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The pre-project project management: about the importance of pre-project workshop and planning

What is a pre-project workshop? Pre-project management.
7 min read

Surprising as it may be, the success of a project is often determined even before the actual development starts. There is a risk that goals are not defined enough or they answer an imaginary problem that the end-user will not be interested in. Key design areas might be omitted, or external resources will not be integrated properly. The pre-project workshop is aimed at helping you see the big picture and define all the important details necessary to create it in the upcoming months.

In this article, you will see how the workshop can benefit your project. We will discuss the basic agenda and show you:

  • How to work with the knowledge database before the project.
  • The importance of User Stories
  • How to determine the elements that are of key importance and need further focus such as front-end elements, reusable elements, etc.
  • How to prepare for the pre-project workshop and benefit from it!

Pre-project management agenda

Depending on the contents, goals, and unique specifics of your project that is about to start, we are ready to offer you a well-suited pre-project workshop. Our common goal is to define and well understand the key areas of interest, to help elevate all the project’s elements to their full potential while avoiding risks waiting for your way. We can discuss a few subject areas in the course of the workshop.

Pre-project management agenda

Discussion about the collected knowledge database

The knowledge base allows the analyst and architect to preliminary understand the general assumptions of the project. This is always the first point on the agenda of a pre-project workshop. It includes the determination of the needs that we address as our work together progresses. The process is based on the evaluation of the collected material (documentation, spreadsheets, descriptions, notes, and messages) to determine the key needs and assumptions made by the client.

The main areas discussed at this stage include:

  • business risks, determined at the level of initial knowledge of the business model and industry in which you operate,
  • technological risks – determined at the level of general technological demand from the information gathered in the knowledge base,
  • architectural proposal – presentation of an initial outline of the architecture, or a proposal to use ready-made components and solutions that will constitute the basis for further development works,
  • key functional elements – a list of key functionalities that are critical for the design concept.

Business model overview

If the project includes business logic and business processes the workshop before the start of the project should also concentrate on them. During the workshop then we provide a place for discussion of the business model and existing or planned processes.

Our work together then concentrates on elements such as:

  • familiarizing you with a sample User Stories document,
  • presentation of an exemplary description of the process by the User Stories documentation,
  • cooperation in the preparation of 1 to 3 User Story examples,
  • determination which party, client, or contractor will be responsible for preparing User Stories descriptions, as well as who and to what extent will be responsible for correcting User Stories documentation,
  • defining a list of consecutively created descriptions with a schedule for their implementation.

User stories have big power, that might not be obvious if you never worked with them. They prioritize the user and his needs over a list of abstract tasks. This way, you gain a set of real-life aims that will solve existing problems. User stories help the team with critical thinking, allowing developers to find the best solutions. No wonder they are such a significant part of Agile. It is good to include them in your pre-project workshop and achieve the ability to utilize this tool to the maximum.

Determination of the project’s key elements in a pre-project workshop

If your project includes graphic design or a mockup, during the pre-project workshop we can discuss its components. We determine the elements that are of key importance and need further focus.

At this stage, we concentrate on:

  • front-end elements – thorough design analysis in terms of its repetitive components like top bar components (top bar, menu bar, submenu bar), hero block elements (slider, static graphics, animated components, etc.), footer components (pre-footer, footer, quantity and the repeatability of components in subpages), navigation components such as crumbs, back to top, docking and retractable elements,
  • elements of the Intranet/Back-end – analysis of the project and your needs about the style of the logged-in user’s back-end. Any requests related to the scope of functionality will later be a part of the User Stories,
  • re-usable elements – explanation and presentation of the benefits of using re-usable elements in a graphic design or layout,
  • responsive Web Design – the scope and number of breakpoints, the possibility of elastic layout solutions implementation, scalability, and a block layout consisting of more graphic elements or repetitive components such as a product grid, an archive of entries, etc.,
  • key assumptions of the visual layer – establishing a list of critical expectations, such as pixel-perfect quality level, the scope of interface available for users with exclusions, possible use of ready-made professional solutions, and presentation of the benefits and limitations of using ready-made templates.

