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The project initiation process: 6 steps to follow

PostsProject management
Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

April 12, 2024

How many projects do you have going on in your life right now? Two? Five? 10?

Starting a new project is an exciting time, but, as the saying goes, only fools rush in. The initiation phase, often underestimated, lays the foundation for a project’s success or failure. Because no matter how brilliant the idea, without a strategic plan to bring it to life, its chances of success aren’t good. 

Failing might not matter as much if your goal is learning Spanish. But it’s a different story when you’re trying to launch software for a business successfully.

Whether you’re a seasoned project manager or someone stepping into the role for the first time, understanding the nuances of project initiation is crucial. So without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about navigating this important stage.

What is project initiation?

Project initiation is the very first phase in the lifecycle of a project. Think of it as the ‘setting the stage’ part, where you lay down the foundation for what’s to come. 

It’s about understanding:

  • Why you need the project
  • What it aims to achieve; and 
  • How it fits into the bigger picture of your organization’s goals.

Project initiation in the project lifecycle

Where does project initiation fit into the five-step project lifecycle? No prizes for guessing this one! 

  • Phase 1: Project Initiation
  • Phase 2: Project planning
  • Phase 3: Project execution
  • Phase 4: Project monitoring and control
  • Phase 5: Project wrap-up

Project initiation vs. project planning

Two similar sounding phrases, but two very different goals. 

Project initiation is all about the ‘why’ and the ‘what’: why the project should exist and what it aims to achieve. 

During this phase, you’ll evaluate the project’s goals, importance, and feasibility. It’s a strategic phase that’s all about making sure the project aligns with broader business goals and objectives. 

Project planning, on the other hand, is about the ‘how’ and the ‘when.’ 

Once the project is approved and has begun, planning sets out how you’ll achieve the project goals. This involves detailing tasks, timelines, resources, budgets, and risk management. 

Why does the project initiation phase matter?

Skipping this phase or not giving it the attention it deserves can lead to projects that are mismatched with organizational goals, lack clear objectives, or are simply unfeasible. Here’s why it’s worth your time.

  • Alignment with business goals: A project that’s out of step with broader business goals simply isn’t worth doing. The initiation phase helps you gauge this synergy, the findings of which you can then use to secure stakeholder buy-in. 
  • Defines clear objectives: Project initiation should give you a clear set of project objectives. These guide the project team throughout the project lifecycle, helping everyone stay on the same page. 
  • Identifies stakeholders: Understanding who has a stake in the project is a must. The initiation phase helps identify these individuals or groups, understand their expectations and interests, and plan how to engage them throughout the project.
  • Assesses feasibility: Before committing significant resources, the initiation phase assesses whether the project is feasible. This can save the organization time and money by avoiding projects that are unlikely to succeed.
  • Secures approval and funding: The initiation phase culminates in securing the necessary approvals and funding for the project. This is a critical step without which the project cannot proceed.

The project initiation process: 6 steps to follow

Following these steps will help you get your project off to a strong start. 

1. The business case

The business case is your foundation (to the foundation that is your initiation). It supports everything that comes after. This step involves articulating the rationale behind the project — the business problem or opportunity — and outlining the benefits, costs, risks, and timeframe. 

Essentially, it contains all the justification needed to secure buy-in and funding from stakeholders. To sum this document up in one word, it’s ‘why’ (the project should exist). 

2. Feasibility study

Once you’ve established a business case, the next step is to run a feasibility study. This is where you take a closer look at the proposed solution and assess whether it’s technically and financially viable.

The feasibility study helps you spot any potential obstacles early on and evaluate the likelihood of the project’s success. 

3. Identify stakeholders and create charter

Identifying stakeholders — those who have an interest in or will be affected by the project — is essential for understanding the project’s broader impact and getting the necessary support. 

Once you’ve identified your stakeholders, create a project charter, and get it signed off by the aforementioned stakeholders. This document formally authorizes the project and outlines its objectives, scope, key deliverables, resources, and the roles and responsibilities of the project team. 

The project charter serves as a contract between the project sponsor and the team, giving the project manager the authority to proceed. 

4. Gather the team

With the project officially authorized, it’s time to assemble the project team. This involves selecting individuals with the necessary skills and expertise to bring the project to life.

It’s also important to consider how team members will work together. Building a cohesive team is about considering personality types and strengths as much as it is technical skills.

5. Establish a project hub

Creating a project hub gives all project-related data, materials, and tasks a central location. The team may work in different rooms or on different continents, but with a hub, everything they need for the project is accessible and unified. This has the added bonus of improving communication and collaboration — two things that are essential for project success.

6. Review

Finally, it’s time to review everything that’s been established so far. This includes revisiting the business case, feasibility study, project charter, team composition, and software setup to ensure everything and everyone is ready to roll. It’s a critical checkpoint before moving into the project planning phase.

5 ways project management software can help project initiation

Talking of software and central hubs — project management tools are the gold standard when it comes to the management side of things. Here are seven reasons why it should be in your PM toolkit.

1. Centralizing project information

With project management software, all documents, timelines, updates, and communications are stored in one place, accessible to all team members whenever, wherever. Sure, you can store documents on servers, but then you have to worry about version control, access issues, and so on. Cut the admin and use software built for the job.

2. Facilitating collaboration

These tools are designed to foster collaboration among team members, regardless of their physical location. With features like shared workspaces, instant messaging, and automatic notifications, team members can easily share ideas, give feedback, and stay connected throughout the project.

3.Enhancing task management

Project management software makes it easy to see detailed task breakdowns, workflows, and scheduling. Managers can assign tasks to specific team members, set deadlines, and track progress in real time. This level of task management helps keep the project on track and team members accountable.

4. Streamlining documentation

From the business case to the project charter, the initiation phase generates a lot of documentation. With project management tools, you can take advantage of templates, easy sharing, and smart storage to create, organize, and maintain these documents. This not only saves time but also ensures that important information is easily accessible.

5. Improving stakeholder communication

Project management software usually includes features for creating and sharing reports, updates, and dashboards with stakeholders, helping to keep them in the loop. With Backlog, our own PM tool, you can adjust access permissions, giving various groups access to only the bits they need to see. No more email updates required! 

By using project management software from the outset, teams can boost their efficiency, communication, and overall project management capabilities. Ready to take Backlog for a spin? Give it a try for free today! 



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