PM Interview series: Project Initiation Q&A

Intuity Consulting
Project Initiation

Project initiation is where the “Rubber hits the road” to start the project correctly. If a project begins rocky, is very slow to progress or has inaccurate information, the Sponsor/Stakeholders can quickly lose confidence in the project or project manager. The PM must be able to gather the relevant information together accurately and efficiently. 

Below are some recommended questions to assess a PM’s ability and skills to initiate a project successfully. We’ve also included the answers that reflect a strong response.

 

Q. What key activities/artefacts would you need when initiating a project?

  • Concept/Business Case and approval
  • Identify Sponsor and Stakeholder needs and expectations 
  • Project Management Plan/Charter
  • RAID log
  • Project Financials tracking
  • Project Schedule 
  • Onboard the Project team

 

From the above, we now go into more detail on what would be in some of these artefacts to see how deep their knowledge is…

 

Q. What would you usually have in a Project Management Plan?

Below conveys the typical components of a project management plan. Some project managers or organisations like to have more information in the PMP or sometimes to separate items out such as change management plans or Sponsor & Stakeholder analysis.

  • Scope
  • Objectives & Deliverables of the project
  • Success Criteria (based on benefits) 
  • Governance management
  • Sponsor and Stakeholder list with any key expectations
  • Risks, issues, assumptions, constraints & dependencies
  • Milestones & high-level timings
  • Project team structure and resource management
  • Impact on Business and Technology
  • Change management & communications plan
  • Budget (project and operational costs) and financial management plan

 

Q. What is a RAID Log?

RAID stands for Risk, Actions, Issues and Decisions, and the RAID log is simply an artefact to keep these organised.

However, the RAID log can track other items, such as;

  • Assumptions
  • Constraints
  • Dependencies

 

These items can be held within Documents, Spreadsheets, or tools such as Trello, Planner, or other software tools/solutions.

The critical factor is that these must be documented, and the project manager is accountable for logging and tracking the items within. 

 

Now let’s discover how strong their Project Scheduling skills are by asking the following three questions…

 

Q. What should be in a Project Schedule?

A project manager can develop project schedules in many ways and styles depending on the project manager’s experiences and if the organisation has a template or expected structure for representing the schedule.

Some basics that a schedule should have are:

  • Key milestones to be tracked (this could also include specific governance dates or reporting to the board at specific times).
  • List of deliverables as per the Project Management Plan (PMP)
  • Deliverables/tasks can be grouped into work packages to manage them more manageable.
  • Project team resources are included so they can be allocated to deliverables/tasks and have visibility on resource utilisation.

 

Q. Explain what a WBS is?

A WBS or Work Breakdown Structure defines work activities required for project completion and sub-activities of each. It has a hierarchical structure where activities are segregated into logical sub-activities. There are two ways to do this:

  • Top-down approach – high-level first, then breaking down to smaller components. It’s the most common approach when there is clear direction and goals/deliverables of a project. A good PM can quickly identify the main components or activities whilst the team focuses on the smaller tasks/deliverables.
  • Bottom-up approach – have the smallest level of detail and assign each to a logical grouping. This is used when the type of project hasn’t been done before by the team/organisation. It’s a brainstorming method and needs input from the project team to have free-flowing ideas with more out-of-the-box thinking. However, it can be time-consuming and resource intensive.

 

Below is a basic WBS example for building a house:

Work Breakdown Structure

Q. What would be within a task?

This can depend on your scheduling software, its capability/maturity, and available fields. However, some of the basics are:

  • Task number and/or WBS number
  • Task name,
  • Task Duration and/or Effort
  • Task Start and end dates
  • % Complete
  • Predecessor (the # task that comes before this one)
  • Successor (the # task that comes after this one) 
  • Resource (can be a single person or multiple)

 

If using a tool such as Microsoft Project Professional, there are many more fields available. i.e. ability to manage baseline or estimated dates, budgets/actual costs, track critical paths, variances etc. 

 

Initiating a project correctly is critical to gaining confidence from the Sponsor, Stakeholders and projects team and ensuring the project starts successfully. Our team at Intuity would be happy to chat further on any aspects of project initiation.

Contact Intuity, to discuss your needs.

July 2022

By Mark Dunham, Intuity Consulting

[email protected]

0414 700 464