Agile Project Initiation

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Agile Project InitiationI’ve written before about how I think Agile Project Management alone is not enough. Project Initiation is one of the areas of agile methods that I think needs embelishment for large projects.

Over the years, I’ve used quite a few techniques for project initiation.

But I’ve never really come across an agile one.

My first experience of formal project initiation was a Project Definition Report in Method1, a very traditional methodology from Anderson Consulting as they were known then; now Accenture.

Then, as a Project Manager, I used a PID (Project Initiation Document) from the PRINCE2 project management methodology, which I guess is probably the most widely used today.

In MSF (Microsoft Solutions Framework), there’s the Vision & Scope document.

Truth is, they’re all pretty similar really. Long documents, with lots of details about a project and how it’s going to be run. Long, tedious documents.

Yet, for large projects, they are important.

As a Project Manager, I always found the thought process they made me go through was incredibly useful. I personally benefited from writing them; that’s for sure. Without them, the project could be poorly thought through. And the chances of failure would certainly be higher.

So the thinking was valuable. Trouble was, no-one wanted to read those lengthy documents. All that thinking. All that writing! And no-one was really interested, truth be known. Not the Project Board. Not the project team. And certainly not the wider stakeholders.

So, if the thinking is valuable, what do agile methods have to offer instead?

Nothing.

Unless I’ve missed it somehow. Nothing.

So, for large projects that warrant it, how do we incorporate this valuable thinking into agile methods? And how do we do it in a way that people will actually pay any attention to?

The answer is simple.

Do it in PowerPoint.

Producing this information in PowerPoint has some profound effects:

  1. It’s easier to write. In PowerPoint, the writer is naturally more concise, because of the constraints of the format.
  2. It’s easier to read. It’s natural in PowerPoint to convey things in a more interesting and digestable form.
  3. And it’s easier to share. Invite people to a meeting or presentation, and they’ll happily sit through a PowerPoint to understand the goals of a project. The speaker – aided by the slides – brings the information alive. Ask the same people to read a 50 page project initiation document and, surprise surprise, the response is different.

Thinking a project through before kicking it off is valuable.

Being able to communicate this thinking to others is imperative. To get funding; to share the vision with the team; to inform other stakeholders about the goals of the project.

So next time you need to do a more formal project initiation, why not try it in a format that’s more appropriate for the purpose?

Kelly.