Project kickoff   is a moment when you make assumptions and decisions that may ultimately make or break it.

At this stage you need to gather as much information as you can, evaluate the workload and assign your resources thoughtfully.

On the other hand, it is also the time for you to set the tone for the whole project and establish an effective and positive culture for your team.

How to make sure you start off on the right foot?

At Teamdeck we’re committed to help fellow project managers to better estimate, plan, execute, and monitor the projects. That’s why we’ve put together a free ebook on best practices of resource management.

This article is an excerpt from our ebook, in which we discuss crucial steps that are essential to make sure that your project will be successful.

Understand the project

Fully understanding the project means that you know:

Details about the project like goals and objectives, timeline and budget, should’ve been already included in the project brief. Read it carefully and sum up what details are you able to get from it, and what is missing.

If something’s unclear, don’t wait to set a call with the client. It is important to gather as much information about the project as you can, before you even start to plan the work.

When you feel like you have enough details, invite your client to the project kickoff meeting. You can do it in person or via Skype. The point is for you to talk about the project scope, client expectations, what you can deliver, and how.

Identify the roles within the project

When you fully understand the project, it’s time to identify whom you will need to accomplish it.

It means that you have to identify the roles within the project — whom exactly would you need to involve? Or: what are the roles without which the project can’t be completed?

Depending on the project and client’s requirements, you may need frontend and/or backend developers, graphic designers, motion designers, or marketing specialists and copywriters.

When you know exactly who you need to involve in the project, find the best employees for the job. You can do it by evaluating their skills — use a skills matrix to do that.

Skills matrix is a simple table which includes employees’ skills, and helps to rate and score them to see if they can handle the tasks or not.

Once you’ve identified the roles and people that are able to fill them in, check you employees availability and assign them to the project.

Useful tip: If you’re not using a skill matrix, you could use a list of employees, describing their skills and experience. It helps to avoid employee underutilization and overbooking, as a visibility of the available resources can assure better workforce allocation.

Set project plan

There’s every reason to think that the planning phase can make or break your project. Inaccurate estimates, bad personal decisions and overlooking potential risks is what often causes delays and budget changes.

According to the 2016 data only 49% of projects are completed on time. Additionally, 53% of all projects stay within the budget scope. — PMI

Resource management is one of the key ingredients of effective planning and project kickoff. You have already identified the roles needed for project success and the right people, who can handle the assignments.

For better employee and project management, estimate for how long you will need certain people involved in the project. An up-to-date resource calendar is essential and will make your work much easier.

Knowing who and for how long will be needed in your project, set a project calendar. It should include things like resources availability, other projects they can be a part of or commitments they may have, their days off and national holidays. When working with remote team members, take the time zones into account.

This way you will avoid overbooking or employee underutilization, and set the right flow of the project from the very beginning. Teamdeck is a resource management and time tracking tool, which you can use for employee allocation and monitoring.

Estimate resources and tasks

To create a thorough project plan, you need to estimate the time your employees need to complete activities.

Estimations can be tricky, as, when done badly, they can do more harm than good for your project. In his article “Why do we estimate?”, John Cutler emphasized the importance of context when estimating.

On the other hand, estimating tasks in hours for many is equal to tea-leaf reading. That’s why, from our own experience, it is safer to measure user stories in story points.

Story points are the units of measure that allow you to assess the size of different user stories. They are relative, meaning that a 4-point story is two times bigger than a 2-point one. Once you establish story points (the scale can be 1–10) you need to fit them into the team’s velocity.

If the team was able to complete 14 points’ worth of stories in the previous iteration, they’re likely to complete the same amount of work again. When you have the story point estimates for all desired elements in your project, you can divide this number by the team’s velocity and come up with a number of iterations needed to complete the project.

When allocating time to particular people, take their capacity into account, in terms of both how much work they can do based on their experience and the “workable hours” during the day.

Make sure you understand the difference between the ideal time and elapsed time. The first one is the time actually spent on a given assignment, while the later includes waiting, disturbances, context switching and preparations.

Note that when you ask the developers how much time will a given task take, they will provide you with an estimate in the “ideal time”, that is, an uninterrupted work period.

Conclusion

The start of a new project doesn’t have to be as stressful and daunting as some says.

If you have established the right process from the very beginning and followed it step-by-step, your work can not only be easier, but you can avoid making some common mistakes.

To sum up what we’ve talked about in this article, make sure that you follow these simple steps:

  1. Understand what it is about.
  2. Talk to your client before planning anything, set up a project kickoff meeting.
  3. Understand the roles within the project.
  4. Find the best employees for the job and check their availability.
  5. Set project plan.
  6. Estimate resources and tasks.

This way you will make sure that you know everything about project’s requirements, availability of your own resources and the timeline before the project kickoff.

Starting off a new project? There’s more: check our ebook on best practices of resource management in order to find out how to identify the dependencies between the employees. We’ve included easy to follow diagrams and checklists.

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