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Starting Engineering Projects:
Project Initiation, Planning, Objectives, Scope and Costs

Essential Leadership and Management for Engineers

Starting Engineering Projects

The start of the project will include a number of activities to get things rolling. The justification for the project may be made in a business case or some other official means. The project manager may be appointed at this stage too. The approach to the project needs to be considered at the start. For example, are you going to undertake the work in-house or alternatively outsource it to a supplier? Permission, sometimes referred to as a mandate, will be sought from senior management to start some initial work. A feasibility study or initial research may take into account previous lessons learned from past projects. 


Starting Engineering Projects: Initiation Stage... 

Project Initiation and Planning 

The project initiation and planning stage is one of the most important as it sets the terms of reference for all that takes place during the project. As such, the documentation capturing this important information is sometimes referred to as the project specification, the project terms of reference, the project management plan or the project initiation document. The importance of getting the initiative stage right shouldn’t be underestimated. Get it wrong and the project could be doomed to failure. Project planning is a process that requires careful thought and estimation. As such, undertake planning activities with key stakeholders in the project.

The project initiation documentation formally sets out what is agreed between the project manager and whoever has commissioned the project. During this stage, clearly establish who is sponsoring the project and who the project customer(s) are.

It’s worth grouping the key considerations from the initiation and planning stage, to use as a practical format.


Starting Engineering Projects: Understand Your Objectives... 

Establish Aims and Objectives

This involves clearly setting out what the purpose of the project is, in broad terms. What problem or issue are you trying to solve? Objectives should be backed by senior management and be aligned with the aims of the business. Objectives should be easy to understand. Consider making objectives SMART; that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Whereas all these aspects are important, set objectives that are measurable in terms of time, cost, quality and a defined outcome at the end.


Starting Engineering Projects: Understand What's in and What's Out of Scope... 

Set out the Scope and Parameters of the Project

Set out what is in the scope of the project by succinctly stating what is inside the project and what is outside of it. Considering what is in the remit of the project will affect factors such as resources at your disposal. These should be defined. What people, products, processes and teams will be affected, and therefore are in scope?


Starting Engineering Projects: Costs are Critical... 

Budgets and Cost Management

Clearly costs and financial control are critical factors in any project. The budget will normally have been set or agreed in the business case. Whereas an overall budget may have initially been set, at the planning stage a further breakdown may be required, highlighting where and when those costs are likely to be incurred in the project. There will be a responsibility for effective costs management – that is monitoring and controlling of costs against the budget as the project progresses.

Starting Engineering Projects

Next... Project Planning Documents: Risks, Communication, Finance, Schedule, Quality and Resource

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