Project kick-off marks the first impression, and sets the tone of future meetings, interactions with the client, and paints a vibrant image of your agency’s prospective working relationship. Therefore, it would be a good idea to get it right.
For those who aren’t as well-aware, Kick-Offs follow the signing of contracts and the approval of the Statement of Work (SoW). These documents outline what needs to be done within the context of your exciting new IT project.
It is here, that everybody from both ends of the spectrum come together – the client and development team, as well as designers, and all relevant parties. As the group assembles, the common goals begin, and mutual understanding of project purpose of realisation comes into view.
What’s most important in this first stage of the project planning, is that it is the launchpad from which you will also identify challenges and opportunities of your upcoming endeavour.
My article will help outline the project Kick-Off process, as well as provide you with the vital points on surviving and thriving it as well. So, without further ado, I welcome you to the Kick-Off!
Before meeting the client in that grand, all-important conference room – give them a chance to know with whom they’re dealing. Is this a renowned business, or a niche brand? More importantly, how does this contact associate with your agency; are they a close friend, a first-time meeting, or based on a chance encounter at a convention, etc.
Secondly, it’s crucial to identify and explain their expectations. What are their needs and priorities as a company, and what are they hoping to gain from this project? These are the sorts of questions you should answer for your team throughout the briefing stage.
Know Your Squad
Identify the roles of your team members. Knowing people’s info and titles help for your sake, their sake, and the client’s sake.
Assigning team members to project roles is one factor, and I would recommend the applying a skills matrix to achieve this. However, once you have these allocated, awareness of ‘who’s doing what’ helps smoothen the introduction process, primarily upon Kick-Off with the client.
As an insider tip; team intros are often an exciting opportunity for some friendly banter. Hence why knowing your team is helpful.
Get the Point
Context fuels the fire of enthusiasm. For peace of mind across the board, be sure to introduce and establish the scope of the project.
Firstly, ask yourself a simple question; why is the client excited about this project? It seems like a profound query but should have a simple answer. Think from the client’s perspective, and your empathy will help match their enthusiasm and make sure everyone’s thinking along the same lines.
Next, it would help to understand the very point of the project – its raison d’être. The end-user, or customer, will benefit from the project’s outcome, be it via a final product, or direct implication of completion. As this marks the point of the product, recognising it is critical.
Now you must translate this to your team, establishing the point of this project in terms of your team members. Therefore, the operative question is – how does this help the company grow? From your team’s point of view, project success must go far beyond just balance sheets and mission statements. Therefore, communicate the tangible victories your company and individuals can enjoy; think of growth, knowledge, skills, project possibilities, new industries and development opportunities.
Set Things Straight!
Setting up a calendar and timetable will unite the workflow under one mutual language. Be sure to define the project management process, as well as mark out unambiguous project success and failure metrics.
Success metrics are bars which you must set in advance. Thinking along the lines of client expectations, consider established Quality Assurance, and Quality Control measurables. Similarly, failure metrics differ. However, one notable category example is ‘negative’ scenarios, such as the realising of identifiable risks to the project.
Imagining the good and bad cases is one aspect in the planning, but always be sure to research similar projects, and the possible outcomes – fortunate or misfortunate. Practical instances will provide real insight and learning lessons.
As serious as is the Kick-Off, it is essential to keep a very open mind for your team, and their ideas.
Democratising the project invites for positive, constructive input. The reasons for this are simple, it opens the door to understanding the intricacies of the project, provides an opportunity for improvements, and above all, keeps team members engaged in the work.
Very importantly, the team should be able to ‘swing a few practice punches’ prior to Kick-off, as there would be no such prospect after the ‘big meeting’ – let along during, and in the presence of the client!
Opening the floor for early-stage scrutiny should entail Q&A’s, proposition of new ideas, as well as challenges to the plan. Sometimes, the best enforcer of standards is the devil’s advocate.
Talk, Chat, and Speak!
Keep lines of communication open and ensure regular conversations before Kick-Off begins. Any possible improvements, grievances, questions, or challenges to the project should be ironed out, resulting in only a confident stance. A fractured front in the client’s presence could dispel positive implications for the project.
Lastly, it’s essential to ensure the ensemble sings by the same tune of consensus, once more, to ensure team cohesion. As this project takes on a life of its own, try to consider it almost as though it were a living work of art. A confident unit is always well-received and attracts the engagement of its audience.
Attitude makes confidence. It’s a simple recipe for success, but an effective one at that.