Stage 4: Project Start-Up
This stage involves the final preparation for project delivery, using appropriate tools from the Project Management System in consultation with the Directorate Programme Manager. This will including establishing the project team and (where necessary, depending on the project category) project board; setting up reporting templates; and agreeing tolerances.
A good project plan, properly thought out and put together at this stage is going to be critical for effective delivery of the project. It is absolutely vital that there is a clear plan in place that sets out:
- What needs to be done (products) and how (tasks)
- When it needs to be done by (milestones)
- Who will do it and how much it will cost (resources)
- How it gets signed off and agreed (quality)
- How the project will engage with and talk to other people and groups (communications)
Project Initiation Document
The final step is to assemble the Project Initiation Document (PID). The analysis and planning you have done during the previous project stages together with the final preparations as above will give you all of the information you need to include, so you can 'assemble' the PID instead of writing it. The PID is a suite of existing project documents, and the only new document needed will be a simple cover sheet signposting to where the relevant information and analysis is held.
The key components of the PID are:
- Project description, including background, objectives, outputs / targets, strategic fit, corporate implications, links and dependencies (from the Mandate and Proposal)
- Business case, including options appraisal and value for money analysis
- Resource management, including resource plan, funding plan and budget
- Organisation and governance including project team structure
- Reporting, including setting project tolerances
- Project delivery plan (and a stage plan, if you’ve done one), highlighting milestones and proposed dates for stage reviews
- Project controls, including tolerances and quality plan
- Stakeholder analysis and communications plan
- Risk register.
Once you have brought all the elements of the Project Initiation Document together, this should be approved by your Directorate Programme Manager. We don’t think it’s necessary for Programme Boards to approve the PID, as this is very much a technical, process-related gateway. However, if the Directorate Programme Manager has concerns, for example about whether the resources needed to deliver the project have been secured, then they may escalate this to the Programme Board.
It’s important to emphasise that the process is intended to support the project manager in developing robust delivery and governance arrangements, not to cause unnecessary delays. It also protects project teams from pressure to deliver immediately without proper planning and resources – for example, where posts have not been backfilled or responsibilities reassigned as per the resource plan, and the project manager or other key members of the project team are therefore carrying all of their previous workload in addition to their project role. It will obviously be important for the process to be flexible and responsive, for example to enable us to respond quickly to funding opportunities or to meet urgent requirements. However, there are numerous examples of projects from both public and private sector organisations where costs have increased significantly due to poor project planning and inadequate resourcing.
Gateway 4, as with all the gateways, is therefore mandatory. In future, this may be linked to the project being allocated a cost code. An amendment to the Council’s Financial Regulations has also been proposed to include a requirement to pass this gateway before committing any expenditure relating to the project.
The PID should then be “frozen” or archived to use as a baseline. At key points throughout the project (particularly at stage reviews), you will then be able to compare the project’s performance against the PID to check that is still viable, worthwhile and deliverable.