Project Initiation Process


Dan Epstein

New York, USA

1.0 Part 1: Initial Project Request and Cost-Benefit Analysis

Note: This article is based on the book Project Workflow Management: A Business Process Approach by Dan Epstein and Rich Maltzman, published by J Ross Publishing in 2014. The book describes PM Workflow® framework, the step-by-step workflow guiding approach using project management methods, practical techniques, examples, tools, templates, checklists and tips, teaching readers the detailed and necessary knowledge required to manage project “hands-on” from scratch, instructing what to do, when to do and how to do it up to delivering the completed and tested product or service to your client. While PM Workflow® is the continuous multi-threaded process, where all PM processes are integrated together, this article will attempt to describe the initiation set of processes as a stand-alone group of processes that can be used independently outside of PM Workflow® framework. It will be difficult in this article not to venture into processes outside of project initiation, such as planning, quality, risk, communications and other management processes, so they will be just mentioned. For more information, please visit www.pm-workflow.com.

The main objective of the project initiation activities is to ensure that the project scope is agreed on and documented and the requirements baseline is produced. The project initiation includes the following steps:

  1. Receive Initial Project Request and Benefit Statement —This process will provide the delivery team with a general idea about the project and will outline expected benefits from the project.
  2. Perform/Update Cost-Benefit Analysis —Cost-benefit analysis calculates whether benefits from the project justify expenses.
  3. Create Project Control Book (PCB) —This process will create a tool for keeping all project documentation in one place. One of the first records in PCB must be identification of project stakeholders and the established communication channels with them.
  4. Business Requirements Analysis —This process will elicit detailed project requirements and analyze them.
  5. Create/Update Traceability Matrix —The requirements traceability matrix is a tool for documenting, updating and tracking all requirements and changes to the project scope throughout the life of the project.
  6. Create Business Requirements Document —This process will create a document outlining the baseline for all project requirements.
  7. Conduct Requirements Review —This process will ensure the quality of business requirements and verify correctness of the business requirements document.
  8. Approve Requirements —This process will approve requirements and authorize funds for the next project activity, such as project planning.
  9. Review project planning milestones with client — This process will review the planning/high-level design and the overall project plan or milestones with the client before requesting project authorization. Plans may be updated as a result of the review.
  10. Update the Project Planning Plan — This process will update plans or milestones with changes requested at the review before the detailed project planning started.
  11. Request Project Authorization — This process will request project approval and receiving the project charter from the project sponsor. Receiving a signed project charter confirms that the sponsor agrees with the project scope, including the cost and schedule of at least the planning/high-level design activities for the remaining of the project.
  12. Conduct Kickoff Meeting — The kickoff meeting is the official project initiation.

1.1 Receive Initial Project Request and Benefit Statements

Consider the following project initiation scenarios:

  1. A project delivery organization wins a bid from an outside company to develop a new product or service. This means that the organization’s proposal was selected due to its past experience in that type of project, proven quality or the most cost effective solution. Sometimes an outside company may award a project to an organization without a bid due to its proven reputation for great results.
  2. A project starts due to the specific need of an organization, such as a business need for a new manufacturing line or a new software program which supports the expanded business. In this case the requesting department should outline benefits to justify project expenses.
  3. Market research may have determined that there is a market demand for a specific service, system or product, which is predicted to be profitable to the company’s business

Undertaking any project is a business risk for the organization. The bigger the project and the less experienced the team, the larger the risk. The risk may reach such an extent that the company may jeopardize large financial assets, reputation and its very future existence. Project risks are outside of this article’s scope (chapter 6 of the book includes detailed description of Risk Management and provide tools and examples), but it is reasonable to expect that a company will not assign an inexperienced project manager to a multimillion-dollar project.

It is also unlikely that a new, untested project manager will be assigned to manage a project for an important business client or for development of a brand new marketable product. If such a project turned out to be unsuccessful, the company finances and reputation may suffer beyond repair. In the worst-case scenario, the company may be liable for damages and fines and may even be forced into bankruptcy. In internal noncritical projects, financial losses may still occur due to an unsuccessful project, but it is less likely that the company reputation will be damaged and fines and lawsuits are not a threat.


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About the Author             

pmwj24-jul2014-Epstein-AUTHOR IMAGEDan Epsteinflag-usa


New York, USA


Dan Epstein combines over 25 years of experience in the project management field and the best practices area, working for several major Canadian and U.S. corporations, as well as 4 years teaching university students project management and several software engineering subjects. He received a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the LITMO University in Leningrad (today St. Petersburg, Russia) in 1970, was certified as a Professional Engineer in 1983 by the Canadian Association of Professional Engineers – Ontario, and earned a master’s certificate in project management from George Washington University in 2000 and the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI®) in 2001.

Throughout his career, Dan managed multiple complex interdependent projects and programs, traveling extensively worldwide. He possesses multi-industry business analysis, process reengineering, best practices, professional training development and technical background in a wide array of technologies. In 2004 Dan was a keynote speaker and educator at the PMI-sponsored International Project Management Symposium in Central Asia. He published several articles and gave published interviews on several occasions. In the summer of 2008 he published “Methodology for Project Managers Education” in a university journal. His book, Project Workflow Management – The Business Process Approach, written in cooperation with Rich Maltzman, was published in 2014 by J. Ross Publishing.

Dan first started development of the Project Management Workflow in 2003, and it was used in a project management training course. Later this early version of the methodology was used for teaching project management classes at universities in the 2003–2005 school years. Later on, working in the best practices area, the author entertained the idea of presenting project management as a single multithreaded business workflow. In 2007–2008 the idea was further refined when teaching the project management class at a university. In 2009–2011 Dan continued working full time in Project Management. Dan can be contacted at [email protected].