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Project Primer: How to Prepare for Your Next Project Kick-Off

Project Managing a Successful Software Systems project

Your latest project plans are finally in motion! You’ve gained authorization from your Board for the funding, you’ve signed the contract and you’re excited to get going. You may think there is nothing more to do now until that first project kick-off meeting, but in actual fact there’s a lot you can do now to get ahead of the game and ensure you and your team hit the ground running on kick-off day.

Here are our ‘Five Ps’ for successful project prep:

  • Pick your team
  • Plan for the project timeline
  • Prioritise your project goals
  • Prepare questions
  • Prime yourself and your team
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Pick your team

You may have already earmarked colleagues to form your project’s internal team, or you might be flying solo on this one. Whatever your resourcing needs for the project, start lining people up for this now. Think about the key skills, knowledge and experience you’ll need to draw on for this project’s success. Ensure those people can be made available to you during the project lifecycle.

Plan your project timeline

If you haven’t been given a high-level project plan prior to kick-off, ask your vendor’s project manager for one. Now is the time to open your calendars and plan out your availability over the project duration.

  • Make a note of key dates to avoid so you can flag these during your initial project planning meeting.
  • Co-ordinate with your colleagues regarding any blockers and start having those conversations now to clear the road as much as possible for your project window.
  • Most importantly, be up front about any issues early so you can tackle them together with your dedicated project manager. Come to that kick-off with your vendor with solutions to any planning challenges you’re facing.

Sitting on risks just hoping they won’t happen will only set you up for problems later on and could even delay progress or increase costs. Don’t wait…plan for them now!

Prioritise your project goals

You may be clear about the goals you want to achieve, but it’s also important to know your priorities. Take some time to list the goals for your project and the order in which you want them to be addressed. Think about the justifications for this order, and consider any dependencies – are there tasks that rely on others to be completed first? Also consider any significant changes since signing off on the project. Will you need to amend or add to the agreed scope of the project based on external factors or new business requirements?

Prepare questions

This might seem an obvious one, but coming to the kick-off fully prepared with all the questions you want answers for will not only help you get the key info you need, it’ll also help your allocated project manager and their team to understand your needs. They are your supplier, and it is essential that they understand your needs! Some useful questions at project kick-off are:

  • How will we track and review our progress on the project?
  • What is the preferred method of communication – how will project members keep in touch/collaborate?
  • How will we approach this aspect of the project scope that I know will present challenges/risks?
  • What risks have we identified around this project?
  • What are the assumptions we are making?
  • How do you manage project change?
  • I’m concerned about scope creep – what is our plan for managing and mitigating this?
  • Could you please explain some specific terminology for me?
  • What information will I be receiving in my reports from you? (Agree the frequency of project reports, and ensure all your KPIs will be included)

Prime yourself and your team

Bring your A game! Priming is about setting yourself up to approach something positively and with energy and enthusiasm. Take the opportunity to engage with your internal team prior to the project kick-off meeting and get their buy-in to the vision and the goals and objectives of the project. Get them excited about it! If your team arrives having been primed for a positive project experience, they are going to be more actively engaged with the process, more confident, and more productive in helping to achieve its aims. If your chosen supplier is great at what they do, their own team will be primed and raring to go on kick-off day too.

So, as you prepare for your next big project, just remember ‘The Five Ps’ to ensure it gets off to the flying start it deserves.

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