The Essential First Step of Defining Your Project
Many business owners make the mistake of just jumping feet first into projects, without taking the time to define a project. A poorly defined project is usually either destined to fail, or take up far more time and resources than necessary. Defining your project doesn’t take long, but has a big impact on your chances at success.
==> Start by Identifying Scope
The first thing you should do is identify the scope of your project. This consists of two things:
1) What your project’s scope IS
2) What your project’s scope IS NOT
Both of these are equally important; though it’s likely that the latter is actually slightly more important than the first.
Defining what your project’s scope is is simple. It’s basically a brief description of what your project entails. Make sure you have a clear description of what “done” means for your project.
More importantly, make sure you also have a clear definition for what your project’s scope is NOT. This helps prevent what’s called “creep.” Creep is where a project starts expanding and taking up more resources to do things that weren’t initially in the project’s scope.
The classical example is the software development project where the programmers continually add features to the program and never get it done. Instead, with a properly defined scope, the program could have been done ages ago.
==> Identify Dependents and Stakeholders
Next, identify who your project depends on and who your project’s stakeholders are.
Your dependents are the people whose help you need to complete your project. For example, if your project is to ship a new DVD program, your project might be dependent on getting the cover art from your graphic designer.
Get all your dependents sorted out early on, so that you don’t end up stalling the project later on due to a missed dependent.
Next, identify your stakeholders. Stakeholders are anyone who depends on your project to do their job, or anyone who your project will have a major impact on. Make sure you keep these people in the loop.
==> Identify Roles
Identify the roles of everyone in the project. Every person should have a clearly designated role. Nobody should only leave the project meeting with only a vague sense of what they’re supposed to be doing.
It helps to write this out on paper. Just one paragraph per person can go a long way towards clearing up roles.
That’s all there is to defining a project. Start by defining your scope, including what your scope is and what it’s not. Then define your stakeholders and dependents. Finally, define the roles of your team members. This whole process can take less than an hour; but could easily save you days or weeks of wasted work.