Project Definition Checklist

Table of contents:

Here's a checklist that can help you to determine if your project is defined properly and if you are ready to proceed to the next iteration of detailed planning. If you find that your project is not properly defined, you have the following options available to you:

  • Resolve any gaps with appropriate stakeholders before moving onto next phase
  • If the project has already been defined, work to resolve these gaps during the detail planning phase.
  • If gaps cannot be resolved, then handle as project risks or issues (whichever is appropriate for the specific gap).


  • Is it clear why this is project is being undertaken?


    For anyone who has not attended a Goal Setting 101 course, let's do a quick review of SMART goals.

    Actually, I've seen two different definitions of SMART goals, and they both apply:

    Definition #1SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding, and Time-based.

    Definition #2SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Agreed-To, Realistic, and Time-based.

    Perhaps, the acronym should be SMAARRT. For projects, the second definition is more important due to the "Agreed-To" element.

  • Is there a clear picture of the desired results of this project?
  • Is there a clear picture of how this project fits within the organizational landscape?
  • Do you understand who is funding the project initiative?
  • Is there a gap between available and needed funds?
  • Is the gap between the current state and the desired future state clearly documented and understood?
  • Has the expected "change impact" on existing business processes, customers, systems and staff been clearly documented?
  • Have the success factors been identified? Are they complete? Are they SMART?
  • Have any future state performance targets been defined as success factors? Are they SMART?


  • Does project scope indicate boundaries between impacted processes, systems, and organizations?
  • Is project scope defined clearly enough to show when scope creep is occurring?
  • Have any external process or system interfaces that will be impacted by this project been identified?
  • Has the process workflow between business units or business functions been properly considered?
  • Have the organizational and geographic boundaries been clearly defined?
  • Does project scope include related items that are out-of-scope?
  • Does project scope include any other organizational or technology-based initiative that is needed to fully support the project objective?
  • If project scope includes any requirements, have the requirements been properly validated?
  • Have any and all project constraints been identified?
  • Have any and all project assumptions been identified?
  • Are there any known policies, regulations, or standards that will apply to this project (such as procurement, quality, security, regulatory compliance, and so on)?


  • Has the project sponsor been identified and engaged?
  • Is each impacted business unit and business process step represented on the project team?
  • Is each customer group represented on the project team?
  • Are all stakeholders identified in a project organization chart?
  • Are the reporting relationships indicated in the project organization chart?
  • Are project roles described and assigned to each stakeholder?
  • Have we identified which stakeholders will form the core management steering committee?
  • Have we identified which stakeholders will need to review and approve any requested change to the project definition?

Project Approach

  • Does the recommended approach explain why it was selected over the alternatives?
  • Are the proposed technologies, strategies, and methodologies documented?


  • Are the project definition elements documented?


    As with all project documents, make sure you have a way to control changes to the Project Definition document and that you have proper backups of it.

    Your Configuration Management Plan (discussed in Chapter 12, "Managing Project Deliverables") will document this.

  • Is the Project Definition document under configuration management (version control)?
  • Have high level risks and planned responses been identified?
  • Has preliminary timeline and budget been stated? Are the supporting reasons and assumptions documented?


  • Have all stakeholders reviewed, agreed upon, and approved the Project Definition document?
  • Has the project and the project manager been officially authorized?

The Absolute Minimum

At this point, you should have a solid understanding of the following:

  • A properly defined project will greatly increase the odds for project success.
  • The project and the project manager position should be officially announced and formally authorized to proceed.
  • The key project manager tools for defining a project are the Project Definition document and a Project Organization Chart.
  • The key skills used by the project manager when defining a project are facilitation, interviewing, negotiation, and general interpersonal skills.
  • The Project Definition document should clearly communicate why the project is being undertaken, how it fits within the organization, what it will accomplish, the boundaries for the project work, who will be involved, and how project success will be measured.
  • The Project Definition document is a living document throughout the project. However, any change to the document must be approved by the same set of original stakeholders.
  • All stakeholders in the project must be identified.
  • All major stakeholders must approve the Project Definition document.

The map in Figure 4.1 summarizes the main points we reviewed in this chapter.

Figure 4.1. Defining a project overview.

Part i. Project Management Jumpstart

Project Management Overview

The Project Manager

Essential Elements for any Successful Project

Part ii. Project Planning

Defining a Project

Planning a Project

Developing the Work Breakdown Structure

Estimating the Work

Developing the Project Schedule

Determining the Project Budget

Part iii. Project Control

Controlling a Project

Managing Project Changes

Managing Project Deliverables

Managing Project Issues

Managing Project Risks

Managing Project Quality

Part iv. Project Execution

Leading a Project

Managing Project Communications

Managing Expectations

Keys to Better Project Team Performance

Managing Differences

Managing Vendors

Ending a Project

Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
ISBN: 078973821X
Year: 2006
Pages: 169 © 2008-2020.
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