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Top 10 Reasons For Having A Project Kickoff - Part I

Written By: Joseph J. Strub
Published On: December 31 2003

Top 10 Reasons For Having A Project Kickoff - Part I
Featured Author - Joseph J. Strub - December 31, 2003

Introduction

You are about to embark on an important project. Perhaps the project is implementing an ERP package, getting critical applications ready for the busy season, or setting up a warehouse and inventory for radio frequency operations. Whether the project is software or hardware related, it is a good idea to hold a project kickoff meeting. Don't miss this excellent opportunity to get across important communications and establish the tone for the project. This article discusses the 10 objectives of a project kickoff meeting, how to achieve them, and templates for presenting them. In Part I, the first three reasons are discussed but you will be left on the edge of your seat in anticipation of Parts II and III.

It would be a stretch to say that most projects fail because of a poor kickoff meeting. However, the lifecycle of the project can easily be made more difficult due to poor directions, communications, and vibes being given out during a project kickoff or the event never happening in the first place. Consequently, it may be useful to review the objectives of a kickoff meeting beforehand and discuss how to obtain them in order to get a project off to a positive, momentum-gaining start. In Part I of this three-part series, we start the countdown of the 10 reasons or objectives of kickoff meeting, from the least to the most important. When setting the agenda for the project kickoff, use these articles as a checklist. While it may not lead to a standing ovation or a nomination for "Best Director", awareness of the top 10 reasons can help maximize the time spent and properly set the attitude, motivation, and discipline of the project team.

10. Introduce Project Team

Making this the least important reason does not imply that the project team is not important. But let's face it; something has to be number 10. It is likely that, by the time of the kickoff meeting, everyone already knows who is on the project. This is not the primary purpose of the introduction.

In the introduction process, preference should be given to clearly identifying the business process owners and functional experts. For example, these individuals would have responsibility for ensuring that processes, such as manufacturing, accounting, and customer service in an ERP implementation, can satisfy the needs for the business. It is important that personnel, not assigned to the project, know whom to approach about issues or concerns in a particular area. When getting ready for another busy season, these individuals would understand the anticipated changes, increased volumes, and new product lines.

As a master of ceremony of a kickoff meeting, your responsibility is to briefly and tactfully explain why individuals were chosen to their roles. Keep in mind that some people may have been slighted by not being selected for an important project and that you do not want them or their contributions alienated. Having key project team members introduce themselves is helpful and further emphasizes their importance to the project.

9. Define Roles & Responsibilities

As a team member, understanding the purpose that you serve and tasks you are assigned is essential for success. As a member of the company, knowing whom to approach for questions and concerns is essential for you to support and use the results of the project. Regardless whether you are installing the software or hardware or are a future user of services for either, it is essential that there is mutual support. The table below provides some typical project roles and responsibilities that you may find useful in completing this section of the kickoff meeting.

Typical Project Roles and Responsibilities
Role
Vendor
or
Client
Responsibilities
Project Manager
Vendor
Proactively manages, both functional and technical, the plan, strategies, tasks, task performance, issue resolution, and resource assignment; works closely with client project manager.
Business Process Specialist
Vendor
Possesses deep functional knowledge and industry expertise to best utilize features of software or hardware being installed.
Functional Consultant
Vendor
Provides guidance on test data, business condition development, test scripts, business process flows, product knowledge transfer, and issue resolution; possesses functional and industry knowledge to assist in process modeling, gap analysis, and implementation activities.
Technical Consultant
Vendor
Assists in development of technical architecture, data conversion approaches, and enhancement strategies.
Executive Sponsor
Client
Chairs steering committee, reviews project status, and approves changes in direction, scope, and budget.
Steering Committee
Client
Maintains currency of project status, represents interests of major user departments, facilitates issue resolution, and participates in the approval of changes in direction, scope, and budget.
Project Manager
Client
Manages overall implementation and individuals assigned to the project; possesses an excellent understanding of the company's business; presents status updates to the executive sponsor and steering committee; works in concert with vendor project manager for the successful completion of the project.
Business Process Owner
Client
Possesses detailed knowledge of their respective process area; is able to investigate, document, and define issues and recommends action to be taken; learns functionality of their process area to an expert level; defines pilot data and executes piloting of software; owns all issue resolution, documentation, verification, data conversion strategies, and integration issues related to their processes.
Process Team Leader
Client
Backs up and is able to perform the tasks assigned to business process owner; possesses expert knowledge in one or more processes critical to the functioning of the business.
Technical Lead
Client
Uses the vendor's architecture to support of the business processes, develop data conversion and create integration tools.

8. Specify Deliverables By Phase

A kickoff meeting is not all fun and games. Serious work needs to be accomplished by the project team and this fact must be effectively communicated. What better way to achieve this objective than specifying the deliverables for each phase of the project. The term, deliverable, conveys the cold, hard reality that results are expected and, in fairness, responsible individuals should be aware of these expectations. Below depicts a typical set of deliverables from either a hardware or software project.

Typical Project Deliverables

Phase
Deliverable
Responsibilities
Project Planning & Organization
Formation of process teams
Development of work plan
Steering Committee
Project Manager
As Is
Current work flows
Business Process Owners
Process Teams
Vendor Consultants
To Be
Revised work flows
Suggested changes
Business Process Owners
Process Teams
Training
Understanding of hardware
Understanding of software
Business Process Owners
Process Teams
Pilot Testing
Familiarity with hardware
Understanding of software
Identification of enhancements
Business Process Owners
Process Teams
Vendor Consultants
Solution Integration
End-to-end testing
Enhancement acceptance
Data conversion
Supporting documentation (i.e. reports, procedures, policies)
Business Process Owners
Process Teams
Vendor Consultants
Technical Consultants
Go Live
Training materials
Training sessions
Final data conversion
Establish 24-hour vendor support
Notification of schedule
Business Process Owners
Process Teams
Vendor Consultants
Vendor Help Desk
Technical Consultants

When you are working with a concrete project, you can provide details and specificity to the deliverables. As you can see no one is excluded. Even the executive sponsor and steering committee have accountability to the project. This also promotes the "we're all in this together" attitude.

Summary

Having discussed the first three reasons, you can see there is a lot material to be covered in a kickoff meeting. You should also understand why an opportunity to convey important messages and set the overall tone of the project should not be avoided or deferred.

As a project manager, you will typically be a main presenter but you also may act as the director. In possibly your directorial debut, you must ensure that you have right people to deliver the intended message. While a dress rehearsal may be a bit over the top, providing scripts to other presenter is not. This will become even more apparent when we discuss the remaining seven reasons in Parts II and III of this article.

About the Author

Joseph J. Strub has extensive experience as a manager and senior consultant in planning and executing ERP projects for manufacturing and distribution systems for large to medium-size companies in the food & beverage, chemical, and CPG process industries. Additionally, Mr. Strub was a consultant and Information Systems Auditor with PricewaterhouseCoopers and an applications development and support manager for a Fortune 100 company.

He can be reached at JoeStrub@writecompanyplus.com.

 
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