Project initiation documentation – how to compile it

project initiation documentation


The initiating a project process has a focus on the production of the project initiation documentation (PID). It comprises

  • the description of agreed tailoring requirements.
  • risk management approach.
  • quality management approach.
  • change control approach.
  • communications management approach.
  • project controls.
  • project plan
  • and detailed business case.

By the way, the initiating a project process also involves producing the benefits management approach. But it does not form part of the project initiation documentation. This latter expires with project closure. And the benefits management approach lives on to provide the senior user with a roadmap for the post-project benefit realisation.

But back to the PID. It is sort of similar in concept to a reusable space launch system, offering serious savings of time and human effort. And both time and effort have a price tag attached. PRINCE2 makes it possible to carry over various management products included in the PID from one project to the next with a minimum of tailoring. But there is a catch.

When embarking on a PRINCE2 project for the first time, the project manager will need to prepare the project initiation documentation from scratch. And in order to remain good every time, it better be good the first time.

Likely as not, that can cause the project manager a traumatic experience. I still keep a smarting memory of how messy it can get. It happened rather far away in terms of both time and location. But I could hardly forget the pain and frustration I had experienced on that occasion.

Preparation of the project initiation documentation is a responsibility of the project manager. And it requires a fair grasp of how PRINCE2 works. But those were still the early days of my PRINCE2 apprenticeship. I had only little understanding and even less experience in the application of the PRINCE2 method. And there was no one around with more competence in the subject to guide me. As a consequence, I did it by groping in the dark.

Make no mistake, many of PID components are likely to turn out conceptually complex. True enough, speaking formally they don´t have to be. You can apply tailoring to make them as lightweight as you dare. But tailoring has its limits.

A purpose of the PID is to establish solid foundations for the project and enable the organisation to understand the work that needs to be done to deliver the project’s products, prior to committing to a significant spend.

So, a degree of substantive depth does tend to become a requirement. PRINCE2 projects can´t be built on sand.

At the start of PID preparation, you can make the going easier by copy-pasting much of the content from the relevant chapters of the official guidance “Managing successful projects with PRINCE2 6th edition”. That´s part of what the guidance is for, after all.

But in a second step, you´ll need to marry that abstract wisdom to the particular environment and strategic objectives of your specific organisation. In my case, that part of the job extracted a heavy toll in toil and sweat. Not mentioning the prohibitive amount of time it took to complete, producing an output of dubious quality.

A smarter approach would be to subcontract the first-time preparation of the project initiation documentation to an external supplier competent in the task.

However, for that purpose elements of the PID (or PID as a whole) will need to be construed as work packages. And in order to manage execution of work packages, a controlling a stage process will need to be applied during the initiation stage. Which in its turn will require the preparation of a more elaborate stage plan underpinned by the product-based planning technique.

Sounds like a bit of a burden in its own right, right? The good news is that it´ll still involve just a fraction of the work load involved in the single-handed crafting of te actual PID elements. And besides, the supplier is likely to absorb much of it.

A situation, in which the project manager applies the controlling a stage process to the management of the initiation stage, is called a complex initiation. Production of a model PID could be one reason. But the need for it can also arise from many other situations, for example conducting public tenders or awarding contracts to suppliers during the initiation stage.

An organisation will be wise to ensure that a high-quality PID underpins its very first PRINCE2 project.

A quality PID will provide a reliable foundation also for future projects helping to put them into place within short time and with only a minimum of effort. Applying the controlling a stage process to the initiation stage to allow the outsourcing of PID preparation to a supplier can be a smart move.

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