Use this easy-to-follow step-by-step guide to producing a Project Initiation Document to increase the chances of your project running to plan, on time, within budget, and delivering the product to the right quality.
A Project Initiation Document, or PID, is integral to effective project management planning and is key to the success of any project. It is completed at the project initiation stage.
The PID is a vital component of the PRINCE2 methodology (PRojects IN Controlled Environments), a widely recognised process-based project management method.
Several project management frameworks exist with slightly different approaches to the PID documentation. Increase the likelihood that your projects run to plan, on time, and within budget with this step-by-step PID guide, featuring common elements and best practices found in different project management frameworks.
What is a Project Initiation Document (PID)?
A Project Initiation Document is a powerful project management planning tool. It can be one document, or a set of documents, used by project managers to define a project’s:
- business case,
- and outcome measurements.
Your project approach provides a solid starting point from which the project manager and project board can assess and monitor performance during the project lifecycle.
What is the purpose of a Project Initiation Document (PID)?
The ultimate purpose for Project Initiation Documentation is to get funding approval for projects from the project board. The PID establishes a clear way forward and measures project delivery progress and success. It also provides one point of reference where people can find vital information about the project.
Why is Project Initiation Documentation (PID) necessary?
Quite simply, the best ideas cannot come to fruition without proper project management planning. Project Initiation Documents are an essential starting point and can mean the ultimate success or failure of a project. The Project Initiation Documents sets the parameters, context, and expected outcomes from each team member.
What are the benefits of a Project Initiation Document (PID)?
Project Initiation Documentation provides the following benefits:
- Projects run according to a plan, on time, and within budget
- Everyone understands the objectives and their role in achieving those objectives
- You’re able to manage risk and can monitor progress regularly
- It provides a baseline against which the project can be monitored and controlled
Compiling a Project Initiation Document (PID)
Follow this comprehensive Project Initiation Document template for your project planning:
1. Scope and objectives
Much like a Project Charter, this section of the PID is a broad introduction that defines the project scope, objectives, and participants’ key roles. Information in this document should outline the following:
- The project brief – Note, in PRINCE2, this is a separate document to the PID.
- The project definition
- What problem you are solving
- The purpose of the project – what you want to accomplish
- The project objectives – How will you achieve the project purpose. Use SMART goals, which means they should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.
- The project deliverables – the project results. Include timings for each deliverable so that you can monitor each milestone.
- Constraints – the influences which may affect your deliverables and outcomes
- Assumptions – The assumptions you are making that may affect the project outcome. Include how you will manage these assumptions.
2.Specifics and approach
Stipulating the specifics and approach is an integral part of resource planning and creating timelines. What project management method will be adopted? Everyone in your project team should understand what is expected from them to achieve deliverables and ensure a successful outcome. The project specifics and approach bring you closer to achieving your goals by breaking down and allocating the tasks required for each team member to complete. It is imperative to take the team through this planning to fully understand what is expected from them, when expected and how they should do the job. This will ensure the project team’s buy-in and gives them accountability.
The project approach in PRINCE2 is specifically about how the project will deliver the product. So, for example, in-house or through third parties, will it be an off the shelf product or bespoke.
3. Business case
The business case document justifies the project and shows how it supports the broader strategic business goals of the company. It should provide information that explains the reasons for the project and the impact it will have on the business. A business case should answer the following:
- The benefits of the project and how these benefits will be measured.
- Other options considered when developing the project management plan – including the do-nothing option.
- The possible risks and how these will be overcome.
- A breakdown of costs.
- A detailed timeline for each job to be completed.
- An analysis of costs versus expected return on investment.
4. Role descriptions
The role descriptions section of the document explains how the project will be executed and managed. It provides information around the key roles and responsibilities of each project team member and the reporting structure. This ensures no functions are duplicated and sets out clear parameters and expectations from each member of staff. This section should include:
Organisation Breakdown Structure (OBS):- The OBS diagram illustrates the reporting structure and where each team member fits into this structure.
Project sponsor: – The project sponsor is the head authority designated to the project.
Project manager: The project manager manages and is responsible for the overall project.
Project team: A list of project team members’ names, job descriptions, the department they are from, and what role they will fulfil within the project. This list should include their contact details (email address and phone number) and reporting lines.
Outlining role descriptions in the Project Initiation Documentation will avoid any potential misunderstandings. It will establish the project process for consultation and the time required at each sign off stage.
