A business project has two main characteristics: It is unique, and it is temporary (having a definite beginning and end). IT projects begin with a request from the customer desiring the project. The project request could be as simple as, "You know, it would be nice to have..." or as formal as a document that outlines in detail what the customer requires—and everything in between. It's up to you as the project manager to coalesce what the customer says into a meaningful project concept that captures the essence of what the customer really wants. Doing so requires that you understand the business process and then assess the associated feasibility of the project relative to the need.

You should also identify the project sponsor or sponsors—the ones who have the power to authorize and fund the project and finally see it to fruition. You should always identify an executive sponsor who has authoritative 'yay/nay' power to act as the primary project sponsor. You should also confirm other managerial support for the project. Additionally, identify the stakeholders—those who have a vested interest in the project. To ensure the success of your project, it is imperative that the stakeholders not only support your endeavor but also understand the aim of your project's requirements and goals.

To guarantee this kind of support, develop a project concept document and present it to the customer and sponsor. At this juncture, you're looking for approval that you, the customer, and the sponsor are all talking about the same project. Project definition time is when you iron out any misconceptions about what the customer wants. More formal projects might require formal sign-off on the project concept document. Small projects may only require everyone agreeing to the concept with no formal documentation or sign-off. But be careful of verbal agreements—you've probably experienced before that what you say isn't necessarily what people hear. Remember that the concept document identifies the benefits, costs, and paybacks.

Next, you develop a project charter. The charter has, in layman's terms, the essence of what the project is going to accomplish. It also includes the names of the project manager(s) and sponsor(s) and establishes the account by which the monies for the project will be tracked. The charter is typically written by the project manager and may be developed from a boilerplate that the corporation has worked up for all projects. You obtain formal sign-off on the project charter from the executive sponsor and may choose to include the customer in the signing as well.

If the project should experience a legitimate change in scope, you may find that you need to amend the charter. You ' l l need to again obtain formal sign- off from the sponsor and liberally communicate with all stakeholders what the scope changes are about.

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