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Preparation Phase (Pre-Project): Starting Up and Directing a Project


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The first phase in the lifecycle of any PRINCE2-driven project is Preparation. It is also called "a pre-project phase" as it defines pre-requisites of the project and ensures they are in place so the project can be initiated. Successful completion of the Preparation phase authorizes project initiation and proves creation of the support infrastructure (control, monitoring and communication mechanisms).

The phase includes two high-level processes, such as the following:

  • Starting up a Project (SP)
  • Directing a Project (DP)

Both processes are easier to manage if dividing them into a range of simple tasks that can be assigned to appropriate people involved in the project. Using VIP Task Manager allows you to represent the processes as hierarchies of tasks and to-do items. The software features Task Tree view that lets make task hierarchies, to-do lists and task groups. Letís find out what sample tasks are appropriate to the listed processes of the Preparation phase and then see how VIP Task Manager can be helpful for managing such tasks.

Starting up a Project

Any PRINCE2-driven project should start with defining a basic business requirement. Such a requirement serves as a trigger for the project. When you decide on whether to launch your future project you should first define why launch the project, or what reasons for this. "Do we need to have a viable and worthwhile project to address our requirement?" Ė this is the general question you should answer before committing any resources to your possible project.

The process of starting up your project requires you to list any reasons for project launch in the Project Mandate which is a formal PM document stating the reasons and defining expected outcomes of the project. The Project Mandate serves as a foundation for developing the Business Case at later phases of the lifecycle.

SP is a relatively short process carried out to ensure the pre-requisites of your project are available before the project is initiated. Along with the Project Mandate you will need to design an outline of the Business Case, choose an implementation approach, establish quality expectations, and do other tasks in order to prepare your project for initiation.

Within the Preparation phase, the process ends up with designing the Project Description and the Initiation Stage Plan. Both documents give a solid basis for the project. The Project Description is a document aimed for searching necessary funding and describing a projectís summary, goals, implementation approach, feasibility, expected outcomes and other details necessary for project initiation. The Initiation Stage Plan is a formal document that determines an amount of work required to initiate a project. It proves the need to seek for commitment of resources.

Directing a Project

The DP process that can be run in parallel with the Starting up a Project process should be undertaken from the very beginning of your project until its closure. It is the longest process that covers all the phase and high-level processes of the project lifecycle.

Within the Preparation phase, the purpose of the process is to establish the Project Board which takes responsibility for the overall success of your project; however, the Board is not responsible for managing details of the project (this will be the major responsibility of the Project Manager). Members of the Board will supervise and monitor your project via various reports submitted by the Manager.

The key duty of the Project Board is to direct the project. It means that this institute will define the strategic direction of the project and govern decisions made by the Project Manager. Among other duties are:

  • Define ad hoc direction for the entire project as well as for each stage of the lifecycle.
  • Review and approve the Initiation Stage Plan.
  • Create a start-up notification and send to all the people involved.
  • Approve the Project Brief (Charter).
  • Define the project management team structure (details on who will be involved in managing your project).
  • Confirm job responsibilities and duties.
  • Approve and verify PIDs (Project Initiation Documents), such as the Initiation Stage Plan, the Project Mandate, the Funding Request, etc.

The Project Board typically delegates day-to-day management responsibilities to the Manager who reports on the status of the project and tasks on a regular basis. Information flows between both parties should be managed under rules of the Communication Plan.

Using VIP Task Manager

The Preparation phase and its two high-level processes can be managed with help of VIP Task Manager that lets design to-do lists and task hierarchies. For example, the following hierarchy shows sample tasks related to the PRINCE2 processes.

Preparation Phase

  • Starting up
    • Define business requirement
    • Design the Project Mandate
    • Create an outline of the Business Case
    • Set up the customerís quality expectations
    • Make the Project Description
    • Choose project implementation approach
    • Choose candidate to the Project Manager
    • Choose candidates to members of the project management team
    • Prepare the Project Brief
    • Make the Funding Request
    • Design the Initiation Stage Plan
    • Send the Initiation Stage Plan to the Project Board for approval
  • Directing
    • Approve candidate to the Project Manager
    • Approve candidates to members of the PM team
    • Verify project implementation approach
    • Design a risk log
    • Notify participants of project initiation
    • Ratify the Project Brief
    • Obtain resources needed by the Initiation Stage Plan

By using Task Tree view of VIP Task Manager you can create such a hierarchy. You can use groups and sub-groups to make it deeper and add new levels. For each task of the hierarchy you can set a range of attributes, such as ID, Due Date, Estimated Time, Cost, Assigned, Status, Priority etc. The manager of your project can share tasks between team members, make assignments and track changes. Members of the Project Board can be assigned to the entire project as supervisors who receive status notifications by using Notifications panel or via email.

VIP Task Manager lets use Attachments panel to link tasks to certain documents. For example, you can attach a .doc file to the task "Make the Project Description". By using Comments panel the manager can discuss this document with representatives of the Project Board and receive feedback from team members. Every person using VIP Task Manager will be a resource having login access to your PRINCE2 project database. The access is managed under permissions and roles.

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