Mastering the art of Project Kick-offs

mastering the art of project kick-offs

At Embryo, we like to avoid new projects starting off a bit wonky. Projects can sometimes start off a bit lost because, on occasion, those involved can dive straight into the project without getting to know the client or truly understanding some of the tacit, latent, and informal requirements which might not have been recorded at the beginning. It must be known that without this information, a project team will not fully understand what needs to be done in order to succeed.

One can’t just jump into a project kick-off meeting without a purpose. Depending on the unique requirements of the project stakeholders or the project itself, what a Project Manager and their team are expecting to get out of the meeting may differ from project to project.

What do Project kick-offs mean?

As a result, I see the project kick-off as an opportunity to first understand and establish any common goals that my client and Embryo will have in terms of what to get out of the website, as well as the purpose of completing the work. At Embryo, a Project kick-off is critical when starting any project, whether complex and multi-faceted or simple and straightforward. Fundamentally, it’s about alignment and totally understanding your client’s needs. I see kick-off meetings as the opportunity to prepare my colleagues and project team members as well as the client’s team on expectations, communication, and collaboration for the project.

The overarching purpose of the project kick-off meeting is to get the project off the ground and officially get started on the project work. It’s a jumping-off point for the project team and client team. Both should come away from this first meeting with clear next steps and an idea of where things are heading.

 

The purpose of Project kick-offs

Beyond that, project kick-off meetings have multiple purposes that serve this overarching purpose:

  • Introduce the Project team members.
  • Create a shared understanding of the project background.
  • Create a mutual understanding of what a successful project looks like.
  • Create a shared understanding of what needs to be done.
  • Agree on how to work together effectively.

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For most of our kick-offs at Embryo, a series of meetings are required, both internal and client-side and should involve all project stakeholders and project sponsors so that alignment is achieved from the get-go.

Here’s a little secret – from me to you: as a Web Project Manager, I have discovered that you don’t want your first meeting with the client to be the official kick-off meeting with the full client team and full project team. Instead, it is beneficial for the Project Manager and the Project team to hold a pre-client kick-off meeting first — this is beneficial for a number of reasons:

  • The Project team will be able to nail down the project approval process without other attendees chiming in and claiming they need to be involved. If you speak with the client one-on-one, you’ll be able to keep the project approval process streamlined.
  • The Project team will be able to confirm the statement of work and scope of the project. If this discussion is left to the official kick-off meeting with the full client team, the client may try to include or exclude parts of the scope or deliverables that were already previously agreed upon, forcing the Project team to change their project plan.
  • The Project team will be able to establish a positive relationship with the client right from the off, setting the tone for a good rapport and strong working relationship as the project progresses.
  • The Project team will be able to iron out a few other important details in advance, such as collaboration tools, what assets will be needed, and the kick-off meeting agenda.

As a Project Manager, I usually don’t want the kick-off meeting to be a discussion about the project scope in itself. Rather, I see it as an opportunity to level set with the client around milestones, rounds of review cycles, and how the approach as a whole can be streamlined.

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The next steps

Once the goals of the Project kick-off itself have been outlined, at Embryo, I have found that working on an agenda, allows me as a Project Manager to meet the objectives during the kick-off. In my inaugural email to my client, I find that alongside introducing myself as the Project Manager, sharing the agenda and getting any feedback from the client, whilst asking them what else they would want to discuss. From here, the Project Manager can begin a dialogue on the meeting content before the meeting happens. 

 

As part of the Project Manager’s agenda, I often want to find answers to the following basic questions:

  • Why – Why are we at Embryo doing this project in the first place? What business need does it satisfy? What are the business and user goals?
  • What – What’s the solution or deliverable? What are we going to do or make? What project process are we going to use? What are the requirements?
  • How – How are we going to work together to make the project happen? What’s the communication plan? How will risks, issues, and change management be managed?
  • When – When are we going to do it? What is the timeline?
  • Where/Who – Where is the starting point for kicking things off? Who’s going to do what?

Once the agenda has been agreed upon by both parties, the kick-off meeting can take place during the scheduled time. At Embryo, we have a tried-and-tested briefing template that we use to take our clients through in order to understand the client’s demands and needs further.

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Post kick-off life

Once the project kick-off meeting is out of the way, the Project Manager and Project team can get started on the project, assuming they now have all the info and assets you need. As part of the process, after the kick-off call, the Project Manager will finalise the project plan and the timeline, and any other project planning activities before moving on to project execution.

This explains why the fine art of project kick-offs is unbelievably important to master, in order to gain all the information required for the Project team to produce a website that proves how Embryo sees what others don’t.If you’d like to learn more about our Project process at Embryo and to create a website that delights customers with a user interface so great, they continue to come back for more, by all means, get in touch with us.