5 Reminders For Kicking Off a New Project

5 Reminder StringsWhew! This year has started off with a bang! Kicking off a large, strategic project has been refreshing – and has reminded me of some important lessons. So I thought I’d share 5 things I was reminded of over the past couple weeks and to get your thoughts on what I have coming up next.

1. Have a Requirements Work Plan

This initiative has stakeholders from across the organization, and multiple analysts participating in various parts of the process. As the Lead BA, it was important that I worked with the other analysts to devise and document our plan for getting the information we needed and dividing the responsibilities to be the most effective. Working through and documenting the Requirements Work Plan allowed us to ensure all of our bases are covered.

2. Bring the Stakeholders Together for a Requirements Kick Off

While I have worked with a subset of the stakeholders for the past few years, this initiative involved new departments and a LONG list of stakeholders, so it was important that we took the time to get everyone together to review the Requirements Work Plan and what was expected. It happened to be especially important for this project as the Requirements Kick Off was the first time all of these stakeholders had been together. We are under pressure to move quickly to identify solutions for some “immediate needs” while we work through a longer-term solution, and because of that there hasn’t even been a project kick off yet. (More on that below.) By spending 1.5 hours with the larger group, everyone knew what to expect going into the detailed requirements work sessions.

3. Schedule More Time Than You Need, But Use It Wisely

With a high-level understanding of what everyone “thought” was needed, we really didn’t know what we would encounter as we started to dig in. Since we were conducting a “marathon” week, I scheduled 2-3 hour blocks of time for each session. Since these meetings were scheduled in advance of the actual kick off, I included an explanation with each meeting invite that we might not need the whole time but I wanted to block the time. For some sessions, we used the whole time. For others, we wrapped up early. By efficiently facilitating these sessions, everyone stayed engaged and focused the whole time and we were able to get a lot accomplished. And everyone appreciated that their time was valued and not wasted, which helped keep that engagement as we proceeded through the week.

4. Face-to-Face Sometimes Really Is Better

I work remotely for my organization, which thankfully has not hindered my ability to be effective. I do think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I worked on-site with my primary stakeholders for a couple years prior to relocating, and had built a lot of trust in the processes and my abilities. With this new project bringing together so many new stakeholders, and since we were planning on approximately 15 hours of working sessions in one week, it made sense for me to be on site to get the project kicked off in person. While this isn’t always possible, for such a large initiative it was worth being there in person to build new relationships and ensure effective meetings.

5. Don’t Skip the Project Kick Off

I’m a strong proponent for process, but not just for the sake of process. I try to be adaptable to what the project needs and modify the process accordingly. I did learn last week, however, that skipping the Project Kick Off is not desirable. There were a couple valid reasons for moving forward without a Project Kick Off, and I tried to account for some of the items in the Requirements Kick Off meeting, but throughout the week we encountered questions and confusion about items that traditionally would have been covered by the Project Manager in a Project Kick Off. This created some confusion and anxiety that we probably could have prevented.

What’s Coming Up Next?

This week we start writing up the business requirements documents (BRDs) and reviewing those with stakeholders. We’re breaking up the project into concurrent streams which means multiple BRDs so that different analysts can own their portion of the process and move through the process in parallel to other processes.

I think we’ve got a pretty good plan going, but would love your tips, thoughts, and suggestions! Please use the comments below to share your thoughts about effectively managing multiple sets of documents, managing concurrent work streams that all impact the same set of stakeholders, and keeping the communication clear.

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4 Responses to 5 Reminders For Kicking Off a New Project
  1. Dan Dunleavy
    May 16, 2011 | 5:10 pm

    I really enjoyed the 5 Steps shared for kicking off a new project. I agree it is important for the stakeholders to be involved, understand the process and as a BA facilitate the project kickoff. You are right on target.

    Many times as a BA you may be wearing a dual hat as a Project Manager too! I love using a Project Charter as a starting point for a new project to ensure the Steering Committee, Team Leader, Business Leader and Business Analyst are on the same page. Once the draft is completed and it has received Steering Committee signoff. It is a great document to use for your first Project Team Kick-Off meeting. Each team member has the opportunity to review the document prior to the kick-off meeting, share their ideas and resolve any questions on scope and/or objective.

    Again I enjoyed your blog. Thanks for sharing!

    • Real World BA
      May 21, 2011 | 9:09 am

      Thank you for your feedback, Dan! You are absolutely right that many times we’re wearing a PM hat too. (And I don’t know about you, but even when I’m not “officially” the PM, I feel invested in the project and work with the PM closely to get us off on the right foot.)

      The Project Charter is the perfect tool for ensuring everyone is on the same page! But once we’re ready to start requirements, I’ve learned that it pays to spend time specifically on kicking off that portion of the project. The Project Charter sets the framework, and the Requirements Work Plan and Kick Off set the tone for getting down to business. I definitely see that these go hand-in-hand, so thank you for calling that out so that could be clarified.

  2. kai
    September 6, 2011 | 11:44 am

    How would you do a functional walkthrough at a kickoff meeting. the requirments have been signed off but it was sugguested we go over the requirments with everyone in the room at the kickoff meeting.

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