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PMP Rapid Review: Initiating the Project

Task 1.4: Identify and document high-level risks, assumptions, and constraints based on current environment, historical data, and/or expert judgment, in order to identify project limitations and propose an implementation approach.

A key task performed during project initiation is the preliminary identification and documentation of high-level risks, assumptions and constraints that the project is subject to. This information is very useful in assessing the merits of whether the project should proceed, and if given approval to proceed with the project, this information also informs more detailed planning on how to deal with identified risks, assumptions, and constraints.

Exam need to know...

  • High-level risks

    For example: What does an initial assessment of project risks reveal?

  • Assumptions and constraints

    For example: What factors will play an important role in work involved in initiating a project?

  • Historical data

    For example: When beginning work a new project, what resource should a project manager ensure they have access to in order to ensure they are able to leverage past experience?

  • Implementation approach

    For example: What is the best implementation approach for your project?

High-level risks

During the initiating phase of any project, it is important to identify and document any known high-level risks that might negatively or positively affect the project. Given that this task is performed during initiating processes, it is possible to determine only high-level risks. A more detailed definition of risks is carried out in the risk management planning processes.

True or false? All high-level risks adversely affect the project.

Answer: False. A risk represents uncertainty and can be either positive or negative.

High-level risks can be identified via a variety of means, including an examination of archived historical data, lessons learned, and/or the use of experts.

Assumptions and constraints

It is important to document any known assumptions and constraints that affect the project in order that they be included in any assessment of whether a project should go ahead, and it is also useful when you undertake more detailed planning of the project after it has approval to proceed. The assumptions that you make become foundational and instrumental when approving or declining the project, so it is important that they are documented carefully. For example, you can make assumptions about market conditions, availability of technology and resources, future state of financial markets, and demand for use of the project deliverable. Each of these assumptions is critical for approving and planning the project.

It is also important during the initiating tasks that any known constraints (such as time, cost, quality, or scope) are also documented so that they can be used to assess the viability of the project and as a basis of future more detailed planning.

True or false? Any assumptions made during initiating processes are not relevant to the future detailed planning processes.

Answer: False. Any assumptions made during initiating processes affect the project right from the beginning: whether it is approved and any subsequent more detailed planning.

Historical data

A key element of any project is the historical data and information collected and made available to future projects so that mistakes are not repeated, and factors that contribute to success are identified and repeated. It is a very valuable resource that a project manager should have access to, particularly during the initiating work being completed. Additionally, a project manager should develop and document historical data future projects to use.

True or false? Historical data is limited to relating to cost and time of projects.

Answer: False. Historical data and information can include any documents and data about prior projects, including project files, project records, correspondence, contracts, post-implementation reviews, and lessons learned.

Implementation approach

After you have gathered enough preliminary information about your project-including the financial or non-financial viability, and any high-level risks, assumptions and constraints-you can decide on the best implementation approach to take to successfully deliver your project. The implementation approach that you select reflects the complexity, size, difficulty, and industry of your project. The implementation approach also helps you make decisions about particular project management methodologies to use to deliver your project. The particular implementation approach or project management methodology you choose to use is documented in your organizational process assets.

Typical implementation approaches reflect different project lifecycles and the speed of the project work. The following are the most common forms of implementation approach:

  • Phased An implementation approach that sees the project broken down into phases of work to be completed with a significant milestone between each phase, which represents a stop/go point in the project.
  • Iterative or incremental Used when a product of a project will be developed through a series of repeated cycles, each one incrementally adding to the understanding of the functionality of the product.
  • Adaptive Used in projects with high levels of change and ongoing stakeholder involvement. These methods are often used in complex IT projects and usually referred to as change-driven or agile methods.
  • Predictive Used when the scope of the project and product can be fully defined and broken down into a series of easy-to-find sequential steps.

True or false? Every project that you work on uses the same implementation approach.

Answer: False. Each project is different in relation to size, complexity, and difficulty, so the implementation approach for each project should reflect the unique aspects of the project.

Can you answer these questions?

You can find the answers to these questions at the end of this chapter.

  1. Why is it important to identify high-level risks as soon as possible in the project initiation processes?
  2. What are the assumptions that you might make about the project?
  3. What are examples of typical project constraints?
  4. What is the best implementation approach to use for a project?
  5. If you are first completing the process of developing a business case for a project, waiting for approval to proceed before moving on to design the deliverable, and then waiting for approval to start manufacturing, what sort of implementation approach should you use?

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