Project Kickoff – What is, Pros, Cons, and Checklist

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When preparing for a new project launch, it’s worth organizing a project kickoff meeting to structure the planned work and consult the expectations. How to design its agenda to achieve expected results?

Launching the project is an exciting moment for all the team. Everyone’s full of power and fresh ideas, just waiting for them to be translated into the code or design. This energy won’t last forever, so it’s worth taking advantage of it right away to get off to a good start. But hey – hold on for a while! You should first make sure that everyone’s on the same page, particularly if working for a client. 

Product development is rarely a sprint – in most cases, it is a marathon. Thus, rushing and working ad-hoc doesn’t help – such a long journey requires a thorough plan. Otherwise, you may end up halfway there with too little budget or stuck with an unpromising concept. The validation of this plan protects both parties against costly misunderstandings. Project kickoff is a tool for that, and many companies cannot imagine functioning without it. How does it work in practice, and what should you know before organizing such?

What is a project kick-off?

In a nutshell, project kick-off is the first meeting between the project team and the client. However, if the company is developing its product without involving any other party, a project kickoff meeting can also take place. It will just adopt a slightly different form.

The main objective of such a meeting is to establish a common vision and goals for the upcoming project. It allows all the participants to negotiate visions and ensure consistency of the work. Projects that have been launched with a kick-off meeting bring better outcomes since all the doubts are dispelled at the beginning, allowing the teams to focus on productive work instead of putting down fires.

After the meeting, all the parties should know what they will be working on and how. It’s worth discussing:

the WHATs: 

  • what we will be working on?
  • what is the purpose of our project? 
  • what are the project objectives and goals?
  • what are the main challenges of our project?
  • What is the scope of the project?
  • What do we need to kick off the project? Are we lacking something at this moment?

The HOWs:

  • how will we validate the effects of our work?
  • how will we communicate? 
  • how will we organize our work? Will we use any project methodology, and if so, which one do we choose?
  • how often will we meet? Will we meet in person or online?
  • how will we solve the potential challenges for our project?

The WHOs:  

  • who will coordinate the project?
  • who will be responsible for what? What are the roles within the team?
  • who is the contact person on each side?

When working with the client, it’s essential to establish the details of the cooperation, like the communication channels or project management framework. The customer’s preferences and customs in these fields may affect the project. Let’s say, for example, that the client has never worked with Scrum before. The software development team will have to prepare them for the specifics of this project framework –  otherwise, it may be difficult to get feedback after every sprint.

How to prepare a project kick-off agenda?

Usually, it is the project manager or other person responsible for project coordination that takes the lead in the meeting and moderates it. There is no established framework that PMs always use for creating their agenda. It depends on the character of the project (internal/external), its size, and the type of cooperation (team extension/end-to-end outsourced development). 

One thing is for sure – for the meeting to bring tangible results, it should be thoughtfully structured. When constructing the agenda, you can find this project kick-off checklist helpful:

  • outline the project for everyone
  • choose the project coordinator
  • define project objectives and goals
  • define project challenges and risks
  • determine the scope of the project 
  • choose the communication channels (for example, Slack, Teams)
  • pick the set of the collaboration tools (for example, Jira, Asana, Google Docs)
  • specify the timeframes 
  • pick the project management framework
  • define the roles in the team
  • establish a list of deliverables

Feel free to modify the order of these elements – it’s just an inspiration. In the case you want to get more detailed information on project kick-off, we recommend checking out this article: