The Project Planning and Initiation web page lists nine questions whose answers need to be written down before final sign-off of any project plan. Here are more detailed notes on each question.
1: Determine the scope:- what to deliver and when
- Describe why the work needs to be done – for example, to meet a policy imperative or respond to a business driver for change.
- Describe the required outcome in measurable, time based terms – what you want to change and how you will know that you have changed it.
- Identify high-level benefits, how they contribute to strategic objectives and how they will be measured. Identify the causal factors – what needs to be in place for the outcome to happen?
- Describe the actions/projects that need to be undertaken.
- Identify high-level options for meeting the business need; identify the option with the most acceptable mix of cost, benefit and risk
2: Estimate the resources and capabilities (people, physical resources and funding) you will need
- Base your estimates on what others have done, wherever possible.
- Look at the dependencies between current programs and projects in your organisation to arrive at the optimum allocation of resources.
- Establish the skills and expertise you need (capability to do the job) and the numbers of people who will be required over the lifetime of the project (capacity).
- Estimate the whole-life cost of the change – people and physical resources (buildings, technology etc.).
- Consider whether your organisation has enough experience and skills to manage new arrangements where they involve working with others.
- Determine the budget/resource limits and where the costs will fall.
3: Identify potential sources of capability
- Investigate who could deliver the required outcome. Look at the whole supply chain – your organisation, business partners, suppliers and their suppliers, your advisers and your customers.
- Consider innovative ways of delivery, such as collaborating with the private sector where there are appropriate incentives for them to do so.
- Look at what others are doing.
- Where relevant, look at opportunities to exploit technology to deliver the capability you need.
4: Decide who will carry out the required processes and policies
- Look at the proposed way/s forward in the context of the business, its current portfolio and priorities; check that they fit with the organisation’s strategy.
- Check for opportunities to collaborate with others and for overlaps with projects already planned or underway; look at the interfaces with other initiatives/organisations.
- Establish how much is new or changing in terms of people and the way they work, services and physical resources such as buildings and IT.
- Make a realistic assessment of the likelihood of success, given your organisation’s existing commitments, priorities, capability and capacity.
- Consider whether critical business processes would be affected
- Consider breaking the work down into smaller packages instead of doing everything at once.
- Revisit the priorities; in addition, expect the unexpected – could you cope with unforeseen change?
5: Determine who will be accountable for what
- Establish who will be responsible for making investment decisions (for example, the Board, partners) and who will be senior individual responsible for the project/program as its owner.
- Check that the right person is given the role, in terms of their authority and responsibilities in relation to the proposed change.
- Define high level governance structures and responsibilities; consider how different responsibilities fit together and how everyone involved will understand their role and responsibility.
- Define high level arrangements for reporting downwards on policy and business requirements, reporting upwards on progress, performance and risks and taking prompt action as required.
- For joint projects, identify the additional arrangements that need to be in place.
- Ensure that reporting lines will be kept as short as possible.
6: Identify similar projects that have succeeded
- Compare your project with other ways of delivering a similar outcome – public/private sector and internationally.
- Take account of factors that could affect success, such as cultural differences.
- Identify why others have succeeded – or failed – and the lessons learned from their experiences.
7: Determine an acceptable balance of cost, benefit and risk – and how they should be managed
- Confirm the solution that offers best value for money; obtain approval from senior management.
- Revisit the key risks to performance and delivery.
- Consider the whole supply chain, including intermediaries, and how risks could be allocated and managed.
- For the proposed way forward, identify an acceptable balance of costs, benefits and risk.
- Consider a wide range of possibilities and the trade offs associated with each.
- If it is an innovative approach, consider how to manage the risks and how well your organisation could cope with the scale of change proposed by more radical options.
- Establish that each of the proposed options is practical, realistic and viable; consider how well each option meets stakeholder needs.
- Contingency plans need to be outlined at this stage.
(Risks relating to performance could include lack of public interest leading to poor take-up of a service; risks relating to performance could include overambitious timescales, inadequate resources and lack of essential skills.)
8: Determine how you will work with other delivery agents and stakeholders to share information and knowledge
- Consider who your stakeholders are and what they want – the people who will be involved in/affected by the change and/or influence the outcome.
- Resolve any conflicting demands.
- Think about how you will achieve stakeholder buy-in and overcome any resistance to the change.
- Consider the perceptions that might have to change and how behaviours could be changed.
9: Determine arrangements for monitoring and reporting progress. Identify the performance measures and incentives you will need
- Set milestones – that is, progress checkpoints at specified intervals – against intermediate targets towards the required outcome. (These milestones will enable you to track progress against plans and take action on any feedback relating to progress.)
- Identify performance measures that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based); determine mechanisms for reliable and regular performance information.
- Think about the incentives for staff, partners and suppliers that will encourage a successful outcome.
- Check that performance information can be collected efficiently and in good time to take remedial action if required.