The way you start a project plays a huge role in its success.
You may think that just having a project in mind is enough to get you started. Yet to launch (and later complete) a project, planning has to come first.
In more formal projects, an entire phase of the project is dedicated to everything that needs to be done before you actually start working. The project kickoff includes gathering all the necessary information and resources to understand the project, identifying the roles of everyone involved in the project, estimating their tasks, and setting the project's plan.
In this post, we have outlined all the steps in the project kickoff phase to help you start your project, whatever it is, more effectively.
Understand the Purpose of the Project
The first step is to gather all the necessary information and references for the project. This includes details about the project, such as the objectives, goals, budgets, and timelines.
They should be included in the project brief you have received from your client, whoever has assigned you to the project. If this is a self-initiated project, then you need to write up all this information by yourself or by someone from your remote team.
Read all the info about the project carefully and make sure you summarize all the details so that everyone can grasp the project precisely.
If something is unclear, you need to address it with the client before you start working on the project. This will save you so much time in the later stages.
The purpose of this step is to fully understand the stakeholders' expectations for you and your remote team, as well as the success criteria of the project.
Defining the Scope Clearly
Once you’ve got to grips with all the nuts and bolts of your project and all the moving pieces it will involve, it’s time to clearly define the scope.
The scope of the project will determine everything from capacity planning to resource management. A small 2-week project will vastly vary in scope from a complex 6-month project, which is why you need to be crystal clear on everything that will go into pulling off the project successfully.
The scope also allows you to be clear with your stakeholders and client about what you will and won’t do as part of the project. It allows you to be firm with your boundaries and make sure that there’s no risk of scope creep later down the line.
It also gives you the opportunity to get complete buy-in from all relevant stakeholders, so you start from a place of mutual understanding and agreement.
Identify the Roles of Everyone Working on the Project
Now that you and everyone on your team fully understand the purpose of the project, it is time to start identifying the role of everyone in this project and what they need to accomplish. You need to figure out what roles are required to complete this project and who is required for the project to be completed.
When you know exactly who you need in this project, seek out the best employees with the skills you need to complete it. Once you have found the best employees and ensured that they are available, you can book them for the project.
Establish a Communication Plan
Once you’ve identified everyone who will have a key role in the project and outlined their specific responsibilities, you need to come up with a robust communication plan.
A communication plan ensures that everyone involved in the project has an easy way of knowing exactly who they should contact in different situations.
In this plan, it’s worth determining the following:
- Frequency: how often do team members need to touch base for the project to move along seamlessly?
- Feedback mechanisms: how will you invite, collect, and incorporate feedback from your team that could improve the way you’re working?
- Platforms: which tools will you use for day-to-day communication?
Estimate Tasks of Employees Working on the Project
A project kickoff needs to have the estimated times your employees need to complete their tasks. Whether you are running a project with an in-office, remote team, or even a combination of the two, estimating task time can be tricky.
To estimate the time of your remote teammates, you need to know how to track employees working from home. With Insightful, you can monitor your employees as if they were sitting right next to you. Knowing how to track employees working from home will help you estimate the time it takes your employees to do specific tasks more accurately. Plus, you get proof of work, which can help build stronger bonds between you and the stakeholders.
When you are to allocate a task to a particular person, you need to take their capacity into account. You can reference Insightful to show you both how long it took them to complete similar tasks in the past as well as how many available working hours they have in the day.
Resource Allocation and Budgeting
As well as capacity planning, you also need to take your resource distribution into account.
To avoid overextending your resources and exceeding initial budget projections, it’s important to make sure you keep an eye on your spending as you go.
Use an initial projection to act as your north star, and you can use this to guide your spending and make sure you never overcommit resources to any particular aspect of the project. Budget creep, much like scope creep, has the potential to throw your plans off course and disrupt project progress significantly.
Bear in mind that location can play a role, too. For example, working from home increases productivity in many cases, so catering to remote work schedules can help you make progress in your project.
In this instance, to guarantee that working from home increases productivity, you can use Insightful’s ‘remote v office’ feature to compare performance levels from the office and the working from home crew to make sure your instincts are correct.
Set the Plan of the Project
The final step of a successful project kickoff is to set the project's plan. You have defined the purpose of the project, identified the roles of everyone involved with the project, and estimated all of their tasks.
It would be best if you estimated how long it would take each employee to finish their part of the project. For this, you will need an overview of their tracked time. Once you know how long a teammate will be required on a project, you can set a project calendar. The project calendar should include the availability of your teammates, the time they dedicate to other projects, as well as any holidays or days off that might be coming up.
If you are working with remote employees, include their time zones in the calculation. With a project calendar, you will avoid giving too much or too little work to individual employees.
Finally, before you set the wheels in motion for your new project, create a plan for ongoing stakeholder engagement.
While internally, you might be satisfied with your capacity, resource planning measures, and strategic goals, your stakeholders might have other ideas. If you change course midway through a project and forget to notify key stakeholders, you could end up in a situation where you complete the project but upset those stakeholders.
Establish a plan for regular updates for stakeholders, or make space for them to provide feedback as you work. Most project management solutions allow you to add external collaborators, who can see exactly what you’re working on at all times.
So there you have it – the essential steps to effective project kickoff. If you establish these processes correctly from the start, you are likely to make everyone's work easier.
Please make sure that everyone understands the purpose of the project and identifies their exact roles. Also, estimate everyone's tasks and build a project plan, and you will not have trouble with successfully starting a project.