Pre-project management: an overview of the integration of external resources

The last of the workshop agenda elements is to establish if there is a need to integrate external services and suppliers of IT systems into the project. In such a case, we discuss with you the details of how the external resources should be incorporated. This is based on the initial analysis that we perform at the beginning of the workshop.

The elements that are coat this stage of pre-project workshops include:

  • integrations with external APIs, like payment processors, PIM class systems, CRM databases, newsletter systems, sales automation tools, marketing automation tools, etc.,
  • integration with external database resources of any form, including SQL databases, XML files, etc.,
  • reverse integrations that require the preparation of the API interface or sharing resources with external IT systems, carried out by the team implementing the client’s project,
  • collection of documentation and assessment of its quality, including establishing contact with experienced developers of solutions that provide external resources,
  • risk analysis, including data integrity, performance, and security policies.

Results of the pre-project workshop

When the pre-project workshop ends, you are presented with a generous package of created documents. You get a knowledge base that will help you achieve all the project’s goals. That includes documentation describing in detail the knowledge base resources (required), which optionally covers business and technological risks, a short description of the architecture proposal, and a list of key functional elements.

Several optional results can describe the effects of your pre-project workshop in a more detailed way if you need it:

  • User Stories documentation, which may contain additional descriptions of key modules of the IT system, along with references to the ID of a specific User Story,
  • documentation of relations between processes and data sets presented in the form of UML and BPMN diagrams,
  • description of the front components and key assumptions of the graphic design, or mockups of the graphic design, containing a list of key assumptions of the visual layer,
  • documentation of external integrations, including integration with external service providers and external IT systems via API interfaces (optional).

After finishing the pre-project workshops you also get notes. They supplement the knowledge for the analyst, architect, and programmers who, in the next stage of analytical work, will perform the valuation of all or key elements of the client’s project.

Results of the pre-project workshop

Factors influencing the form of a pre-project workshop

Every project is different, so the pre-project workshop should always reflect this simple fact. We prepare it like a well-tailored suit – according exactly to what you need in the course of the project that is soon to begin.

Several main factors affect the workshop activities:

  • the level of customer awareness and documentation describing the project that they prepared,
  • the exact scope of the project, including visual and functional elements, a multitude of processes, the complexity of data structures, and the number of integrations with various external resources,
  • customer expectations regarding how detailed the post-workshop documentation should be,
  • the type of project undergoing the workshop – is it a Landing Page, eCommerce platform, Start-up PoC, Product MVP, or dedicated IT system,
  • the number of specialists involved in the project and the areas that are subjected to the pre-project workshop,
  • the number of changes and the amount of discovered information that translates into the need to engage in additional workshop meetings.

It is important to adjust the number and workload of meetings accordingly to the project. If they occur too often, you conduct them with a large amount of materials, or with an overcrowded group of specialists, it may sometimes lead to disinformation and cause chaos in the analysis process. In the case of the LoupScope workshop, we usually opt for a two-week schedule consisting of documentation works and two 2-4 hour-long meetings with our client.

What benefits can you expect from the pre-project workshop?

It is hard to overestimate the importance of pre-project workshops. Of course, as they are usually paid a bit extra and performed even before the actual project starts. Clients are often hesitant, because they see it as an additional cost in terms of funds and time. Nevertheless, the costs can be settled in the project. The LoupScope workshops we run at WLC allow you to specify the project meticulously, minimizing the chances of any mishaps. Also, such an investment, especially in the case of large and complex projects, simply pays off at their later stages.

Artur Rak

Team Leader, PM Projects

Artur has been working in IT and business for over 15 years. He is fascinated with agile methodologies. He listens and proactively works out a solution on his own. As a project manager, he is ambitious but doesn’t leave anyone behind, he can risk but also admit his mistake. He doesn’t devalue new ideas, but he can be cool about calculation and cost.

Working on a tight schedule keeps him moving forward. He’s looking for minimum and real requirements and adheres to the principle that a project completed based on such assumptions will be a better project than a project that is never finished.

At work, He focuses on good communication and discipline in meetings he participates in. He likes retrospectives and talking to colleagues about our opportunities and problems. Artur focuses on openness and honesty. He likes to rely on someone but is also proud when the team appreciates and feels my support.

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