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The Project Startup and Project Contract I (Practical Project Management Series)

This is the second blog of Lex van der Heijden on practical Project Management.

This time I would like to discuss the subject of the project start-up and a number of specific issues.

You will be asked (or appointed) to lead a particular project. Let us assume that this is the start of a new project. The way you are asked / designated is important for you as a person.

Do you get a timebomb in your hands? What does your gut feeling say? Comments such as “you’re the only one who can handle this project” etc. should ring alarm bells with you. In fact, this is ego stroking and manipulation. Do you have the feeling to step into a snake pit? Is it possible to agree on a mutual trial period?

Suppose you accept the role then it is pretty handy to start your project according to a ‘recipe’ (also called ‘standard way of working’) efficiently and effectively.

Do you execute your project within your own company or an external client? This is a big difference. In my view, however, one important thing: your client / sponsor is your customer, and here it does not matter whether this is an internal or external customer.

The phrase ‘the client is king’ is true, however it must be noted that you need to comply with the agreements and at the same time be aware of your own borders (and of your team members).

Watch out that you do not provide as Project Manager a Rolls Royce while an Opel Corsa has been agreed.

As first action it is advisable to check the agreements made. Normally these are set out in a contract that must be signed by all parties (at least the client and contractor).

Unfortunately, contract negotiations do not always go as quickly as wanted and there might be an urge to start already with the project. Here you have to be as Project Manager very wary of because working without a contract can pose great risks especially for the contractor in the area of ​​liability. In such cases, you can work on the basis of a signed ‘Letter of Intent’ (LoI), ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MoU) or ‘Document of Understanding’ (DoU).

In these latter cases however there might be a snake sitting in the grass … and that is the ability to send invoices. Another important issue is the duration of the agreement. Keep an eye on the end date of the agreement and start on time the extend the agreement (especially within large companies this is time consuming which might cause that you must stop the project which might not be appreciated by the client).

Next time I’ll continue with this topic. The project start-up is an important subject because if this is not done properly you will feel the impact throughout the project.