Preparing a project
Preparing a project

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Preparing a project

3 Where do projects come from?

3.1 The idea

Essentially, any project begins with an idea. The idea is often one about how to do something that seems to be needed. Transforming ideas into projects begins with recognising the nature of this driving force:

Projects arise in order to meet human needs. A need emerges and is recognized, and the management determines whether a need is worth fulfilling. If it is, a project is organized to satisfy the need. Thus, needs are the fundamental driving force behind projects. This seminal aspect of needs makes them important for project management. Their emergence sets off the whole project process. If at the outset we do not understand a need and its implications, if we incorrectly articulate it, or if we mistakenly address the wrong need, we have gotten off to a bad start and can be certain that our project will be trouble-filled.

(Frame, 1987)

Frame identifies three phases in the identification of needs:

  • Needs emergence – all sectors face the continual emergence of new needs in a changing organisational environment. Needs can evolve both from within and from outside an organisation. All stakeholders have interests in anticipating and predicting needs and responding to them proactively.

  • Needs recognition – recognising a need requires organisations to make use of existing data and expertise both from inside and out, and to collect additional data in order to consult stakeholders and to identify the implications of changing conditions. In project management terms, this phase is concerned with shaping an emergent need into the goals that will begin to define the outputs or outcomes of the project.

  • Needs articulation – this phase involves clarifying the understanding of a need by describing its characteristics more precisely. This enables managers to identify the most appropriate way of meeting the need, it enables stakeholders to contribute to the developmental process, and it leads to a precise statement of what must be done or provided to meet the need – the project definition.

Sometimes the strategic need for a project is determined by senior managers and the project goals are determined before project managers and staff are involved. For example, if an organisation decides at board level that a new headquarters building is to be commissioned and sited in a new location, staff may not be consulted until the decision has been made. However, it is not unusual for project goals to be identified by those working within a changing setting, particularly if these people might be considered to be very familiar with the needs that are to be addressed by the project.

In clarifying a project's scope, information needs to be collected about:

  • who the stakeholders are and what their interests are in the project;

  • the project's aims and objectives and how the project is going to achieve them within appropriate resource and time constraints;

  • the opportunities offered by the project and the threats to its success.

There are also tools that can help to get a better understanding of the project. These include mind mapping and a task breakdown chart.

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