Initiating the Project-Managing the Information Systems Project
Initiating the Project
During project initiation the project manager performs several activities that assess the size, scope, and complexity of the project, and establishes procedures to support subsequent activities. Depending on the project, some initiation activities may be unnecessary and some may be more involved. The types of activities you will perform when initiating a project are summarized in Figure 3-6 and are described next.
1. Establishing the project initiation team. This activity involves organizing an initial core of project team members to assist in accomplishing the
FIGURE 3-6 Six project initiation activities.
project initiation activities. For example, during the Purchasing Fulfillment System project at PVF, Chris Martin was assigned to support the purchasing department. It is a PVF policy that all initiation teams consist of at least one user representative, in this case Juanita Lopez, and one member of the IS development group. Therefore, the project initiation team consisted of Chris and Juanita; Chris was the project manager.
2. Establishing a relationship with the customer. A thorough understanding of your customer builds stronger partnerships and higher levels of trust. At PVF, management has tried to foster strong working relationships between business units (such as purchasing) and the IS development group by assigning a specific individual to work as a liaison between both groups. Because Chris had been assigned to the purchasing unit for some time, he was already aware of some of the problems with the existing purchasing systems. PVF’s policy of assigning specific individuals to each business unit helped to ensure that both Chris and Juanita were comfortable working together prior to the initiation of the project. Many organizations use a similar mechanism for establishing relationships with customers.
3. Establishing the project initiation plan. This step defines the activities required to organize the initiation team while it is working to define the scope of the project. Chris’s role was to help Juanita translate her business requirements into a written request for an improved information system. This task required the collection, analysis, organization, and transformation of a lot of information. Because Chris and Juanita were already familiar with each other and their roles within a development project, they next needed to define when and how they would communicate, define deliverables and project steps, and set deadlines. Their initiation plan included agendas for several meetings. These steps eventually led to the creation of their system service request (SSR) form
4. Establishing management procedures. Successful projects require the development of effective management procedures. Within PVF, many of these management procedures had been established as standard operating procedures by the Systems Priority Board and the IS development group. For example, all project development work is charged to the functional unit requesting the work. In other organizations, each project may have unique procedures tailored to its needs. Yet, in general, when establishing procedures, you are concerned with developing team communication and reporting procedures, job assignments and roles, project change procedures, and determining how project funding and billing will be handled. It was fortunate for Chris and Juanita that most of these procedures were already established at PVF, allowing them to move quickly on to other project activities.
5. Establishing the project management environment and project workbook. The focus of this activity is to collect and organize the tools that you will use while managing the project and to construct the project workbook. For example, most diagrams, charts, and system descriptions provide much of the project workbook contents. Thus, the project workbook serves as a repository for all project correspondence, inputs, outputs, deliverables, procedures, and standards established by the project team. The project workbook can be stored as an online electronic document, a Web site, or in a large three-ring binder. The project workbook is used by all team members and is useful for project audits, orientation of new team members, communication with management and customers, identification of future projects, and performance of postproject reviews. The establishment and diligent recording of all
FIGURE 3-7 The project workbook for the Purchase Fulfillment System project contains nine key documents in both hard-copy and electronic form
project information in the workbook are two of the most important activities you will perform as project manager.shows the project workbook for the Purchasing Fulfillment System. It consists of both a large hard-copy binder and online storage where the system data dictionary, a catalog of data stored in the database, and diagrams are stored. For this system, all project documents can fit into a single binder. It is not unusual, however, for project documentation to be spread over several binders. As more information is captured and recorded electronically, however, fewer hard-copy binders may be needed. Many project teams keep their project workbooks on the Web. A Web site can be created so that all project members can easily access all project documents. This Web site can be a simple repository of documents or an elaborate site with password protection and security levels. The best feature of using the Web as your repository is that it allows all project members and customers to review a project’s status and all related information continually.
6. Developing the project charter. The project charter is a short (typically one page), high-level document prepared for the customer that describes what the project will deliver and outlines many of the key elements of the project. A project charter can vary in the amount of detail it contains, but often includes the following elements:
- Project title and date of authorization
- Project manager name and contact information
- Customer name and contact information
- Projected start and completion dates
- Project description and objectives
- Key assumptions or approach
- Key stakeholders, roles, responsibilities and signatures
The project charter ensures that both you and your customer gain a common understanding of the project. It is also a useful communication tool; it helps to announce to the organization that a particular project has been chosen for development. A sample project charter is shown in .
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FIGURE 3-8 A project charter for a proposed information systems project.
Project initiation is complete once these six activities have been performed. Before moving on to the next phase of the project, the work performed during project initiation is reviewed at a meeting attended by management, customers, and project team members. An outcome of this meeting is a decision to continue the project, modify it, or abandon it. In the case of the Purchasing Fulfillment System project at Pine Valley Furniture, the board accepted the SSR and selected a project steering committee to monitor project progress and to provide guidance to the team members during subsequent activities. If the scope of the project is modified, it may be necessary to return to project initiation activities and collect additional information. Once a decision is made to continue the project, a much more detailed project plan is developed during the project planning phase.