An effective way of clarifying roles and responsibilities is through a RACI chart, which outlines who is:
- Responsible (who performs the actual task)
- Accountable (who makes the decisions)
- Consulted (who needs to weigh in)
- Informed (who needs to updated)
This can be completed by mapping out each project task and allocating the roles and responsibilities next to each task.
5. Risk analysis
A risk analysis document is a risk log that identifies potential project issues, dependencies, and assumptions, such as budget constraints, unknown factors, or timing issues. It sets out a specific project management plan on how to address these risks, should they arise. A risk analysis should provide the following information:
- Identifying the risks within the project
- Explaining how you plan to prevent or manage the identified risks
- Outlining the contingency plan for dealing with those risk you cannot prevent should they arise
- How you will routinely monitor the processes put in place to assess the project risks continually
With PRINCE2 specifically, there is no Risk Register contained within the PID. In PRINCE2, the PID should explain how risks will be managed and reference a separate Risk Register document.
The project implementation section of the Project Initiation Document broadly defines how the project will be implemented and outlines the project rollout plan by detailing the timelines, resources, and management stages. – for me, this would all be covered in the project plans below – Further planning documents to provide more information are often required to support this stage.
7. Project plan
The initial project plan document is the crux of the Project Initiation Document. It analyses the resources available to the project and provides detailed information about the schedule and budget. It also provides a timeline to measure project development and progress. An initial project plan includes the following:
- Assignments – What the milestones are for the project.
- Schedule – A report of the estimated time involved to complete the project, which you can pull from a high-level Gantt chart or similar project management software tool.
- Human resources – The staff allocation needed for the project
- Project control – how project progress will be monitored and communicated to stakeholders.
- Quality management – what the quality assurance and checking processes will be for each deliverable. Some businesses have existing corporate governance, which you will need to follow to ensure quality management.
The project controls in PID stipulate the rules put in place to ensure you have identified potential project constraints, such as remaining within budget and on schedule. Measurement and reporting on project progress should be completed regularly to confirm that the project conforms to the project controls. – the project controls section would set out the Project Boards controls that they want in place so they have overall control but can delegate day to day management to the PM. So, for example – communication between the PB and PM, the number of stages, how tolerances will be used, how issues and exceptions will be escalated.
9. Change control approach
However well considered your project controls, changes can happen during a project. It would help to be well-prepared for handling any changes required, or they can completely derail the project. This is why change control needs to be managed. The change control approach stipulates the project tolerance for any deviation and sets out an exception process should you want to put exceptions forward. This document sets out clear policies and procedures for change.
10. Communication plan
This document sets out the project communication plan and details when stakeholders will receive project updates and in what format they’ll receive them.
Project Initiation Document checklist
The PID checklist is a helpful project management tool to ensure you’ve created a quality PID. The checklist should answer and verify the following questions:
- Is the project scope achievable?
- Does the project support the strategic business goals?
- Have optimal human resources been allocated with all roles considered?
- Have control and reporting structures been stipulated?
- Have appropriate timelines and budget been given?
Project Initiation Documentation approval and sign off
Once you have completed the above documents and you are happy with the PID, it’s time to get approval from stakeholders and the project board. The approval process should include:
- Emailing the PID to all project management team members and stakeholders and asking for their review and comments
- Revising the PID to incorporate these comments and changes
- Meeting with all project management team members and stakeholders to go through the revised version and to discuss the PID in detail
- Making further changes and then presenting the final PID to the project board for approval
There could be several reviews during the approval process, depending on the size and complexity of the project.
Share the PID
The best project management plan means nothing if you don’t share the document information with the broader project team. Following the stipulated guidelines and procedures and implementing the project according to your plan will decide a successful outcome or not. Use the Project Initiation Document regularly for check-ins and monitor progress to ensure the project is on track.
Project Initiation Document review
Throughout the project, it’s essential to continually assess the Project Initiation Document through a combination of formal and informal review sessions. Informal reviews can be conducted monthly and formal reviews at the end of each quarter, depending on the project’s complexity. How often these take place can be up to you. What’s important is that regular reviews are held to identify potential problems as soon as they arise.
Update the PID
Project Initiation Documents are living documents, which means they should be reviewed and updated regularly. Any updates required are completed at the end of each stage, explaining why and by whom.
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