The Secrets of Project Management – Initiation How do you “Set up your Project for Success”?



Experienced project managers know that proper preparation is the key for any successful project.

They understand that important preliminary steps must be completed in order to give their projects the best foundation to build upon and it is key in pmp-practitioners Group, experience to being able to initiate and mobilise your project effectively.

Setting up projects to succeed in the view of the Customer/ Project Sponsor / Stakeholders is a critical part of the Project Manager’s role. All project managers are familiar with the standard processes within PMBoK or PRINCE 2, Starting up / Initiating a project:

Project Initiation brings together the key, foundational documents to define the:

– Project itself
– Business need for the project, how it is aligned to the Organisations ‘Mission and Vision’
– Project Sponsorship
– On-going project governance.

Project Initiation, by performing several critical steps, ensures a successful project start-up and gives you a solid head foundation to achieve your project objectives. Not performing these critical steps virtually assures project failure. So, start strong to finish strong….

The Secrets of Success
1, Understand the Value your Project brings:

You may or may not have been engaged in drafting the Business Case for the project but obtain a copy and review:

– What the expected benefits are for your project (consider how they will be measured)
– How you project aligns with the strategy of the organisation, does it fit with the strategic plan?
– Understand expected returns on investment, benefits sought and the initial financial estimates.

PRINCE 2 defines it as:

During the initiation you should seek to understand what are the expectations of your Project Sponsor and key stakeholders? Do they fit with the Business Case? If not, why not and resolve any differences upfront.

See PMP’s Business Case documentation:

In PMI the Project Manager may not prepare the Business Case but without a deep understanding of it you are ‘flying in the dark’.

The Project Sponsor may be responsible to deliver the benefits but you and the Project Team have a big part to play.

2. Prepare your Project Charter or Project Mandate / Project Initiation Document (PID)

See PMP’s Initiation documentation:

Whatever method your organization uses to initiate a project — Sometimes it’s very formal, sometimes not. Even when your organisation is informal it is recommended that you create this documentation, it will form a clear reference point throughout the Project.

Would you set out to cross America without a map, knowing the start and the end?

These are two formal methods for Project Initiation and documenting the project approval and authorization.

The Project Charter — PMI’s PMBOK® recommends the use of a Project Charter as the project initiation document. The Project Charter, as defined in the PMBOK® is:

”A document issued by the project initiator or sponsor that formally authorises the existence of a project, and provides the project manager with the authority to apply organisational resources to project activities.”  – A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) Fifth Edition

The “project initiator” or Project Sponsor is external to the project organisation and at a level that is able to fund the project (holder of the business case secrets, you have now understood).

The development of the Project Charter by the Project Manager and issuance by the Project Sponsor links the project to the ongoing work of the organization and gains buy-in.

The Project Charter or PID documents:

  • Business Needs (at a higher level than detailed business requirements)
  • Project Justification (which may refer to other documents, such as a feasibility study, business case, or other business needs analysis)
  • Current understanding of the Customer’s Requirements the deliverable or work product intended to satisfy the Customer’s requirements
  • According to the PMBOK® Guide, the content of the Project Charter should include, either within the document or as a reference to other documents, the following:
    • Business needs, high-level project description, or product requirements that are the focus of the project
    • Specific customer and other stakeholder project needs or expectations (starting to develop the scope)
    • Project purpose or justification
    • Assigned Project Manager and authority level
    • Summary milestone schedule
    • Stakeholder influences
    • Functional organisations involved and their participation
    • Organisational, environmental, and external assumptions and constraints
    • Business case justifying the project, including a return on investment (ROI) and preliminary budget summary.

The Mandate or Project Inception Document (PID) — The PRINCE2® Manual describes the use of a Project Mandate document as the project initiation document. PRINCE2® sets out what ought to be in a Project Mandate, but is not strict about all of the content. PRINCE2® allows for the “Starting Up a Project (SU) process” to sort out the initial information needed and reach the minimum level of organization and understanding prior to initiation of the project.

The Project Mandate is essentially instructions from corporate management or programme management to start using the PRINCE2® methodology, in the form of a project, to achieve the desired business objectives. Although the content and complexity of the Project Mandate is dependent on the needs of the project; topics might include:

  • Authority responsible
  • Background or Purpose for the project
  • Project objectives (ensure they are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Result oriented, and Timely, and they relate back to the organisation’s Strategic Vision and Business Case)
  • Scope (a description or outline, but ensure it is clear)
  • Constraints (capture from all your initial meetings and populate the Risk, Assumptions, Issues,
  • Dependency and Decisions Log {RAIDD Log}
  • Quality expectations
  • Business Case outline (and description)
  • Reference documents or sources of information
  • Indication of the project executive (or project sponsor, in PMBOK® terms) and recommendation for Project Manager
  • Who the customer(s) are
  • Who the user(s) are
  • Other Stakeholders.

At a minimum, enough information should be available to identify the Project Executive (Sponsor) and the subject matter of the project (description of the scope).

Tip: It really doesn’t matter which methodology, framework or process you use, you just need a common baseline and understanding to manage it from!

See PMP’s Initiation documentation:

Most other project management methodologies (or quasi-methodologies), such as RUP, TenStep, IPMA’s “IPMA Competence Baseline” (ICB, Version 3, 2006), and others, use some form of Business Case and/or Project Charter document to initiate a project.

