Why Does It Matter?
Case in point: There was a time when I was associated with a large project to build and commence operation of a large industrial production plant. Eventually, towards the end of the project, I was left with the task of finalizing the loose ends the cost of all of which was charged to the project budget. Nevertheless, the team congratulated itself on completing the whole works within the allocated budget.
Sometime later, the project's accountants came around to tidying up their bookkeeping, and intent upon optimizing the records for purposes of determining the tax amount claimable on Capital Investment. In discussion with those tax authorities, they found that certain charges at the "front end" could be included, such as the cost of work required to prepare the project's justification (Business Case). Even though I suspect this work was not included in the original budget, it consequently resulted in a final total cost that significantly exceeded that budget.
From then on, the project was considered less of a success (from the essential financial perspective) because, in the last analysis, it ended up showing a cost overrun.
Interestingly, in a high profile meeting of prominent project managers held a few months back, the selection of appropriate terms came up for inclusion in a new project management document. At that meeting it was agreed that the word "start" should not be used. Instead, the term "initiate" should be used as being more appropriate. I am not sure that everyone will be aware of the implications of this subtlety.
Next month in Part 2 of this paper, I shall describe my efforts to find an answer to my question: When does a project actually start?
17. The term "start" is interesting in that it is generally recognized in dictionaries as a verb, e.g., to get something going. Whereas we may use the word as a noun to refer to the point in time when something actually gets going.
18. The term "initiate" is a verb, the corresponding noun is the word "initiation". According to Merriam-Webster, "Initiation" may be defined as: "Cause something to begin", which is rather broader that just "get going". In project management practice, Initiation implies "do what ever it takes" to get something going, and hence is the real first phase of a project's life span.
19. According to ISO/TC 258 WG9 Project Management Meeting Minutes #13 Seoul, item 12.10.