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The Initiation Phase of Project Management

Instructor: Stephen Meyer

Stephen has worked as a Project Manager and is PMP certified, as well as certified by the Scrum Alliance.

Before a project can begin, there are a number of questions to be answered, including why is the project needed and is it even possible to do. In project management, answering these questions is done in the initiation phase. In this lesson, learn about the initiation phase of project management.

Definition

Zeke is a project manager at a financial services company. He has recently started training a member of his project team to be a project manager. While this team member has worked on projects before, her experience only involves projects that are ready to be worked on. Zeke has recently received a project request to add functionality to the company's website for researching investment options. He intends to use this project to provide training on how projects get to a state of readiness. This starts with the initiation phase.

The initiation phase marks the beginning of a project and is the first phase in the project management life cycle. In this phase, high-level decisions are made regarding why a project is needed, whether or not it can be done, and what is needed. It is most often associated with traditional, linear project management methodologies, but the high-level decisions are relevant for projects being managed using any methodology.

Purpose

There are a number of tasks accomplished during the initiation phase. The first is establishing the purpose of the project. This is often referred to as a business case and answers the question, why is the project needed. Reasons may include, meeting a customer need, taking advantage of a market opportunity, and reducing risk or cost. Identifying the purpose is a crucial step because if it cannot be done or the reason is not important, the project should not be taken on. This step prevents wasting money, time, and effort.

For Zeke's project, the business case involves a customer need. Investors consider a number of factors when choosing their investment options. As investors look into making investments using the company's website, it is valuable for them to be able to do research. With a clearly defined purpose, the project is considered worth working on.

Feasibility

Once the purpose of a project is defined and the company decides that it is worth doing, the next step is to determine feasibility. This involves answering the question of whether or not it can be done and if it can be accomplished through research, studies, and/or testing. In order to be taken on, a project must be feasible. Feasibility can be considered in a general sense (whether it can be done at all) as well as in a specific sense for the company (whether the necessary capital, resources, etc. are available). Ultimately the project's stakeholders determine feasibility.

The investment research project has two main considerations for feasibility. The first consideration is whether or not data about investment options exists, as well as whether or not the company has access to this data. The second consideration is a legal one. The company needs to make sure it follows industry regulations regarding the data it provides to investors. After taking these things into consideration, the project stakeholders determine that the project is feasible, and they authorize Zeke and his team to move forward with it.

Determining What is Needed

The primary purposes of the initiation phase are to determine why a project is needed and if it is feasible. Another important purpose is to determine what is needed for the project, which involves determining what the result will be, such as data, a prototype, proof of concept, or a working product. This is often done using a project charter, which, among other things, defines a vision for the project, sets objectives and scope, and details the deliverables. The project charter is the primary output of the initiation phase.

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