Agile Project Management #04 – Project Initiation Questions

In my last post, Agile Project Management #03 – The Project Charter and Agile, the premise was that a Project Charter is still relevant in an Agile environment. Instead of just stating the contents of the charter, let’s turn the contents into questions to answer at the beginning of a project. This may be a more practical tool which anyone can use and can clear up some vague statements with practical examples.

  1. What is the purpose of your project? (What business goals are the project trying to satisfy? What problem does it solve for the customer or the company? Who is the target audience of the project or service?)
  2. How do you know the project has met its goals and is successful? (When should the project or the minimum viable product (MVP) be delivered? What should be the cost to bring the project to market? How do we know the customer or company accepts the project? What should the revenue, profit, or savings be because of the project?)
  3. What are the high-level requirements, product description, and boundaries? (What should the product do? What is the service offering? Are there any overarching constraints, like use an existing hardware, software, or interfaces? How does it serve any unique users?)
  4. What are some project risks? (Who may be some competitors in the market? What are the financial, staffing, or technology challenges we may encounter? Who needs to support the project who may not be involved now?)
  5. What are the summary milestones? (What should we complete and when to know we are on track with completing the project successfully? Keep in mind not just the product or service, but big supporting inputs like facilities, finances, marketing, etc.)
  6. What are the finances needed and which has management approved so far? (Do we have any money to start?)
  7. Who are the key stakeholders? Think about anyone who has something vested in the project: company management, customers, support teams, delivery teams, training teams, financial backers, etc. The list is larger than you may think at first.
  8. Related to #2 above, who decides the project is successful? What subset of the stakeholders (#7 above) decides that?
  9. What are the project exit criteria? (How do we end the project if it is going badly or conditions change? Who needs to be involved to cancel or end the project?)
  10. Who is the project manager and/or other project leaders and what responsibilities or authorities to they have? (This can be shown in a RACI matrix, which can be a topic for a future post.)
  11. Who is the project sponsor? (Who has executive responsibility for the project?)

Answer all those questions, and maybe some more, and you have a Project Charter. As noted in the last post, this information applies to any kind of project, regardless of the execution method. What questions should you answer in your Project Charter? What are the most important items for your business to know when starting a project? Maybe there is a strict regulatory environment which contributes to your milestones and risks. You can think up a number of items to fill in any gaps in the information you need before you embark on your projects.

The next post in the Agile Project Management series will start looking at the Planning Process Group activities. This is the “upfront work” that is most changed (or shunned) in an Agile practice. Should it be?

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