Everything starts with a Project Initiation Document…!

Graham Francis
Director of Continuous Improvement
Havering Sixth Form College

In the first part of this blog , we looked at the reasons why projects fail and the process that we have adopted to try and ensure that this did not happen with our own projects at Havering Sixth Form College. In this blog, we will look at the process that we go through to get a project from an idea to being agreed and adopted by the College Executive.

Often projects will start with a senior member of college management identifying a need such as “we must have a better Asset Management system” or “wouldn’t it be great if we could see our data visually”. Just how these projects would come to fruition was not really considered. In the past, these projects (if adopted) would remain with the originator and would often result in a project, which ultimately exceeded all forms of whatever controls may have been thought to have been put in place in terms of time, cost, resources and staffing, or any possible combination thereof.

In an effort to end this, we have adopted an approach that specifies that no project can proceed before it had been thoroughly researched and a Project Initiation Document had been produced (well that was the theory!).

But what is a Project Initiation Document (or PID for short)? Wikipedia describes its purpose is to capture and record basic information needed to correctly define and plan the project and that it provides “a reference point throughout the project for both the customer and the Project team”. But what does a PID look like? Well, if I’m honest I had no idea and attempts to create one proved frustrating so after much searching of the Internet, which housed many examples, none really suitable to a college environment, I discovered Susanne Madsen’s website and adopted the Blank PID 2016 that she had developed, customising it as necessary.

This document consisted of a number of sections:
• Executive Summary (at the beginning but completed last)
• Project Definition
• Business Case
• Project Planning
• Risks and Issues (an invaluable tool to assist in developing this is the 130 Project Risks (List) created by Anna Mar)
• Project Organisation and Communication
• Project Controls
• Project Acceptance Sign-Off.

By completing each of these sections (in detail), a tightly prescribed understanding of each project is developed. An example of a PID for a recent website redevelopment project that we have undertaken can be found here Website PID.

Whilst considering the purpose of the PID, it was at this point that we started to think quite radically about why previous projects had failed and how we could avoid this in the future. As part of the development of the PID itself, it is necessary to define who the Executive Sponsor is and who is going to manage the project team. This caused us to consider two further questions: ‘How could we get effective Senior Management (Executive) buy-in into the project?’ and ‘How could we ensure that the project meets the needs of the (internal) customer?’.

One requirement of any project managed in this way is to nominate an Executive Sponsor and an Internal Project Team Leader. This again gave us an opportunity for some radical thinking:

• What if (with their agreement) the member of Executive in whose area of responsibility the project would have the most impact, became the Executive Sponsor?
• What if (again with their agreement) we were to make the member of staff who would ultimately be most affected by the changes that the project was envisaged to have, became the Project Team Leader?

We adopted this approach considering that it would ensure Senior Management buy-in whilst also reducing any impact that change would have as the Project Team leader was fully involved with the project itself.

During the process of developing the PID, it is reviewed by a small team of reviewers to ensure clarity and completeness. Once this group have agreed that the PID is complete, then it is passed to the Executive Sponsor for confirmation and signature. Until such time as it is agreed by the executive Sponsor, no work on the project itself is undertaken.

With the PID formally agreed then it is used as the basis for the Terms of Reference (TOR). The TOR for the Website Redevelopment project can be found here Website TOR . This document acts as a synopsis of the project requirements themselves and is given to prospective suppliers along with the Invitation To Tender/Quotation (ITT/ITQ), an example of which is located ITQ Website. The Terms of Reference is written in such a way that it can be used as a basis for evaluating the project when it has been completed/reached its completion date.

In the next blog, I will focus on monitoring the live project and the evaluation process undertaken when it has been completed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *