Project Initiation, Part 3 – Considerations From the Perspective of the Customer
This article is applicable whether the project is an internal company project or you will be contracting with external providers.
From the Perspective of the Customer
These are activities that occur after the project charter is signed, and before detailed project planning begins. Take a graded approach to this process; don’t make it harder than it needs to be. For small and straightforward projects, some of these activities may have been sufficiently resolved when preparing the project charter, but if not, may only take a few minutes to review and call them complete.
All stakeholders should be identified, contacted, and their expectations surveyed.
A few of the possible survey questions might address each stakeholder’s: desired outcomes from your project in order of priority; resources they will contribute; regulatory, schedule, and quality constraints; and communication requirements.
Confirm that the project goals and objectives are properly stated in the scope and/or charter.
Be sure to understand funding and budget processes, necessary approvals.
How far in advance must the organization earmark funds, and therefore what is the earliest start date? A detailed cost estimate is likely not yet available, since detailed planning has not occurred. Who will be responsible for preparing the detailed budget, who will review it, and who has authority to approve it and insert it back into the company overall budget and funding cycle?
Prepare a detailed statement of work.
A discussion of the statement of work is provided in my next article.
Prepare selection criteria, instructions to offerors.
If you are hiring a company to complete this project, what will be your basis for deciding: technical approach; qualifications/references; capacity/schedule; low cost; or a combination – and if combined, what is the formula for the decision? Once you create your selection criteria, it helps the potential providers if you inform them as well. You might want to give other instructions as to the required format of their proposals: minimum qualifications for key personnel; each factor you want addressed; order of presentation; page limits; blank costing form; etc. The more consistency you obtain in the proposals you receive, the easier your review process will be, making it easy to locate the items you will be comparing and ranking.
Fine tuning a request for proposal, bid documents.
So far we assumed you understand completely the requirements for the project, but this may not be the case. There can be a great benefit to publishing a draft request for proposal (RFP) or request for quotation (RFQ), reviewing the technical approaches and/or value engineering ideas that are returned to you, and then publishing a final RFP or RFQ. If you choose this route, inform the potential providers this is your plan, and advise them to clearly mark any items they consider to be confidential or proprietary in their initial responses. Tell them they might also, if they have better approaches, submit a proposal responding exactly to the solicitation, and an attachment explaining their options and optional pricing.
Evaluate the offers against your selection criteria.
The contract award process.
When hiring contractors, your administrative departments will be busy negotiating specific contract clauses and conditions (insurances and indemnifications can be stumbling points); obtaining certificates for the various insurances; obtaining bonds if required; obtaining employee background checks if required; getting all the proper signatures back and forth; and attending to other details. Be sure to allow time for these activities. It is a good idea for the contract to specify who (by name) has authority to sign change orders and that all changes must be in writing.
Assign the customer project manager.
The customer and the supplier(s) should each have a designated project manager, through whom all information flows, unless expressly delegated otherwise. Only in this manner can the customer and supplier project managers ensure out of scope work is not performed without a formal change order being issued. These 2 project managers do not often have signature authority for contracts or change orders, but they must be the focal points for flow of information.
Next Article in This Series: Writing the statement of work. The concept of a balanced project.
About the Author
An engineer by training, Randy Klein has 30 years of consulting experience, 20 of which have included project management duties. His project management curriculum has been used by a variety of university continuing education departments and private resellers. He invites your questions and comments related to project management, quality assurance, and organizational improvement. Contact Randy at (801) 451-7872 or firstname.lastname@example.org.