What Is Project Initiation? (Including Steps to Perform It)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 19, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Projects include various stages, such as project initiation, planning, and execution. During the first stage, project initiation, professionals gather information to convince stakeholders to approve the project. If you're trying to encourage stakeholders to accept a project idea or want to learn more about the project life cycle, it's important to learn about the project initiation phase. In this article, we answer the question "What is project initiation?", share its elements, explain why it's important, compare it to project planning, and share how to handle this process.

What is project initiation?

You may be interested in knowing the answer to "What is project initiation?". Project initiation is the first phase of a project's life cycle. It precedes four other stages, including project planning, execution, performance, and closure. During this early stage of a project, professionals determine the purpose of completing the project and the value that it may add to the organization. This process involves gathering information and resources for the project's planning stage. Then, these professionals decide if the project is worth pursuing. If they choose to pursue the project, professionals then use the information gathered during this stage to inform and secure support from major stakeholders.

Read more: What Is a Project Initiation Document? (Including Template)

Project initiation elements

The project initiation phase often involves specific elements, which might include:

Business budget

During the project initiation phase, it's crucial to determine how much the project might cost so the organization leaders can help ensure that it's within its budget. If it makes sense financially, these leaders are more likely to approve the project. It's essential to consider various costs during project initiation, such as the price of resources like labour and materials. Once you estimate how much each aspect costs, add these numbers together to identify an estimated total cost of the project. You can then present this number to organization leaders, who decide whether the project is within the organization's budget.

Read more: What Is Management Reserve for Project Budgets? (And How-to)

Business case

During this phase, professionals create business cases to identify the benefits that completing a project can offer the organization and its customers. This document aims to convince organization leaders to approve the project or stakeholders to finance it. Creating a business case can help a project team understand better the project they're planning. Typically, business cases include a detailed explanation of why the use of financial, employee, and technical resources is worth it to the organization. You might include a risk assessment, proposals of solutions, and alternate options in this document.

Organization stakeholders

As organization stakeholders usually approve or decline projects, these professionals play a vital role in this project phase. Stakeholders may include business owners, department managers, or other organization leaders, depending on the organization's size and structure. To determine whether the project can begin, stakeholders review all information you present to them to determine whether the project can begin.

Strategic goals

It's crucial to ensure that project goals align with the organization's goals. For example, if the organization aims to expand and increase revenue, stakeholders are more likely to approve a project that contributes to these goals. It's important to assess the benefits the project can provide to the organization and share this information. Organization leaders may recommend slight changes to project plans to align more directly with the organization's goals.

Project methodology

During the project initiation phase, it's important to consider which project methodology you might use. There are many methodologies to consider, but it's helpful to first think about the project goals, timeline, team members, and available resources. Here are some examples of different project methodologies you can use for your project:

  • Agile: This methodology lacks specific stages and allows for maximum flexibility, as it encourages teams to make necessary changes as the project progresses. You might consider using agile methodology if there aren't strict deadlines and are various ways to complete project tasks.

  • Critical path: The critical path methodology involves thorough planning of all project tasks and activities to help ensure team members can complete their tasks simultaneously. Consider using this method if the project requires many independent tasks or adhering to strict deadlines.

  • Hybrid: This methodology is a combination of the agile and waterfall methodologies. Consider using this methodology if flexibility and changing plans are important to the project.

  • Scrum: The scrum methodology focuses on a project team working together to improve the project's results. This methodology often involves a high level of self-management, so consider using it if the project team has experience working together and a history of strong results.

  • Waterfall: This methodology focuses on the order in which tasks occur and divides the project into smaller stages, making it easier to manage. Consider using the waterfall methodology if the project is short and has precise requirements.

Project team members

Project initiation includes selecting professionals to become parts of the project team. Building a team with the necessary skills to complete the project's tasks effectively and work well together can set a project up to be successful. Also, find a project manager who's a suitable fit for the project and the team they're leading.

Why is project initiation important?

Project initiation is important because projects may not receive support from stakeholders without the research and organization of information during this stage. Projects require an organization or stakeholders to support the project so that it can begin. Without this project stage, stakeholders may be unable to decide whether it's a smart decision to support a project, and fewer professionals can start their projects.

Project initiation vs. project planning

Project initiation is the first stage of the project life cycle, while project planning is the second. Once you finish the project initiation phase and secure approval from stakeholders, you then proceed to the project planning phase. During this stage, you define the project's goals, roadmap, and deliverables in greater detail. While you have an idea of these aspects during the project initiation phase, you reconsider and confirm them during the project planning phase.

How to handle project initiation

Learn how to handle project initiation by following these six steps:

1. Create a business case

First, create a business case. Typically, project managers or business analysts write these documents. In the business case, define options for project completion, suggest a methodology, support your suggestion, and include a risk assessment. This assessment analyzes potential risks that may hinder the completion of the project. Also, include how the project goals align with the organization's goals.

Read more: Strategic Business Planning (Definition, Benefits, and How-to)

2. Conduct a feasibility study

Next, conduct a feasibility study, which assesses the resources required to complete the projects and whether the organization has access to these resources. This study can help determine whether a project can succeed by highlighting its strengths and weaknesses. Including this study shows stakeholders you've researched the likelihood of the project's success and can increase the chance they approve it.

3. Create a project charter

After you conduct a feasibility test, create a project charter. This document outlines the project's goals, requirements, and roles of all professionals involved. This step is crucial as it provides accountability to project team members by preparing them for their roles. Typically, project charters include:

  • Project budget

  • Project name

  • Project results

  • Purpose or goal of the project

  • Risk assessment

  • Roles of each team member

  • Stakeholders

  • Team members

  • Timeline

Read more: The Importance of Reviewing a Project Charter Example

4. Meet with stakeholders

Next, meet with stakeholders to discuss the project and seek approval. During this meeting, focus on highlighting how the project can help the organization fulfil its goals. Provide stakeholders with the business care and project charter you completed in the previous steps. If the organization doesn't have stakeholders, consider the professionals the project might affect, such as employees, customers, manufacturers, investors, and communities.

5. Assemble the project team

After meeting with stakeholders, identify suitable professionals for the project team. Consider what skills the tasks require and find professionals that possess these skills. For example, if the team presents information to stakeholders frequently, ensure you include a professional with strong presenting skills. It's common for a project team to include the following members:

  • Business analyst

  • Consultants

  • Project client

  • Project manager

  • Resource manager

  • Steering committee

Read more: How to Build a Successful Team in 8 Steps

6. Review the process

The last step of project initiation is reviewing all work and documentation from each step of the process to help ensure that the project team can complete their tasks effectively. During your review, you can make minor changes if they improve efficiency. For example, you might change project timelines or combine tasks during your review.

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