Before launching a project it’s a good idea to spend a little time thinking about what it entails and its limits. This will save you time later on.

We suggest that you ask yourself these 5 essential questions before you start, irrespective of what kind of project you are embarking on.

What are the objectives of the project?

Understanding your objectives is fundamental. Knowing them well allows you to properly plan, allocate resources and the sufficient amount of time needed to complete them. The more clearly you define your project goals, the more likely you are to achieve them.

Were you asked by someone else to start a project? Make sure that you have understood the scope of the project by formalizing and expressing your interpretation of the objectives. In this way, you both understand what is expected from you.

What are the main stages of the project?

One of the criteria for success is organization. Your project must evolve around clearly identified steps, identifiable by all those involved.

By dividing your project into steps, you can:

- easily estimate their duration
- allocate team members to each step, according to their skills
- list all tasks for each person

And, you will reduce the risk of forgetting something important.
Depending on the project, the steps can be organized in different ways; chronologically, by subject or by priority. A project rarely has more than ten steps. If you have more than ten, you may be confusing a step with a task. An example: for the launch of a website, the definitions of the title tags is not a step, but rather a task in SEO optimization.

What are the milestones?

We can define a milestone as an important date in the course of a project, often linked to a deliverable or an event in the project. Milestones are instantaneous and do not take time or use resources. They are important to indicate clearly because they reflect the progress of the project.

In this way, if the phases of your project are interdependent (one can not be started without the other being completed), you can trigger a phase with the milestone marking the end of the previous phase. If your project involves the development of software, the launch of the beta version can be considered a milestone.

Who are the people involved in the project?

Launching a project is primarily based on your ability to involve qualified people in participating. Here's how to get them involved:

- Define the major phases of your project
- Associate the necessary knowledge to implement them with each phase
- Appeal to people who have knowledge you need

If these people are under the responsibility of a third party and / or working on other projects, check their level of expertise and make sure they are available to participate in the project. These two pieces of information are essential if you want to achieve the objectives of your project within its deadline.

What is the duration of the project?

The project duration is the interval of time between the start date and the desired or intended date for completion. This length is often calculated as the sum of the durations of the interdependent component phases. For a project involving several people, we need to precisely identify the duration of all the tasks of each individual. Organize brainstorming sessions to ensure these durations are agreed upon by all.

Someone else asked you to create the project ? Make sure that there are no implicit assumptions of what is expected. For example, if your boss asks you to develop a new product, make sure it is not also expected that you undertake the market study. This would increase your workload and significantly affect the due date.

Once you have the answers to all these questions, write them down in a clear, straightforward way so they are understood by everyone involved.

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