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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chapter 5: Initiating Process Group

Aim: To understand the Initiating Process Group

The initiating process group is the first step in the project life cycle. In fact, much of the work performed in this process group is actually outside the scope of the actual project being executed. The main purpose of initiating is to authorize a project to begin or continue. Notice that the initiating process group serves two potential roles. It generally occurs at the beginning of a project, but can also occur several more times throughout the life of a project. Some larger projects define specific milestones that require revisiting the initiating processes to continue the project. Invoking the initiating processes at the start of each phase helps keep the project focused on the business need the project was undertaken to address.

The Purpose of Initiating a Project

Initiating usually occurs at the beginning of a project and can also be required at certain points throughout the project. For example, a large project with the goal of producing a prototype of a commercial road car will likely encounter several points along the project life cycle at which important decisions must be made. After the engine and transmission have been produced and joined together, they must be tested to evaluate performance against project goals. If the performance does not meet certain standards, the components must be reworked to meet standards before continuing. Alternatively, the whole project could be terminated if the product is deemed to be unable to effectively meet the project standards. This phase in the project is a crucial go/no-go decision point and constitutes activities in the initiating process group.

Exam Watch:
Although the most common time for these activities to occur is at the beginning of a project, don’t overlook the fact that they can be taken up during the project at any point in time. It is not uncommon for large projects to call for initiating processes several times throughout the project life cycle. Any time you need to assess the progress of a project, reevaluate its merit, and request approval to continue, initiating processes are executed.

In all cases, initiating processes require input from preceding activities. The entities charged with deciding whether to proceed require substantiating information on which to base a decision. When initiating occurs at the beginning of a project, at least some of the input must be created in tasks that are not part of the project. This work predates the project initiation date and can make the actual project start point may seem incorrect. The points in time at which a project begins and ends are referred to as the project boundaries. Because a substantial amount of the inputs to the initiating processes is created outside the scope of the project, the starting boundary can be unclear. A project always starts as a result of a business need, and the business need develops before the project commences. Likewise, any documentation of the need for the project is developed before the actual project starts.

Exam Watch: You need to know the inputs and outputs of each process defined in the PMBOK. That’s 42 separate input and output sets! The exam includes several questions that require you to know process inputs, outputs, and general information flow. Memorizing them may seem like the easier option, but if you understand and rationalize what inputs are required for each process and what outputs it might generate, it would be easier to remember.

Subsequent initiating iterations during the project life cycle will use inputs from preceding activities. It is important to understand that the activities in the initiating process group always result in a critical project decision. The end of the initiating process group is represented by a decision to continue the project, go back and redo some of the work, or terminate the project altogether.

In most projects, you should include any customers and other stakeholders in many of the activities in the initiating process group. Including as many stakeholders as possible in the early project activities fosters a sense of pride and shared ownership of the project. Any stakeholder who feels a sense of ownership is apt to be more diligent about ensuring the project succeeds. Stakeholder participation increases the success of setting the project scope, gathering project requirements, and defining the overall criteria for project success.

The Project Manager Assignment

PMI requires that the project manager be assigned prior to any project planning taking place. Practically speaking the project manager doesn’t have to be assigned until the end of the initiating process group. However, it makes sense to assign the project manager earlier. A project manager who helped create the project charter is more comfortable with a project and has an easier time planning the project.

It is the responsibility of the project initiator, or project sponsor, to officially assign the project manager. After the project managers are assigned, the project charter identifies the project managers and provides them with the authority to carry out project management tasks.

The Project Charter and Its Purpose

The initiating process group consists of two processes. The first process is the development of the project charter, and the second process is identifying stakeholders. The project charter is the initial document that describes the project at a high level and formally authorizes the project. PMI requires that a project charter be created and accepted before a project is considered official for starting. As a PMP, you are required to insist on a project charter before proceeding in the role of project manager.

Exam Watch:
The PMBOK requires a project charter for every project. The lack of a project charter is a project stopper. Remember that you cannot start a project (As per PMI) without a project charter. Even though, there may have been or will be situations where you may be forced to do so, for the exam it is a No-Brainer and no project can start without the approved project charter.

Authorization from the project sponsor, the project management organization (PMO), or portfolio steering committee is necessary for the project manager to allocate resources and actually perform the work of the project. Even before bestowing authorization, the stakeholders must assign the project manager to the project. The project charter provides the framework for carrying out these actions. It is also the first deliverable of the project and sets the basement for the whole project to build on.

There is no standard format for a project charter, but each project charter should address these basic areas:
• Purpose or justification
• Project objectives
• High-level requirements
• Project description
• Risks
• Summary milestone schedule
• Summary budget
• Approval requirements
• Project manager
• Authorizing party

Note: Each area of the project charter provides information on the business need and how the project will meet the need. It is important to have a general understanding of the project charter contents for the exam. Although you aren’t asked specific questions about the project charter’s contents, you are asked questions about the project charter as a whole and its purpose.

Exam Watch:
The PMP exam asks a few questions about the roles of the project initiator, or sponsor, and the project manager. The project initiator starts the official project process. All of the project manager’s authority comes from the project initiator and the initial stakeholders. For this reason, the project charter must be issued by someone with the authority to fund the project and assign resources to it. The project initiator’s role is to describe and authorize the project, assign the project manager, and fund the project. The project manager’s role is to plan and execute the project.

Prev: Chapter 4

Next: Chapter 6

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