PRINCE2 Starting Up a Project process

This process is the pre-project preparation process, consisting of a high level analysis of the project. It is also where the project management team are designed and appointed.

The purpose of the Starting Up a Project process is to ensure that the prerequisites for the process Initiating a Project are in place by answering the question: do we have a viable and worthwhile project?

The information gathered and created in this process is put before the project board, and is the point where they meet for the first time, so that they can make a decision whether or not to start the project.

They should agree that the project makes sense to do, and if so, agreed to invest in the Initiation stage for the creation of the Project Initiation Documentation.

Consider how the Starting Up a Project supports the seven PRINCE2 Principles:

  • Continued business justification. By creation of the Outline Business Case
  • Learn from experience. Met by capturing previous lessons on the Lessons Log
  • Defined roles and responsibilities. By designing and appointing the project management team and defining their roles and responsibilities
  • Manage by stages. By creating the Initiation Stage Plan for the next stage in support of the decision to proceed or not
  • Manage by exception. Tolerances will be set for the Initiation Stage Plan so that the first PRINCE2 stage will use MBE
  • Focus on products. Used for the creation of the Project Product Description plus the management products within SU. The Initiation Stage Plan will use the PRINCE2 technique of product-based planning
  • Tailor to suit the project environment. The Project Approach is designed taking into consideration the entire project environment

The Project Mandate, issued by corporate or programme management, triggers the Starting Up a Project process, and ensures that a business requirement exists via the creation of the Outline Business Case.

The Project Mandate is issued by the responsible authority for commissioning projects – usually corporate or programme management (the new project MAY form part of a programme, in which case the programme may also provide the Project Brief).

During the Starting Up a Project process, the Project Mandate is refined to develop the Project Brief. In the next process, Initiating a Project (which takes place in the Initiation Stage), the Project Brief is further refined to become the Project Initiation Documentation (PID).

As can be seen above, the preparation of the Outline Business Case, and the assembling of the Project Brief are normally done in parallel due to the supporting information held in each. The Project Manager, members of the Project Board and other stakeholders will all liaise and contribute to these two documents.

The term Project Mandate can refer to any appropriate information to trigger the project. It could consist of a set of minutes from a high level meeting, a request for a proposal ore even the final recommending report from a feasibility study.

Here are the activities that occur within the Starting Up a Project process:

  • The Project Mandate may recommend an individual who should fill the Project Board Executive role, and the first activity will appoint the Executive who represents the interests of the business stakeholders. The Project Manager is also appointed to manage the project on a day-to-day basis
  • A number of lessons may have been learned from other sources, possibly even external to the organization, and these lessons could be about any aspect, good or bad, concerning the application of methods, applications, processes, tools, etc.
  • These lessons will influence all of the management products being created in the Starting Up a Project process, and should be recorded in the newly-created Lessons Log. The Project Manageris responsible for setting up the Lesson Log and entering information
  • The Outline Business Case (likely to be a high-level view at this time), is created by the Executive to prove there is sufficient business justification, and the project approach is selected (how the project will deliver the end product). The decision to proceed or not, is made in the Directing a Project process
  • Design and appoint the project management team activity. The Project Management Team consists of the Executive, Senior User, Senior Supplier roles on the Project Board plus their Project Assurance responsibilities.

Also The Project Manager and other roles such as Team Managers and Project Support are required. These roles will now need to be appointed.

SU provides management products that provide basic information such that the Project Board can make an informed choice whether or not to invest in the initiation stage and the creation of the Project Initiation Document.

The Project Manager produces the Daily Log, the project management team role descriptions, and the team structure. The Executive appoints the team.

The Daily Log is created which is used as the project managers “diary”, and it is also used to capture any issues and known risks.

Select the project approach and assemble the Project Brief. This activity (along with the Initiation Stage Plan), provides the key management products to decide whether or not to proceed to the Initiation Stage.

The Project Manager produces the Project approach, additional roles descriptions, the Project Brief, the Initiation Stage Plan and the Daily Log.

The Project Board reviews all the management documents, and the Executive approves them.

The Project Brief is used to provide a full and firm foundation for the initiation of the project.

The Project Brief document will contain key information captured from the other activities here in the Starting Up a Project process and consists of:

  • Project Definition (terms of reference)
  • Outline Business Case
  • Project Product Description
  • Project approach
  • Project management team structure
  • Role descriptions
  • References

The project approach defines the choice used to deliver the business option selected from the Business Case taking the project environment into consideration.. Examples of project approach options are:

  • Are any of the products to be created using a third party?
  • What are the knowledge, skills and experience sets of in-house resources?
  • Will the solution be a new product or a modification of an existing product?
  • Will the solution be based on ‘off-the-shelf’ product(s) or custom designed?

The purpose of the Project Product description is to define what the project must deliver in order to gain acceptance. In other words it describes the purpose of the project’s product and who will use it. It is created containing the customer’s quality expectations and acceptance criteria.

As an example, suppose the end product of your project is a Help Desk facility for your organization. The Project Product Description would define the Help Desk Facility.

But the Help Desk facility consists of lower level products, such as trained staff, maybe a website, the equipment and system probably involving hardware and software, and so on. These lower level products would need Product Descriptions created as part of the PRINCE2 technique of product based planning.

SU creates the Initiation Stage Plan which covers the time and resources for the creation of the Project Initiation Documentation undertaken in the Initiation stage, and the time and resources to prepare and plan for the second (the first delivery) stage.

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About the Author Dave Litten

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of project-related downloadable video training products under the Primer and Projex Academy brand names. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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