• Stephen Stofanak

What's the 1st Thing To Do When Assigned a Project?

Updated: Oct 16

Assess the project's background


The more you know and understand the project's background the better prepared you'll be to establish a solid foundation.


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  • ​Understanding the project's background helps to learn from history, establishes a solid foundation, and minimizes surprises.

  • At a minimum, it would be important to know who initiated the project, how the project was initiated, and why it was initiated.

  • Knowing if a similar project was done before and how it went can provide insight into what went well and what didn't.​

  • Previous successes can be cloned or leveraged.

  • Previous problems may be avoided

  • Being aware of who was involved in identifying the need for the project can provide insight into the degree and depth of problem solving or vetting that occurred.

  • Knowing if a specific metric or goal will need to be met typically signifies the business impact and importance of the project.

  • When the business problem hasn't been defined prior to launching a project the project manager and team will need to facilitate gaining clarity otherwise conflict will typically develop.

  • Knowing if this project is part of a broader initiative or strategy is an indication of its potential importance to the organization.

  • Gather background information that's available and determine if you're comfortable moving forward.

  • Sometimes you may need to move forward regardless of the information available and continue doing research while starting the project.

  • Project background can be the result of senior management planning, customer requirements, employee suggestions, responses to daily problems, suggestions for leveraging new technology, etc.

  • The following business factors can have either a positive, neutral, or negative affect on your project. Consider reviewing each factor's impact on your project with the project sponsor.

Business Factors to Consider:

  • Company's # of Years in Business

  • Company Stage: start-up, growing, stable, or downsizing

  • Culture: Random, Collaborative, Closed, or Synchronous

  • Operating Maturity: Informal, Experimental, Systemic, or Sustainable

  • Revenue Performance: 0$, Declining, Stable, or Growing

  • Expenses Performance: Below Budget, On Budget, or Above Budget

  • Market Share: Declining, Stable, or Growing

  • Customer Satisfaction: Declining, Stable, or Growing

  • Employee Satisfaction: Declining, Stable, or Growing

  • Project background - Linkage with strategic or business plan, how project was initiated, sponsor, previous similar projects, any critical must meet requirements, i.e. schedule, budget, or deliverable quality, other?