Ready, Set, Go!

Congratulations!  You have been assigned to your next project.  Like other projects, you have been asked to deliver a project large on scope and short on deadlines.  Are you ready?

Benchmark data shows us time and time again that projects fail when there is poor communication, skills are mismatched, or there are resource shortages.  The results of these failures usually represent project costs being higher than expected and projects taking too long to finish.  Alternately, we know project success occurs when there is a high degree of end-user involvement, when executive management actively supports a project, when realistic expectations are set, and when there is accountability.  Project success is further promoted through effective communications, efficient risk management, and through a hard-working, focused project team.  Efficient operational handoffs are also a key success element.

It is critical that everyone understands the project’s goals, as having the project clearly defined is a great starting point to ensure everyone has the same shared vision and is working towards the same outcomes.  In other words, everyone on the project team should be able to answer the key question, “What are we doing?” Unless everyone is capable of answering this question with confidence, accuracy and consistency, there is little chance the group assigned to execute the project will ever do so successfully, let alone transition from a group to a team during the project’s lifecycle.

All project team members should be able to answer key questions as the project transitions from one phase to the next.  Using a simple, 4-phase life cycle, here are the key questions to be answers for each phase:

  • Initiation:  What are we doing?
  • Planning:  How do we do it?
  • Execution:  Are we doing it?
  • Close:  Did we do it?

The POS is the foundational scope document which specifies the business opportunity, the project goals and deliverables, and the expected business outcomes the project will deliver to the organization.  Ideally, the executive sponsor reviews and approves the project scope once it is drafted. (His signature represents the initiation of executive sponsorship accountability.)   Once approved, it becomes the foundation for future planning and execution of the project. It also becomes the reference document for questions or resolving conflicts over the project’s purpose and scope. The value of this tool is that it can sustain constant use, regardless of project size, type, or scope.

The POS consists of seventeen components, all critically important to defining project scope.

  1. Business Opportunity: The opportunity defines the particular business opportunity or problem being addressed by the project.  It contains statements of well-known fact, that everyone in the organization will accept as true.
  2. Project Goal: A project has one overall goal that concisely summarizes what will be delivered by the project that addresses the business opportunity above.  The goal provides a continual reference point for any questions regarding the purpose of the project’s direction.  For example, “Design and implement XXX system.”
  3. Constituents: This allows you to identify all constituents who are impacted by the project.
  4. Line of Business: This allows you to designate the line(s) of business impacted by the project.
  5. Scope: The scope identifies which aspects of the business are to be included in the project and which are to be excluded.  It determines what other external influences and impacts (such as interfaces, customer needs, and regulatory requirements) are to be addressed.  This can range from business process scope and business product scope to organization scope, application scope, or “other.”
  6. Expected Business Outcomes: These are the criteria by which the business success of the initiative will be determined.
  7. Major Project Deliverables / Measuring Project Completion: The deliverable statements define what constitutes project completion.  The major project deliverables describe what must be accomplished in order to achieve the business outcomes and reach the project goal.  Deliverables should describe what is to be accomplished (i.e., a future state; typically a noun) and an action (i.e., how the deliverable will be delivered; typically an action verb).  A planned date and measures of completion help to clarify deliverables.
  8. Major Milestones: Use this section to document the milestones (events) that must occur in order to reach the deliverables noted in the section above.
  9. Applicable Lifecycle/Methodology: This allows identification of any other lifecycle/methodology that is required to support project requirements, i.e., product development lifecycle.
  10. Committee Approvals: Project teams often need to obtain approvals from executive sponsors or steering committees.  Such parties are identified here.
  11. Assumptions:  Factors that, for planning purposes, will be considered to be true, real, or certain.  This is important, as many noted assumptions represent a risk.
  12. Risks to Project and Contingency Plans: Risks are factors that may interfere with the project work.  For example, internal risks are factors that the project team can control or influence, such as staff assignments and cost estimates.  External risks are factors beyond the project team’s control or influence, such as market shifts and government action.  This section should include contingency plans (if any risks may be assumed) for addressing those risks.
  13. Dependent Initiatives: It is important that the project stakeholder understand how this project is linked to other work in the organization.
  14. Core Team Personnel Resources: Document the skill sets and/or specific people this project will need for its core team.  It is important to estimate the extent of commitment necessary for each personnel resource.  (Detailed resource requirements for the entire project will be determined after the planning phase of the project is complete.)
  15. Alternates Considered: Note any other approaches that the team considered when preparing this project.  Explain why these alternatives were rejected.
  16. Financial Analysis – Quantitative: Define the financial impact of the project.  If the project is being justified on the basis of financial return, a detailed cost/benefit analysis should be provided.
  17. Authorized to Proceed: This is where the executive sponsor signs this document, to approve the start of project activities.

Starting with a sound, well-documented project scope  is a great way to launch the project and direct it toward successful outcomes. For anyone who is interested in the Project Opportunity Statement, you may find a version by visiting  Tomorrow, we will discuss the Project Initiation Workshop.

Lisa DiTullio, Principal, Lisa DiTullio & Associates, LLC,


1 thought on “Ready, Set, Go!”

  1. In step 1 you start by defining the business problem. Reading through the remaining 16 steps, it is not clear to me in which step you generate the ideas for solving that business problem.

    In reading through the steps, it strikes me that the planning would be very dependent on the approach that the team selects to solve the problem. It would be helpful do understand at what point in your planning process that the team selects the approach.

    In step 15, you suggest that the team note alternative approaches that were discarded. So I would imagine that it is prior to that step. I am guessing that the team would settle on an approach somewhere between step 6, Business Outcome, and step 7, Major Project deliverable. Presumably, the team would need to have decided on an approach in order to define the deliverables. Am I understanding that correctly?

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