A Project Kick-off meeting is essential prior to every project from very small like a month’s project to big ones of 5 to 10 years duration. This meeting is a base for initiating the high level discussion to engage the team and critical stakeholders. At times project managers had to decide which kick-off meeting to conduct first the one with external stakeholders or the one with internal stakeholders.
When the requirements/objective is unclear or partially known, it is recommended to have a Kick-off meeting with the customer first for 3 reasons.
- Gives clarity to the objective of the project.
- You can identify critical and non-critical the stakeholders for the project are.
- This kick-off can act as an key input in your next kick-off with your internal team
When the details of the project requirements/objective is clear and known, then prefer internal Kick-off meeting first for 3 reasons
- To clearly outline the scope of the project to avoid last minute changes.
- Internal stakeholders and project team have a wider range of the information to raise the missing inputs needed from the customer.
- Any further clarification and/or missing inputs can be obtained in the customer Kick-off meeting, instead of scheduling an alternate meeting.
The advantage of doing an internal meeting first, is you can internally discuss your limitations in terms of deliveries. You can plan for alternates in case you lack expertise in certain area. Internal Kick off provides time and space for interaction among the team members, which would self-align the team before making them available to customer. With a team of resources, who don’t know each other and facing the customer for the first time, you might end up with internal disconnect and communication gap. It provides an opportunity to compile queries from team as the Project manager run through the agenda points, and may resolve if they are internal. If the queries are related with customer details, they can be documented so that can be taken up in external kick-offs. This would save lot of time during Customer kick off meeting. In addition to this resource planning and any additional requirements can be reviewed in internal meeting.
Project kick-off meetings are usually held at the very beginning of a project. This is during project initiation, well before detailed requirements have been developed, even before a Business Case has been developed and approved. So, it seems that we have a variety of definitions of what a kick-off meeting actually is. This means that the details of when kick-off meetings should be done is highly dependent upon the project’s particular environment.
Other advantages of having Kick-off meetings are
- Better understanding of project requirement and end objective.
- Outline what is not in scope along with what is in scope.
- Better understanding within the team members.
- Helps in covering all the critical information, and the team is more prepared for the external kick off meeting as they are aware of most of the internal risks and its mitigation plans.
- An effective kick-off can unearth possible production problems and identify unforeseen efficiencies. The internal team can evaluate these and either make them part of the document/script for the external kickoff meeting or be ready for the customer questions if they are forthcoming.
Like a first-night stage production, the external kick-off meeting should demonstrate to the external stakeholders that the internal team works well together. A systematic and well planned team work could create a very good impact on the customer resulting in increase in trust and confidence in their client. The customer would be contented about their contract award decision and ready to look for the same client for future contracts.
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