3, Project Initiation Structure & Governance

The major differences between the various methods is in:

  • “who” prepares the initiation documents?
  • “when” the document(s) are prepared in the Project Initiation process; and
  • “what” governance body or person approves the Project Initiation document?

The important thing is the document will establish the project structure and governance (Steering Committee / Project Board) and the major stakeholder’s (start developing your Project Stakeholder Register from the first day on the Project).

See PMP’s Stakeholder Register and Analysis:

he important thing about governance is to get it to work for you and the programme, not the other way round e.g.

  • owners / sponsors own the programme and are ultimately responsible
  • get stakeholder/users to take responsibility for benefits
  • ensure Steering Committee represents and serves the programme and commits resources.

One of the strengths of PRINCE2® is the establishment of an accountable Project Board to provide oversight and support – to own the project and ensure that it is successfully completed. The Project Board is responsible for all project initiation activities. Typically, a project will be initially agreed by senior management – a senior executive of the sponsoring organisation.

The project sponsor then produces the Project Charter document with sufficient detail to present to senior management, obtain the authorisation to proceed, and obtain the funding and resource commitment. This approval, authorization, and funding commitment initiates the project and leads to the selection/appointment of a Project Manager.

The Project Manager’s planning specifies the resources and skills required. Working under the authority of the Project Sponsor, the PM reaches out through the organization to obtain the resources required. During this Initiation Phase, the PM will also produce a Preliminary Project Scope, which when approves will begin the Project Planning Phase. The approved Project Charter and the Preliminary Project Scope are the two initial inputs to begin the Planning Phase.

According to PMBOK®, the Project Sponsor is the primary governance entity during the Project Initiation Phase. PMBOK® also describes interactions with senior management for approvals, resource authorizations, and funding/budget approvals. However, the PMBOK® Guide specifically states that, “[Project Charter] approval and funding are handled external to the project boundaries.”

Just from these brief descriptions, you should see the difference in governance structure between PRINCE2® and PMBOK®. If you are initiating a project you will require a strong governance structure and support.

We recommend you obtaining the authorization for a Project Board / Steering Committee / Stakeholders to your Project Charter or Project Mandate / Project Initiation Document (PID). It gets there buy-in and establishes a base for their support as you go forward.

If the project initiation (Project Mandate / Project Initiation Document) is based on a formal “go/no go” decision, based on the Business Case all project decisions, made by either the Project Manager or the Project Board (project governance committee) are aligned with the Business Case.

The Business Case provides the documentation of the “business change” which prompted the initiation of the project.


4, Get to know your Stakeholders


During Project Initiation, whichever methodology or framework you are using, you will meet for the first time your Stakeholders (including your own team and suppliers):



Engage and consult stakeholders early, especially owner/sponsor and stakeholders responsible for resources and benefits. Begin to understand their drivers and needs and understand how they can help you achieve your Project Goal and Objectives. Look for the Win-Wins, especially “low hanging fruit” and quick wins and focus on the key influencers – but do not ignore the others.

Develop your Stakeholder Register / Matrix and start with your Project team to develop the Power/Interest, Power/Influence, and Influence/Impact grids:


Take time with the Stakeholders you need to ‘Manage Closely’ and ‘Keep Satisfied’. Develop a Communications Plan to keep them engaged and to inform those in the ‘Keep Informed Quadrant. Refer to the Secrets of Project Management – Communications article:


5: Research

Research is the final Secret of Project Management success. Do your homework.

Environmental Enterprise Factors (EEF) – influences the organisation, the project and its outcome.

Every organisation has to live and work within the EEF. The Enterprise Environment Factor can be either internal or external:

Examples of external Enterprise Environmental Factors are as follows:

  • Government regulation
  • Market conditions
  • Infrastructure
  • External political conditions.

And the following are a few examples of internal Enterprise Environmental Factors:

  • Organisational culture
  • Type of organisational structure
  • Internal political conditions
  • Available resources.


Organisational Process Assets (OPA) – the definition of Assets: It is a useful or valuable thing or property owned by a person or company, regarded as to having value.

Simply put, assets are something that you can own, keep and make use of.

These Organisational Process Assets are kept in some central repository / knowledge base so that they can be used whenever required by anyone.

Organisation Process Assets can be divided into two categories.

The first category is for processes and procedures for conducting work, which includes the following:

  • Policies
  • Procedures
  • Standard template
  • General guideline.

The second category includes corporate knowledge base for storing and retrieving information. For example:

Other sources include:

Documented project “best practices”

Training courses and textbooks, PMI articles

Information shared between project managers, including Linked In, including pmp-practitioners LinkedIn Group and ideas, case studies, and information from various publications.



Set you project up for success by ensuring Strategic alignment, and that you have Governance in place, which formally authorises your Project by signing off the Project Charter / PID / Mandate.

Finally actively manage key Stakeholders and aim for ‘Win Wins’.


What is your key Project Initiation Tip?

Tell pmp-practitioners LinkedIn Group and the best tip will win a free copy of Project Management Coaching Workbook: Six Steps to Unleashing Your Potential by Susanne Madsen.

Win a copy of Project Management Coaching Workbook Unleashing Your Potential by Susanne Madsen and £100; tell pmp-practitioners LinkedIn Group your top Initiation tip as a Comment before 30th April 2020; on:



Most document bundles are priced at $9.99 each and the “Full Pack” set is offered at a heavily discounted price of $99.