What Every IT Service Manager Should Know About Project Initiation

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IT Service Managers | IT Service Delivery | IT Project Manager

The Project Initiation phase for IT Service Managers resembles more of a college freshman’s hazing than a time set aside for project fact-finding.  

In reality, an IT Service Manager’s project management experience is typically somewhat different from that in the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) guidelines. 

Managing Projects Isn’t the #1 Responsibility of an IT Service Manager 

Why? Because managing projects is not the primary responsibility of an IT Service Manager. Projects are value added.  For example: They hear, “Oh by the way!  We just agreed to do (sold) this project.  Since you manage the workforce needed to do the project, you need to manage the project.”  

The differences PMBOK and reality for an IT Service Manager is never more obvious than in the initiation phase of a project. PMI lays out inputs, processes, and deliverables of the initiation phase. 

But in the world of Managed IT Service Providers… 

…these become a responsibility of the Salesperson in the non-existent Reasonable, Accountable, Collaborate, Inform (RACI) chart.  

The naming conventions are also slightly different and take on the form of:  

  • Budget Understanding  
  • Scope Development  
  • Communication Tree  
  • Project Completion due date  
  • Some functional and operational IT requirements 
  • And, multiple different sets of conflicting desired outcomes 

The slight difference also surfaces when the IT Service Manager, in most cases, does not have the years of experience or hours of education PMI would recommend – experience and education that PMI deems necessary to keep the project on time, on budget, and at a quality level where, when the project ends, it ends.  


IT Service Managers: Hang in there; it gets better.  

Don’t let the difference distract you. The expectations may be still there, along with the stress level, frustration, confusion, etc. of the New Project Manager. In the eyes of the Company, the New Project Manager is still responsible for the initiation of the project.  Hang in there; it gets better. There is a ray of light at the end of the tunnel.   

For the New Project Manager, the initiation phase is composed of gathering some high-level data, coordinating internal personnel, and communicating with the Customer. There are four essential steps to the Project Initiation process for IT Service Managers/New Project Managers.  

 Four Keys to the Project Initiation Phase  

1. Gathering information 

For a New Project Manager, the initiation phase starts by obtaining any and all documentation signed by the Customer as part of the agreement.  

This information allows the New Project Manager to review what is expected, determine who needs to be involved, what parts need to be ordered (especially looking for long lead times on parts), and to look over schedules to determine availability.   

  1. Scheduling a WhatWas Sold (WWS) meeting and Lead Technician Planning time 

Soon after the Customer’s signature, the New Project Manager should schedule a What Was Sold (WWS) meeting. In this meeting, the key attendees are: 

  • The Salesperson who knows everything that was agreed to. 
  • The Lead Technician who is responsible for delivering what has been sold.  

The goal of the WWS meeting is to: 

  • Have the Lead Technician agree that what was sold is doable. 
  • Have the Salesperson deliver everything he/she knows about the project, including answering the “five whys” of questions and having the New Project Manager take control of all project communications.    

(After the WWS meeting, it is best if the Salesperson continues to pursue the next prospect, the Lead Technician engages in the planning of the project, and the New Project Manager closes out the initiation phase of the project.)   

  1. Communicating with the Customer

ASAP, the New Project Manager needs to reach out to the Customer to verify the accuracy of the information received and the information about how the project will be planned, executed, and closed out.  

In other words, reach out to the Customer to hear their side of the story on what was agreed to. It is best at this time to also schedule weekly touch points for the duration of the project.   

  1. Collecting Lessons Learned (LLs)

You might be thinking, “But aren’t Lessons Learned (LLs) part of a closeout procedure?” Yes, but… 

For an IT Service Manager, it is best to start capturing Lessons Learned right in the beginning. This includes capturing LLs out of the WWS meeting which should be rolled into the documentation (agreements and supporting documents) signed by the Customer. This should be delivered to the IT Service Manager before the next WWS meeting. 

it service managers | it project manager | it project initiation

IT Service Manager Action Steps prior to the next Project Closed Opportunity 

While full Project Management Professional (PMP) training and certification is more than an IT Service Manager needs, can do, or is in the budget, some Project Management Fundamentals or Essentials training would be very helpful, as provided by New Horizons Computer Learning Centers.      

Another suggestion is to google IT Project Management and bookmark pages that may come in handy when needed such as: 

IT project management terms you should know – TechRepublic 

IT Project Management Practices Guide – TTU 

IT project management news, help and research … 

4 Common IT Project Management Challenges and 4 Solutions 

And if you get a chance to hear Doug Rabold, ITIL, HDI present his “12 Step Project Management Program for Non-Project Managers,” I would highly recommend it. 

it service managers | it project manager | it project initiation

Stephen Buyze is a Resource Planning Analyst who is “Empowering Service Managers to increase profit.”

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For more information about MSP-Ignite Service Manager Peer Groups

For more about HDI “The Association for Technical Support Professionals.

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