An Internet Search
In searching the Internet for a more plausible answer, I came across a lengthy discussion initiated by one: Suhail Iqbal, a project management lecturer in Pakistan. In a long posting to his discussion group, he said in part:
"A very interesting and thought provoking question, project managers wonder about is 'When does a project really start?' ...
For an outsider, a simple check would be [when] only the project budget can be spent on the project's activities. Wherever, the organization has drawn a line between pre-project and project work, that defines when the spending should begin."
But stop right there. That is where I have another problem.
Several official standards do indeed entertain the concept of "Pre-project activities", that is, before the project is "initiated". In other words, that refers to all the effort that goes into ensuring that the intended project is properly defined, set up, justified, necessary permissions or approvals obtained, and a proper starting plan established. Pre-project or not, all of that costs money spent by somebody somewhere.
Not only that, but according to a number of post-project analyses, a large number of project failures can be attributed to failure in conducting responsible and effective so-called "front-end" work. If all of that is so important to ultimate project success, why is it so glibly cast aside as "pre-project"? And thereafter, almost completely ignored in the subsequent almost bone chilling details found in many authoritative tomes on how to run the rest of the project?
"In my opinion, a project starts when the budget and the scope have been approved and accepted by the sponsor and the top management, and as soon as the kick-off meeting has been performed. That means that once you have set up a meeting with the project team, and started to give them the first steps to move forward with their responsibilities, I consider that my project has started to move forward."
That's fine, but here Suhail is clearly referring to his part of the project, which is the start of actual production of the project's intended asset. As noted earlier, a lot of work should have been done before that in terms of justification, finance sourcing, planning, organizing, approvals, and so on.
From my perspective, I think that all of that so-called pre-project activity should be included as a fundamental and essential part of every project. Thus, Suhail's project had in fact already started when his part of the work began. And that would be true of any similar project, even if a project budget had not yet been set, or if that particular component or whole project was subsequently aborted.
8. Suhail Iqbal is a lecturer in project management, a member of PMI, Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan.
9. First posted May 15, 2017, on ProjectManagement.com.
11. Given its meaning, the term "asset" used here appears more appropriate than the rather vague use of the terms "Deliverables, outcomes, or results" that are found in most project management texts.
Specifically, according to Wikipedia, an "asset" is anything tangible or intangible that can be owned or controlled to produce value, and is held by a company to produce positive economic value. Simply stated, assets represent value of ownership that can be converted into cash. Note that there are two major asset classes: tangible assets and intangible assets.