What Are Project Initiation Documents and Their Uses?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 7 September 2022

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Product initiation documents form the initial stages of a project's planning and development. This stage is important for defining a project's scope, purpose and desired outputs. Consequently, if you're interested in working in project management, understanding how this works is important for your skills and performance. In this article, we explain what project initiation documents are, how they relate to a project's initial phases and what the initiation phase looks like.

Related: How To Become a Project Manager

What are project initiation documents?

Project initiation documents help define a project from its beginning. A project's board and managers use Project initiation documentation (PID) to determine how the project is going to perform and function. It provides both the scope and direction of the project and can be central to forming a contract between the project board and the project manager. Although PID can have many purposes, three of the most important of these are as follows:

  • Being a point of reference: New members typically join projects throughout their life cycles and the initiation documentation can serve as an introduction to the project's scope, desirable outcomes, management and performance.

  • Acting as a sort of contract: Before a company releases funds for the sake of the project, it's important that the project board, stakeholders and project manager have the same understanding of its goals and objectives. This ensures that there's minimal risk of a misunderstanding.

  • For assessing progress: Once the project begins and is undergoing implementation, it's important to have pre-defined performance and output expectations. The project initiation documentation stipulates this in advance and can help with assessment.

Related: PRINCE2 Qualification: Everything You Need To Know

What do project initiation documents contain?

Project managers typically compile and agree upon PID near the end of the project's initiation stage, as one of its primary purposes is managing expectations and assessments. They update the PID periodically to indicate how the project's current status whilst retaining the initial project documentation. This allows project managers to compare the initial documentation with that of the end product. This can be one way of assessing a project's efficacy and is useful for informing future decisions. You may use a PID to stipulate the following:

  • Project definition: This defines the project's scope and purpose in broad terms and may include a general list of steps that the project manager expands upon later.

  • Project approach: States how the project is going to act upon its goals. For instance, you might want to develop a new product based on an existing prototype rather than create an entirely new one.

  • Team structure: This outlines the project's various teams, their organisational structures and the respective roles of their team members.

  • Role descriptions: This section describes the specific roles of the individuals who are going to be working on the project and is usually closely related to the team structure section.

  • Quality management approach: This stipulates how the project's managers and other personnel intend to maintain standards for project outputs.

  • Risk management approach: Details how a project is going to handle any foreseeable or unforeseeable risks which may jeopardise or slow progress.

  • Communications management: Projects involve a lot of communication between teams and individuals. This section describes how the project manager intends to manage communication in relation to the project's hierarchy.

  • Project plan: This is a detailed plan for the project's implementation.

  • Project controls: To guarantee that there are mechanisms for ensuring that work continues without interruption, this section outlines control structures for this purpose.

It's also important to note that a lot of these sections are going to have their own, separate documents that go into much greater detail. The platform or structure for the PID may simply give a brief outline or even a simple title, after which it refers you to the relevant documents. In this case, it acts as a point of reference or central location for understanding and accessing all other relevant project documentation.

Related: Project Management Skills and How To Improve Them

What are the major components of project initiation documentation?

To help ensure that a project has all of the necessary information, structure and processes to proceed successfully, it's common to include a number of components. They include the following:

Source data

Every project requires some initial information and data that identifies what it's going to do and on what basis. This could involve surveys or discussions with possible end-users about what they want and their expectations. Other information could include discussions with businesses and suppliers to determine the value of inputs and projected costs. Discussions with suppliers might go into even more detail, covering their standards, controls and delivery methods.

A document index or format

This might be in the form of a single document or several and acts as a reference point for all other project documentation. It's valuable for cross-referencing other information and documentation during the early phases of the project. You may integrate this with a project management tool for easier collection and examination of the information.

Criteria for quality control

The quality criteria of a project are central to the project as a whole and what it represents. One of the first elements of this is determining that the project's goals are achievable and viable while maintaining a certain degree of quality. This can also relate to project costs and suppliers. It can also contain more detailed information regarding the project's management team, their names, titles, links and detailed descriptions of their roles. This can help with accountability and ensuring that there's clarity regarding the separation of responsibilities.

Quality control closely relates to the project's hierarchy and this section can stipulate the various responsibilities for quality control and their administration. Clarifying the project's objectives as they relate to scope, benefits, risks, costs and time constraints can complement quality control. The project board and managers can use this information to determine if team members were able to maintain quality and, if they couldn't, who was responsible and if there's the potential for improvement.

What is a project's initiation process?

PID is typically a primary requirement during a project's initiation phase. There are many steps that take place during this process, and most of these benefits from good PID. Some of the more common and important steps are as follows:

Developing a business case

In a business environment, the initial consideration is whether or not there's the potential to generate value. This could relate to a company's turnover or be something more indirect, such as consumer goodwill or branding. The project manager or a business analyst develops the business case by listing different options for meeting the project's goals, conducting a risk assessment and attempting to forecast potential challenges. The individual responsible can also determine how closely the project's objectives align with the organisation's own goals.

Conducting a feasibility study

After developing a business case, the next step is to determine whether this is feasible given certain constraints and resources. A feasibility study provides this information. Project managers conduct feasibility studies to identify how likely a project is to succeed, which helps decide whether or not to proceed.

Making a project charter

After the project manager establishes feasibility, they can then work on the project's charter. This is usually a formal declaration of intent regarding the project's goals, the project's title, the relevant stakeholders and information from the feasibility study. This can include the following:

  • project name

  • budget

  • desirable outcomes

  • project purpose or goal

  • timeline

  • relevant stakeholders

  • team members and their roles

  • risk assessment

  • the feasibility study

Assembling the project's teams

It's usually the responsibility of the project manager to identify and recruit a team of capable individuals who are going to implement the project. In larger projects, this could involve several teams of people. Although the roles within projects can vary significantly, some of the more common positions include the following:

  • Project manager: This is the individual who's responsible for overseeing the project and recruiting other team members.

  • Resource manager: Resource managers are in charge of allocating a project's various resources, including equipment, finances and other materials.

  • Business analyst: This professional usually works closely with the project manager, especially during the planning stages. They also help identify the milestones and requirements for a project's success.

  • Project client: The client is the individual or organisation that commissions the project. External clients don't always want commission projects, so this stakeholder is only relevant in those instances.

  • Consultants: These specialists can advise the project manager and others on matters relating to their particular specialisations.


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