Initiating a project

How do you start? Continue reading for guidance on how to get your project initiated and approved.

Do you need to set up a project?

An ideal project has the following characteristics:

  • It is a unique and separate body of work; not a routine operation of the business,
  • It delivers unique products or services which address a specific problem, risk or need,
  • Has defined budget and resources, and
  • Has a discrete start and end date.

Project management is the application of knowledge, tools and skills to project activities to deliver outputs aimed to satisfy your customers or meet business needs.

To initiate a project, you will need to demonstrate to a Project Sponsor or Approval Body the business justification for solving a problem, improving a process, or implementing a new service. A project may also identify a new strategic initiative that aligns with the ANU Strategic Plan 2019-2021. You will need to show that the project requires dedicated resources and justifies a substantial body of work outside of regular day-to-day activities.

SDZ’s Program/Project Management – Planning workspace can be used to document project initiation as an alternative to the following templates.


Recommended documentation


A BOSCARD provides a brief overview of a new project. It documents the business problem, the major benefits, objective, constraints, scope, deliverables and risks associated with the proposed project. A BOSCARD can be used for small projects to request support and approval from a Sponsor and potentially, to justify the appointment of a Project Manager.

Business Case

This document details the operational or strategic objectives and the business problem in greater detail and provides the feasibility and justification for the proposed project. It typically contains an indicative timeline, scope, proposed options and approaches for a solution, benefits, overall risk, key stakeholders and an investment appraisal. It is usually presented by the Project Manager to the Project Board/Steering Committee for medium and large projects to decide if the project should be further investigated and justify the appointment of a Project Manager.

Project Brief

This document outlines a summary of your project. It provides a broad assessment of the business problem and outlines the scope, scale, detailed requirements, major benefits and risks associated with the proposed project. This document allows the Project Sponsor to assess and approve the project purpose and approach as well as membership of the Project Board/Steering Committee.


Steps to initiate a project

  1. Prepare your business justification

    In a business case, clearly and logically explain the reason for starting the project. Explain the business drivers, scope of the project, an analysis of the assumptions, costs and benefits, and the risks of not proceeding. You will also provide the feasibility of doing this project and the proposed solution that will be most successful.

    For a small project prepare a BOSCARD, otherwise complete the Business Case document. This is the first pass approval required from a Sponsor or Approval Body before proceeding to a detailed Project Brief. 

  2. Develop a Project Brief/Charter
    To seek final approval for a project to proceed, prepare the Project Brief. This document encompasses the business case prepared above, including the: 
    • Proposed solution and approach
    • Key deliverables (outputs) and timeframes
    • Project team including roles and responsibilities
    • Customers and stakeholders (see below)
    • Risks, issues and assumptions
    • Cost
    • Governance and reporting
    • Benefits to be realised

    The Project Brief needs to be prepared in close consultation with the stakeholders and the Sponsor to ensure the project proposal is feasible.  

  3. Identify your stakeholders

    A critical factor for a successful project is stakeholder identification and engagement. You need to identify the stakeholders who are impacted or will influence the project. It is beneficial to ensure the stakeholders expectations align with the project’s purpose. It is also an opportunity to identify how stakeholder participation can help direct the project’s success and how best to engage with them about the change created by the project. 

  4. Seek approval to proceed

    For a small project, submit your Project Brief to the Project Sponsor for approval to proceed.

    For a medium or large project, submit your Project Brief to the Project Sponsor and the Approval Body for approval to proceed with the project.

    An approved Project Brief allows you to appoint a Project Manager and leads to the formation of a Project Board or Steering Committee where applicable. Now you can progress to the next stage – Planning.