The Top 3 Questions to Ask at Project Startup

I recently completed a project manager job application that asked, "when initiating a project, what are the first 3 things that are important to establish?"

Here's how I answered, with a little more elaboration than I provided in the application:
First, who is the project sponsor (who determines project success or failure; who determines what absolutely must be delivered as opposed to what would be nice to have; who will provide answers to the tough questions and help resolve tough issues? This is important to know because many people will have an opinion about what the project has to deliver, but the PM has to know who's opinion matters most.

Next, what are the required features and functions (what must be delivered for the project to succeed) and what are the desired (as opposed to required) features and functions? It's especially important to have something published, like a product roadmap and product requirements document that lists and prioritizes features and functions.

Finally, what is the project delivery schedule and what business initiatives/value drivers are dependent on project delivery (e.g., product promotions, calendar events, internal initiatives, etc.)? Knowing as much as possible about the context surrounding the project allows the PM to consider ramifications and possible unintended consequences that might stem from decisions made regarding project scope and schedule.


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