PMP Domain #1: Initiating [DECOMMISSIONED ARTICLE]
NOTE: This article reflects an older version of the PMP Exam – please see the current PMP Certification page for the most up-to-date information.
The Project Management Professional (PMP) is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
Hello, and welcome back to our series on the Project Management Professional®️ (PMP®️) certification. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the first domain of the PMP exam: Initiating. Initiating covers 13% of the PMP exam, meaning that approximately 23 questions will be testing your ability to perform the tasks needed to initiate a project or a phase of a project.
Initiating involves starting up a new project and all the tasks you need to focus on in order to do that efficiently. Before a project can start, there needs to be a clear understanding of the business needs and potential ideas to meet them, as well as a proper evaluation of those ideas and solutions so that the right project is chosen. The project manager then needs to perform several tasks to ensure the project and its objectives are feasible, can be completed effectively and then get formal approval to start the project. You can think of it as laying all the ground-work to ensure a successful project like defining the initial scope, getting financial commitment, identifying stakeholders and generally making sure everyone is on the same page on what the project is about.
There are eight tasks within the initiating domain. They are:
Task 1: Perform project assessment based upon available information, lessons learned from previous projects and meetings with relevant stakeholders in order to support the evaluation of the feasibility of new products or services within the given assumptions and/or constraints.
Task 2: Identify key deliverables based on the business requirements in order to manage customer expectations and direct the achievement of project goals.
Task 3: Perform stakeholder analysis using appropriate tools and techniques in order to align expectations and gain support for the project.
Task 4: Identify high-level risks, assumptions, and constraints based on the current environment, organizational factors, historical data, and expert judgment, in order to propose an implementation strategy.
Task 5: Participate in the development of the project charter by compiling and analyzing gathered information in order to ensure project stakeholders agree on its elements.
Task 6: Obtain project charter approval from the sponsor, in order to formalize the authority assigned to the project manager and gain commitment and acceptance for the project.
Task 7: Conduct benefit analysis with relevant stakeholders to validate project alignment with organizational strategy and expected business value.
Task 8: Inform stakeholders of the approved project charter to ensure common understanding of the key deliverables, milestones and their roles and responsibilities.
In the next section, we will go into some more detail about each of these tasks and why they are important in the project management process.
Performing Project Assessment to Determine Feasibility
A project is often initiated based on business needs and what adds the most value. In order to decide which project to initiate, the initiating organization or team needs to evaluate all potential projects based on a set of criteria: For example, a financial criteria like return on investment.
The goal here is to understand the business needs and organizational strategy and evaluate the solutions proposed to meet those needs. Then you can create a business case for the project that adds the most value and select a project to initiate based on the business case. This is usually done by collaborating with relevant stakeholders.
Identifying Key Deliverables Based on Business Requirements
A deliverable is any unique and verifiable product, result or capability to perform a service that is required to be produced to complete a process, phase or project. Once a project has been chosen, its initial scope and deliverables need to be identified and agreed on to ensure they meet the project objectives. For example, in delivering a software application, the key features have to be agreed upon based on the business needs of that application.
Performing Stakeholder Analysis
A stakeholder is anybody who can be impacted positively or negatively by the project. Some of them may also be able to influence the direction of the project. Understanding the stakeholders, their interest and level of influence helps engage and manage them better and has potential impact on the success of the project. The result of stakeholder analysis is a list of all stakeholders and their interests, rights, knowledge and contribution.
Identifying High-Level Risks, Assumptions and Constraints
A risk is anything uncertain that may occur and affect the outcome of the project. An assumption is something you are unsure about but is considered true at this stage of the project. A constraint is anything that limits the possibilities.
It is important to identify the high-level risks, assumptions and constraints that affect the project early in order to determine feasibility, create an effective project plan and put contingencies in place where needed. An example would be a potential problem with the schedule as a result of organizational change.
Developing the Project Charter
The project charter is a document that formally authorizes the project manager to start the project. It shows that the project aligns with the strategy of the initiating organization, and it has all the high-level information about the project: project purpose, objectives, high-level requirement, risks, stakeholders, assigned project manager, and the name and authority of the sponsor. It ensures that everyone involved has the same understanding of the project, justification and scope.
Getting Approval of Project Charter from Sponsor
The project charter has to be approved by the sponsor in order for the project to start. A sponsor is the person who champions the project, provides financial resources and leads the project initiation phase until it’s formally authorized.
Conducting Benefit Analysis With Relevant Stakeholders
The project cost is often compared with the potential benefits. This is to clarify the value that will be gained from doing a project. The value of a project does not necessarily have to be financial; it can also be strategic, showing how it strategically aligns with the organization.
The analysis will also highlight methods that will be used to show the benefits that have been realized and the timeframe for realizing those benefits. Benefits can be shown as Net Present Value (NPV), Return On Investment (ROI), Internal Rate of Return (IRR), Payback Period (PBP) and Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR), as well as other goals such:
- Meeting business case nonfinancial objectives
- Meeting organizational strategy, goals and objectives
- Achieving stakeholder satisfaction
- Acceptable customer/end-user adoption
- Integration of deliverables into the organization’s operating environment
- Meeting governance criteria
Informing Stakeholder of Approved Project Charter
The project charter approval signifies the beginning of the project. The project manager then needs to inform stakeholders and will continue to manage and communicate with stakeholders appropriately for the duration of the project.
What to Focus On
It is important to note that the project management exam is based on tasks explained above and outlined in the examination content outline, not the PMBOK. However, you will find all the information you need in the PMBOK. You should focus on the following:
- Understanding the environment in which projects operate
- Understanding the role of a project manager
- Understanding business documents like business case and benefit plans
- The process for developing the project charter under Project Integration Management
- The process for identifying stakeholders under Project Stakeholder Management
- Gaining the knowledge and skills needed as indicated below
Specific Knowledge and Skills for Initiating a Project
Analytical skills: This is the ability to break down, visualize and solve complex problems or consider various factors in a decision-making process. Examples are root cause analysis (used to determine the basic underlying reason that causes a variance, defect or risk) and multicriteria decision (often used to prioritize).
Benefit analysis techniques: This is the ability to show what the benefit of the project is. For example: Calculating the net present value or return on investment is often needed to justify the business case and make a decision.
Elements of a project charter: This is knowledge of everything that should be in a project charter such as project purpose, high-level requirements, name of project manager and so forth.
Estimation tools and techniques: This is the ability to plan cost and schedule effectively. It includes analogous, parametric, three-point and bottom-up estimating.
Strategic management: This means having a high-level understanding of the organization and using this knowledge to make decisions that maximize the business value of the project.
We hope this has given you a better understanding of the Initiating domain, its tasks, knowledge and skills. In the next article, we will focus on domain #2, the Planning domain of project management.
Project initiation, opentextbc.ca
PMI, “Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), 6th Edition” (2017)