Planning for a project is no easy task, especially for large businesses and organizations where teams often collaborate across time zones—and sometimes even across oceans. Because of this, there are a lot of important things to consider when rolling out steps to project kickoff, including:
- Budget constraints
- Resources and manpower
- What’s in the best interest of the organization
With that said, there are some standard elements that feature from project to project, and learning how to prepare for them can help ensure your campaign starts off without a hitch. Read on to learn which five steps to project kickoff can help your team work more efficiently.
Starting Your Project Off on the Right Foot
When launching a project for the first time, it’s important to keep your company’s goals in mind. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a situation a few months down the road having to explain your actions to stakeholders because you’ve lost sight of your business objectives.
This article will cover five important steps which can help you prevent your project from veering off course. That way, you’ll be more likely to meet your predetermined outcomes, while ensuring your team members, stakeholders, and customers are all happy with your company’s progress.
- Review everything relevant to the project
You won’t be able to start a project until you have a solid understanding of relevant assets and resources. Otherwise, you’ll quickly lose sight of your business objectives, causing your project to become a potential failure. For this reason, it’s critical to review anything that and everything that summarizes your project.
Ideally, you should be able to get your hands on a statement of work (SOW). This will provide you with an in-depth look at the scope of your project, covering everything from performance expectations to preferred timelines. If you can’t come across a SOW, make sure you’re able to collect the following information elsewhere:
- A breakdown of the estimated costs and the project budget
- General milestones
- Expected deliverables
- Key roles for each project team member
- Any assumptions and constraints that could impact your progress
It’s essential that you have all this information before your project kickoff meeting. In fact, commit the information to memory, if you must. Because showing up to your kickoff meeting unprepared will start your project off on a bad note, potentially destroying its chances of success before it has even commenced.
2. Meet with your project sponsor before kickoff
Generally speaking, the project sponsor is the individual responsible for seeing that the campaign meets the stakeholders’ business objectives. Because they play such an integral role in the government of your project, it’s important for you to meet with the sponsor sometime before kickoff, whether over the phone or in person.
The purpose of this meeting is to touch base over the basics of your kickoff session. You’ll want to confirm the following details:
- When is the project kickoff meeting?
- What are the primary discussion topics for this session?
- Where will the kickoff session take place?
And one more thing: As the project manager, it’s going to be your responsibility to lead the discussion at the kickoff meeting. Show up prepared by reviewing the information covered in your SOW document.
3. Create a formal meeting agenda and presentation
After meeting with the sponsor, you should draft an agenda covering the topics of your meeting and prepare for your upcoming presentation at the project kickoff session. It’s important that you’re adequately prepared for your presentation, as you’ll be speaking to key members of the project, including;
- The project delivery team
- Subject matter experts (SMEs) and end users
- Senior management officials (usually the PMO director and relevant department heads)
- The project sponsor
- Any stakeholders who play a decision-making role in the project
4. Limit customer personnel participation levels in advance
If your project involves working with customer-side personnel, it’s a good idea to limit the customer participants to relevant personnel only.
While the opinions and feedback of customer representatives are valuable during the lifespan of a project, you don’t want to make your kickoff session the platform for all customer-related concerns. Including non-essential personnel can easily transform a quick session into a two- or three-day long event, as well as make it more difficult to stick to your agenda. For this reason, make sure to set restrictions on who can participate in the project kickoff session, and give customer-side personnel a different platform for asking questions and sharing concerns.
5. Set the expectations
As the project manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the kickoff session, the project, and any subsequent events all run smoothly. Part of achieving this is by keeping everyone else informed about upcoming events. Use the last few minutes of your project kickoff session to remind attendees of any upcoming events so that they can adjust their schedules and make proper travel arrangements. That way, nobody has to worry about going over budget because they needed to book accommodations at the last minute.
Putting it all together
While every project is inherently different, good organizational and project management skills are universal. With adequate preparation and an open channel of communication, you’re more likely to start your project with the support needed to carry it from start to finish.