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If a project doesn't start right it won't end well

Updated: Mar 10

Many businesses wonder why they aren’t that good at projects but the reasons are not that difficult to identify.


A common reason is that the project wasn’t started right in the first place – and that will significantly impact the chances of success.


Projects should start with only two people – the project sponsor and the project manager – and they should work on the business case to make sure that the project is viable. This is a vital document that should be used as a continual reference to validate the ongoing justification of the project.


The project manager needs to bring an objective perspective to the business case – ultimately all good project managers will be looking at whether they can deliver the business benefits within the confines of time and cost.

If the project manager role is handed to a subject matter expert (usually a senior user) or to a supplier there will be subjective elements that will get in the way of the rigor required to create a solid business case.


So, once the business case has been finalised the project can start right?

No. This just means that you may still have a worthwhile project – the next step is to set-up the project. This means that you need to identify the project team members, examine the risks to the project and how these can be mitigated or eliminated. All the aspects of how the project is to be run should be identified at this point (communication methods and frequency, necessary contingencies, change control protocols). It is also vital that exactly what will be delivered gets nailed down at this point in order to avoid project creep.


Now that you have fleshed out the business case and identified how the project is to be managed it is time to go back to the project sponsor and to get the “go or no go” for the project – the benefits and costs should now be much clearer than before. Don’t be concerned about walking away at this point. All efforts so far should be viewed as a sunk cost.


In my next post I will be looking at how to set-up a project team to succeed.


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