Software Project Initiation: A Checklist for the Organization's Role

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It’s important to understand the steps of a software project initiation because once it’s initiated, any mistakes cannot be easily corrected during the subsequent phases of project execution. This page is the first of two articles on the topic. First we have an overview of the organizational role as well as the SPM’s role. This article describes the organizational role step by step. In the second article, you can review the SPM’s role as well as common pitfalls that can put the project at risk.

Software Project Initiation Activities

Software Project Initiation starts after the organization acquires a project from one of its clients. The objectives of the SPI include:

  1. Ensure that ownership for project execution, delivery and customer acceptance is entrusted to a Software Project Manager (SPM).
  2. The SPM is provided with support commitments from service departments of the organization.
  3. The project is started on the right footing–-a project well started, is half completed!
  4. The experience of the organization is brought to bear upon the project.

SPI activities are shared between the organization and the Software Project Manager (SPM). Normally an organization that is organized for executing software development projects will have a department entrusted with the responsibility of acting as the repository of project records, as well as the nodal agency for initiating and closing of projects.

In some organizations, the delivery head holds this responsibility. In others, a special department under the title of Project Management Office (PMO) or Project Repository would do this. This department carries out the SPI at the organizational level.The following activities take place during SPI:

  1. Identify the SPM.
  2. Prepare the Project Dossier and hand it over to the SPM.
  3. Assist the SPM to obtain necessary SLAs (Service Level Agreements) from other departments of the organization.

The SPM performs the following activities during SPI:

  1. Studies the project specs and ensure that they are complete.
  2. Carries out software estimation, namely,
    • Size of software to be produced
    • Effort needed for executing the project successfully along with needed skill sets of the personnel assigned to the project.
    • Schedule for the project execution
    • Cost estimation for the project
  3. Obtains budgetary sanctions for the estimates.
  4. Provides requests for necessary resources, namely,
    • Personnel requested
    • Hardware resources
    • Software resources
    • Seating facility
    • Networking and Internet facilities
  5. Prepares project plans
    • Project Management Plan
    • Configuration & Change Management Plan
    • Quality Assurance Plan
    • Project Execution and Delivery schedule
    • Product Integration Plan
    • Deployment Plan
    • Induction Training Plan
    • Handover Plan
    • Issue Resolution Plan
  6. Sets up Development Environment.
    • Sets up seating facility
    • Sets up hardware
    • Sets up system software and development tool kit. Supply information sharing directories
    • Sets up networking and Internet
    • Sets up work allocation and execution mechanisms
  7. Arranges project-specific skill training required, if any, to project team members.
  8. Trains project team on all aspects of project execution, as specified in the project plans.
  9. Organizes the project team into its constituent functions, module teams, QA teams, Database team, etc.
  10. Conducts a Project Kickoff meeting with other concerned departments and obtains commitments for project-specific service levels and issue-resolution mechanisms

Now let us examine each of these activities in detail.

Organization level activities

First let us consider the organization level activities.

Identify SPM

Once the go ahead (in the form of a management approval, a purchase order from a customer, a letter of intent) is received, the Project Management Office would identify an SPM. Identification of a PM is subject to a few subjective and objective factors such as:

  1. Availability of SPMs
  2. Past experience in the present domain
  3. Expertise in the present technical domain
  4. Capability to handle the present team size
  5. Willingness of the SPM to handle the projectand so on

Prepares the Project Dossier and hands it over to SPM

The Project Management Office or whoever is handling the responsibility of SPI at the organizational level prepares a project dossier and hands it over to the elected SPM. The dossier will consist of:

  1. Technical specs of the project as finally agreed to with the customer
  2. Important milestones of the project, along with dates by which to reach them
  3. Other requirements such as communication mechanisms, progress reporting formats and intervals, escalation mechanisms and so on
  4. Pointers to past experience like similar past project estimates, project plans etc., bringing to bear the organizational experience upon the project execution
  5. Information pertaining to preparing bills and invoices
  6. Project Initiation Note (PIN) – containing basic info about the project
  7. Any other aspect specific to the project

This is the beginning dossier for the project, and all measurements are carried out in the background of the information mentioned in this dossier. This dossier will be handed over to the SPM, who will maintain it during project execution.

Assists SPM to obtain necessary SLAs (Service Level Agreements) from other departments of the organization

SLAs will be agreed to between the SPM and service departments like HR (Human Resources), Finance, Networking and Systems, Administration departments, etc. The Project Management Office will coordinate such a meeting at the request of the SPM and ensure that an amicable resolution is achieved between project requirements and the service departments. This is conducted at the request of the SPM.

For the next article in this series, please read Software Development Project Initiation- Role of SPM .

This post is part of the series: Software Project Initiation

This paper by Murali Chemuturi describes the role of Software Project Manager (SPM) in initiating a Software Development Project. He gives detailed guidelines for what the SPM does, and the steps needed to bring diverse elements together to begin the project.

  1. Initiating a Software Project - Organizational Role Checklist
  2. Understanding the Role of the SPM in Software Project Initiation