Experienced Project Managers know how crucial it is to get projects off to a great start. A kick-off meeting is a meeting held at the beginning of a project so that key stakeholders can meet to review and agree on the scope and objectives for the project.
A successful kick-off meeting can set the tone for the project. It is critical all project team members understand the scope of the engagement, the key reasons why the project is being undertaken, the project deliverables, risks, constraints, and the success criteria for the engagement. All of these are discussed and agreed in the kick-off meeting to ensure that when the project moves out of the Establishment phase everyone is on the same page.
In PMBOK (the Project Management Book of Knowledge), the project kick-off meeting is part of the Project Establishment Phase and is usually associated with the end of planning and the start of executing. The purpose of the project kick-off meeting is to:
- Communicate and agree on the objectives of the project
- Gain the commitment of the team delivering the project
- Establish the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder
- Confirm the scope still meets the client’s requirements
At Insentra, a kick-off is performed at the start of all engagements and is a key deliverable in the Establishment phase of all projects.
Structure of Kick-Off Meetings
The kick-off can take the form of internal, partner and client meetings, each having different agenda’s and pre-meeting requirements and designed to align the team delivering the project to the scope of the engagement.
Regardless of which kick-off meeting you are attending, there are several tasks you are required to complete before attending the meeting. Not completing these tasks will reduce your effectiveness in the meeting and may result in having to reschedule to a later date:
Get familiar with the Statement of Work (SoW) – The SoW is the rule book for the project. Reading it thoroughly and understanding the SoW is necessary before attending any kick-off meeting. Remember, scopes can change between internal, partner and client kick-off meetings so ensure you read and reread the SoW before each meeting.
Prepare for questions – The SoW is precise and explicit, but the meeting may have different people attending to the those who agreed the scope. Clarification on any ambiguity in the SoW is important and should be raised in the kick-off.
Get to know the kick-off attendees – Although in many kick-off meetings it is the first time you are meeting the partner and client project teams take the time researching their background. “It is not what you know, but who you know.” Delivering a project is not just about delivering work for a client, but more about building relationship for collaboration to achieve a common goal.
Develop a call plan – Internal kick-off meetings have a defined process and checklist that is managed by the PMO for SoWs, and the technical lead for statement of tasks and smaller engagements. For partner and client kick-offs ensure all presentation material is complete and the Insentra team delivering the meeting have agreed on who is talking to which sections as well as who is responsible for taking minutes.
Execution of a Kick-Off Meeting
Ensuring we are consistent, professional, and knowledgeable in these meetings is one of the first steps in providing the project team, partner and client with the confidence they have chosen the right service provider to deliver a successful outcome for their project. At Insentra, we have a mature workflow and tools to enable us to prepare for each kick-off meeting.
- Internal Kick-off Meeting
The Project Manager arranges an internal kick-off following the standard agenda and checklist, inviting the Solution Manager and/or the pre-sales consultant who closed the actual opportunity and the consultant(s) who are assigned to deliver the project.
Before the meeting, all meeting attendees must read the SoW and Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) as well as conducting research on the partner and client if they are not known to the project team.
During the meeting the Pre-sales consultant / solution manager provides information on the client and partner, project drivers, lessons learnt, known risks and constraints, invoicing processes, deadlines, and critical success factors. Project consultant(s) review the project scope and accept responsibility for the technical components of the project post the internal kick-off.
After the meeting, the project manager distributes the internal kick-off minutes to summarise the meeting notes and action items.
- Partner and Client Kick-off Meeting
A partner kick-off meeting may be required following the internal kick-off, prior to hosting a client kick-off. This is normally the case if they are a new partner to Insentra or if the partner is going to have significant involvement in the delivery of the project. The process for the partner and client kick-off meeting is similar; however, you are likely to discuss commercials in some detail in the partner meeting.
Before the meeting, the project manager creates any presentation material required for the kick-off and seeks input from the technical consultants. Agreement is obtained on the call plan and schedule for the meeting, and attendance for the relevant parties involved in the partner kick-off is confirmed.
Most often it is the project manager who kicks off the meeting by introducing Insentra and the delivery team as well as talking to the relevant governance aspects of the project. The technical consultant(s) talk to all the technical components. This approach ensures all parties are aligned with the scope of the engagement.
During the kick-off meeting, whilst having the slide deck presented, it is recommended not to read the content of the slides, but to engage the client in conversation and build rapport to ensure the client gets a good experience, and the project team builds up a good relationship to work together during the project delivery towards a successful outcome.
After the meeting, project manager distributes the kick-off minutes to summarise the meeting notes and action items.
Occasionally things do not quite go to plan when executing a kick-off meeting. Sometimes we have higher priority tasks or commitments, or unexpected conflicts which cause us to not being able to prepare fully before a kick-off meeting. We must notify the Project Manager or the meeting organiser of this issue as early as possible so the kick-off meeting can be planned sufficiently and rescheduled to accommodate the required work.
It is not an uncommon occurrence once the client and partner are in the kick-off meeting it is found that the project is not scoped correctly, or project scope requires changes. Any changes to the scope must be recorded in the meeting minutes and the project team will follow the defined project change process to formally record the change in scope.
A good structure and execution of a kick-off meeting is a significant part of successful project outcomes. It is important to provide the client with the best experience in the project kick-off by delivering a well prepared and structured meeting, building rapport, engaging for them in conversation and expressing their requirement and expectation. It helps delivering and completing the project with minimal obstruction.
Have you ever led a kick-off meeting or participated in one? I would love to hear about your experiences.