If there’s one thing we all know as project managers, nothing is certain. Managing changes and unforeseen variables is part of the job, but one of the most difficult difficulties you’ll encounter as a Project Manager is being thrown into an ongoing project. Perhaps you’ve recently started a new job and are being assigned to a project in progress, or another PM has unexpectedly left, and you’re filling in for them.
In the section below, we’ve outlined ten project management questions that every Project Manager should ask when starting a new project. These points are simply a beginning point; it’s not a replacement for formal PM training. However, these core questions might help you sail through the process when you’re pressed for time.
These questions, of course, can be adjusted to any specific project or customer, and they can be asked in person, electronically via email, or over the phone. Document the responses; you may refer back to them later or share them with the team/stakeholders.
What Are We Delivering?
A website, a program, an event, or a brand design could be the overarching output for a project. Most projects, however, are made up of numerous phases or components that must be finished in a specific order.
You should include a simple list of each item your team is required to deliver in all of your documentation, including the scope/statement of work, contract, and project plan. If you’re creating a website, for example, your list might include:
- Content strategy
- Design round 1
- Design round 2
- Design round 3
- Content input
Even though the project is a “website,” it is your obligation as the Project Manager to keep track of all deliverables and moving elements to ensure that they are done properly, on schedule, and according to specifications.
Request confirmation from your management, team, or client that you have the whole list of deliverables and that nothing is missing. Also, discover what has been completed, what is currently being worked on, and what is still to come.
What Are We Not Delivering?
Understanding what is and is not part of the project is just as important as knowing what is and is not part of the project; this is one of the most straightforward methods for avoiding scope creep, ambiguity, and unnecessary effort.
For example, your firm provides content strategy in the simple website from #1. Does that mean you’re also writing all of the prose and providing images, videos, or illustrations/visuals to go with it? Make sure you ask your stakeholders whether they will provide these products or if they want to include them in the scope.
Of course, there is a middle ground where you may suggest another firm or a partner company give extra services. In either case, determining who will be responsible for all aspects of the project early on is critical so that you don’t have to explain to your customer why you thought they were supplying the copy. They assumed you were providing the copy two weeks before launch.
Whether the previous project manager discussed this with the client, asking again could be a good way to see if the client has changed their mind or if this is an opportunity to sell additional services.
Is There A Deadline?
Most projects have deadlines, which is a good thing, believe it or not. Having a specific time frame to accomplish a project helps your team keep focused, hopefully guarantees that the client stays motivated, and helps you allocate time and resources.
When you start a new project, inquire about your stakeholders‘ timeframes. There may be a set deadline due to a product launch, an event, or budget limitation. Sometimes deadlines are a little more flexible, such as “we’d like this done sometime this summer.”
As PM, you should figure out when the deadline is early on and work backward from there; this is also a good moment to monitor progress against your schedule – was your team on track to finish by the deadline before you arrived? If this is the case, congratulations! If not, this is your chance to figure out what’s wrong and change it so you can get back on track.
What Is The Benchmark For Success?
One of the most crucial projects management questions to ask at the start of each project is this one. A goal may appear simple, such as creating and launching a new website. Don’t be afraid to delve a little deeper, though.
Is it their goal to raise brand awareness? Ensure the introduction of a successful product or program? How can you increase your revenue?
Encourage your client to tell you why they’re taking on this project, and keep that aim at the forefront of your interactions. Knowing what success looks like can help your team stay focused and make key decisions during the project’s lifespan.
Coming into the project in the middle of its life cycle also means now is a good time to question the stakeholders whether their vision/goals have changed since kickoff and how you can best assist them in achieving all of their objectives.
Who Is The Client?
I’m sure this has happened to you if you work in an agency. We know since it’s happened to me numerous times! When you’re bidding on a project, you’re working with one or maybe a couple of people, but after the job begins, more people start appearing out of nowhere to offer feedback and make judgments.
We don’t blame clients for bringing in many cooks – it could be a political issue, or the initial collaborator wants a second view on the job so that they aren’t accountable for the success of the final result. After all, we must keep in mind that your clients are putting a significant amount of time and faith in your team, and they are entitled to some level of involvement in the process.
Whatever the case may be, we feel that you can avoid the often aggravating phenomena of “multiplying clients” by simply asking: “Whose opinion matters?” at the outset. Are there any more stakeholders who will be brought in later to provide feedback?” This way, you’ll not only be ready for the frenzy if it happens, but you’ll also be able to gently remind your major client if required, that she agreed you’d only be accepting remarks from 2-3 individuals. Now that you’ve got ten people contributing their two cents, you might be facing scope creep.
Who Is The Point Of Contact?
This question may seem redundant if you already have a dedicated project team. Still, determine who is the MAIN, in-case-of-emergency, ultimate-decision-making point of contact on a project. Find out their preferred form of communication as a bonus project management inquiry. Email? Is there a phone in the office? Do you have a cell phone? If a project goes off track, the last thing you want to be thinking about is who you should contact and whether they’ll even open your email.
Who Is Doing The Work?
Most of the project management questions on this list are ones you’ll ask your clients/stakeholders, but this one is crucial and concerns your internal team. Maybe you’re joining a project where you already know the designers, developers, and other team members, or you’ve just started at a new organization where you don’t know anyone.
Ensure you have the correct individuals on the job as soon as the project is staffed. Is everyone equipped with the ability to finish the project on time and on a budget? Is there anyone who requires more training or assistance? Have you filled all of the required roles and looked into hiring contractors or freelancers for additional help?
Who Is The Audience For The Work?
In project management, we frequently consider each project to have two sets of stakeholders: the client, the person who requests the work, and the team, or the people who perform the work. However, there is usually a third, sometimes unnoticed, set of stakeholders: the audience/consumer/recipient/user who will engage with, purchase, or view the work once it is completed.
The target audience for your work is crucial. Some projects will allow you to do surveys or research to learn more about the consumer on the other end of your project, but if not, you can still ask yourself, your team, and the client, “Who are we building this for, and what is essential to them?” The answers to these project management questions will undoubtedly aid you in staying focused on your primary goal.
Has This Been Done Before?
Even the most inventive, distinctive, and spectacular work is frequently based on or inspired by something already done. When a new project is allocated, there is no shame in checking if that particular thing has been done before by someone else.
Inquiring your stakeholders about previous projects from which your team may draw inspiration/learn is a terrific approach to get everyone enthusiastic about the job ahead, generate new ideas, and keep top of your competitors. I enjoy asking clients to show me examples of products/projects that inspire them so that my team may set goals and hopefully exceed them.
What Might Get In The Way?
Believe it or not, the above question is perhaps our favorite question to ask before we begin a new project. It may appear a little messy to delve into all of the potential problems you might face as a team embarking on this work.
Still, we believe that working together to identify potential roadblocks to success is not an exercise in humility but can also help you be better prepared for when that moment arrives. Hopefully, you’ve already protected yourself against obvious hazards like staffing, timelines, budgets, and technical specifications, but what else may go wrong?
Gather your team and ask your stakeholders what potential hurdles to success they see – or what barriers have already occurred. Then make sure that everyone knows that you, as PM, are aware of these challenges and prepared to address them if they surface again.
These are the ten important questions that we think every project manager should ask before starting a new project. If you wish to learn about the pros and cons of IT in society, visit this blog post.