UMass Boston

Project Initiation Phase


  • Delivers a Project Charter.
  • Defines the preliminary project cost, scope, roles, and timeline.
  • Formalizes the existence of the project.
  • Approves the project to advance to the Planning Phase.


The Initiation Phase is that time in the project lifecycle when the project idea is defined, evaluated and then authorized to proceed by the Project Sponsor and the Vice Chancellor/Chief Information Officer.  The project justification, significant deliverables, risks, estimated cost and resource requirements and other information about the project are documented and reviewed in a formal project discovery process.  This detailed information will later be contained in the project charter.  The Initiation Process provides several benefits:

The Initiation process guides the project team as they determine and articulate those key aspects of a proposed project that will help in the decision process.

Careful development of Initiation’s key deliverable, the Project Charter, helps to ensure that the technology projects chosen to proceed will be successful. 

A well-written project charter will help everyone involved in the project understand and come to agreement on exactly what is being proposed, the benefits that can be expected, the technical approach to be taken and how the project’s deliverables will fit into ongoing operations.

The amount of effort that goes into the Initiation Phase of a project will depend in some part on the size and complexity of the proposed project.   We generally will need to know more about large Strategic Projects that represent substantial investment than about smaller Operational Projects.  The total effort required to complete the Initiation Phase may range from several hours to several weeks.  So that effort is not wasted, it is essential to keep the focus on the purpose of initiation: to produce a project charter that will authorize the project to move forward and serve as the basis for all subsequent project management and planning activities.

Initiation Processes Activities

  • Agree to a vision for the project
  • Define the major goals & project justification
  • Review project charters, project change controls and lessons learned from previous projects
  • Identify all of the project stakeholders
  • Identify service/product owners
  • Identify project team member roles and responsibilities
  • Identify the resources required, the cost estimates, and a broad timeline
  • Create the project charter
  • Obtain approval from Project Sponsor to move forward with detailed planning.

Deliverables of the Project Initiation Phase:

Project Charter

The Project Charter is the major deliverable created in the Initiation Phase.  The Project Charter is critical because it will be the first formal definition of the project. The Project Charter formally authorizes the project to exist, establishes the Project Managers authority, and documents the high-level requirements, milestones, and success criteria.  The Project Charter is not a project plan – the project plan will be created in the Planning Phase once the Project Charter has been approved.  The Project Charter must be created using the Project Charter template in Appendix E. 

The Project Charter must contain:

  • Problem definition
  • Project description (high level overview of the work)
  • Project goals (what is the purpose for doing the project)
  • Objectives and outcomes
  • Scope (overview of what's in, out, uncertain)
  • Stakeholder roles, responsibilities and involvement
  • Major deliverables
  • High level milestones
  • Time frames (high-level until project planning completed)
  • Funding authority
  • Identification of the project team
  • Assumptions

Project Planning/Discovery/Business Process Analysis:

Before creating the Project Charter it is often necessary to conduct one or more project planning sessions or high level Business Process Analysis (BPA’s).  Project planning sessions are held because we often can’t draft a Project Charter until we understand in greater detail what we are being asked to do.  However, the project planning session is not the same as the Project Kickoff Meeting.   Project planning sessions help to establish the high level plan overview with the project leadership team.  The Project Kickoff Meeting communicates the project plan to the entire project team.  Project planning sessions helps define:

  • Clear articulation of project work
  • Consensus on purpose, communications, and decision-making authority
  • Understanding of roles, responsibilities, and dependencies
  • Proactive awareness and mitigation of risks
  • United team for project execution

Project Charter Review:

A complete and well written Project Charter is critical to the success of all projects.  Everyone involved in the project must share the same understanding of what outcome the project hopes to achieve and how that outcome will be reached.  The PMO Director will work with Project Manager and project stakeholders to develop and refine the Project Charter until they feel the charter is ready for review and approval. 

  • Project Manager and PMO Director perform initial review of the Project Charter.
  • Project Manager and PMO Director agree to charter completion.
  • Project Manager schedules Project Charter Review Meeting with Project Sponsor or Project Owner, Project Team and Stakeholders.
  • Project Manager facilitates Project Charter Review Meeting(s) iteratively until the project charter is ready for final approval.

Phase Gate: Project Charter Approval

After completing a thorough planning and review process, the Project Charter is ready for approvals.  No further planning or task work should be done on any project until the Project Charter has been approved.

  • Project Manager circulates project charter to the Chief Information Officer for a review
  • Project Manager circulates project charter for final approval by Sponsor(s)
  • Approved project charters are stored in hard copy in the Project Management Office (PMO), electronically with the project in Service Now (Required)
  • After the project charter has been approved by the Project Sponsor, the kickoff meeting should be scheduled and the project phase should be changed to Planning.
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