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First Things First, Defining a Project

Quite a few business owners make the mistake of just jumping feet first into projects, without taking the time for them to outline a project. A poorly defined project is often either destined to fail, or use up far more time and assets than needed. Defining your project doesn’t take long, but has a big effect on your possibilities at achieving success.

Start by Identifying Scope: Defining a Project

The first thing you ought to do is identify the scope of your project. This consists of two things:

1) Precisely what your project’s scope IS
2) What your project’s scope IS NOT

The two are equally important; however it’s probable that the latter is really slightly more important than the first.

Defining what your project’s scope is is simple. It’s basically a brief explanation of what your project will require. Make sure you have an obvious description of what “done” signifies specifically for your project.

Equally vital, be certain you also have a clear definition for what your project’s scope is NOT. This helps prevent what’s called “creep.” Creep is where a project starts growing and taking up more resources to do things which weren’t at first in the project’s scope.

The classical example is the software development project where the programmers continually add capabilities to the program and never get it finished. Alternatively, with an adequately defined scope, the program might have been done ages ago.

Determine Dependents and Stakeholders: Defining a Project

Next, identify who your project depends upon and who your project’s stakeholders are.

Your dependents will be the people whose help you need to finish up your project. For example, if your project is to ship a new DVD program, your project might be dependent on getting the cover art from your graphic designer.

Get all your dependents arranged early on, so that you don’t end up delaying the project at some point due to an missed dependent.

Next, identify your stakeholders. Stakeholders are anyone who depends on your project to do their job, or anyone who your project will have a major impact on. Make sure you keep these folks in the loop.

Identify Roles: Defining a Project

Identify the roles of everyone in the project. Each and every person should have a clearly designated role. Nobody should leave the project meeting with only a broad sense of what they’re supposed to be doing.

It helps to write this out on paper. Just one single paragraph per person will go the distance towards clearing up roles.

That’s all there is to defining a project. Start by defining your scope, including what your scope is and what it’s not. Then define your stakeholders and dependents. Finally, define the roles of your team associates. This whole method can take less than an hour; but could easily save you days or weeks of wasted work.


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