Many people perceive that generating reams of documentation such as plans and reports are the key to delivering a successful project. As experienced Project Managers will tell you, this is rarely the case except when it comes to the creation of one piece of documentation; namely the Project Initiation Document (PID).
Essentially this is the key reference document for a project. Think of it as the project "Bible" which will be constantly referred to throughout the life cycle when questions of scope and delivery approach are raised. It is a document in which is detailed everything related to the project such as:Definition Business Case which details why it should be done Scope of what is being delivered Strategy to deliver the requirements Team structure and Governance Communications Plan Quality Plan Risks, Issues and Assumptions Controls Budget High Level Plan Exceptions criteria External observers often think that Project Manager's fears about project scope are overdone, but scope creep is without a doubt one of the major reasons why projects fail. Anyone who has experienced a flood of Change Requests throughout the life cycle will attest to that!
However having a detailed and accurate Project Initiation Document tends to stop the majority of such problems for the simple reason that when the various Stakeholders try to change Scope, it is easy to refer them back to it. Further since this document will have been formally approved by the Business Stakeholders and other interested parties, it is hard for anyone to say that they didn't know what was going to be delivered.
It is for this reason that a Project Manager should spend time on what is admittedly not a straightforward nor simple document to write. The problem is that all too often Project Managers are tempted to skim over this document in their desire to get the project started as soon as possible to meet extremely tight deadlines. However by doing this they are simply storing up problems for the future and the very real possibility that they are initiating something which will have no chance of succeeding.
So to give a project the best chance of successfully delivering, it pays to devote time to getting the Project Initiation Document written correctly and approved by all the Business Stakeholders to ensure the most effective approach and scope is agreed upfront. Once you get this stage done correctly you can then get onto the tough job of actually delivering it!