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Project Lifecycle| Identify

What is it… This is the very first step within the project lifecycle and officially it is before the project has commenced. This can be an exciting time but many struggle with ambiguity and for them this the level of uncertainty can be quite unnerving. At this point the projects status is classified as Proposed.

As all projects are about delivering business benefit (either financial, regulatory, customer or employee) the Identify Stage should begin from a reasoned rationale of business need and meet strategic or operational requirements. A project which doesn’t can never effectively be successful and can do harm to the organisation.

There will be a sponsor at this stage who is championing the projects inception. This sponsor could represent a group of people in the respect of a team or department requiring a set project.

How long should the Identify Stage take?

This really depends on the level of detail applied within the project brief and the time taken to find a suitable project sponsor and candidate project manager to undertake the work. However, as a rule of thumb anywhere between <1-2 weeks (sign-off may take longer depending on when your organisations relevant authority (board) meets). The idea here is to undertake the set activities but not expand excessive energy on a project that may not progress.

What are the key steps… 

Step 1 | Appoint a Project Sponsor – If the project is conceived from a portfolio then the appointment of a project sponsor is required to champion and steer the projects direction. The project sponsor has a list of accountabilities, at this stage their role is mainly concerned with:

  • Overseeing the development of, and approving the Project Brief
  • Ensuring the project meets strategic/business needs
  • Completing the appropriate governance:
    • Registering the project (not all organisations will require this but is good practice if a register or PMO doesn’t exist to include with the notes of whichever forum or meeting the discussion was held within)
    • Request formal permission for the project to start
  • Identify the project stakeholders
  • Assign a candidate project manager


Poorly briefed projects, as one may expect, tend to lead to poor projects and prove to be a significant waste of time and resources. So avoid the temptation to overlook what in some parts may appear to be more mundane activities to get stuck straight in.

Step 2 | Develop the Project Brief – The project brief is the key output of the Identify a Project Stage. A project brief will include as a minimum:

  1. Problem to be solved or requirement the project resolves
  2. Initial targets for when this problem or requirements needs to be solved by

In addition, the project brief could also include:

  1. Project scope
  2. Project background
  3. Alternative options
  4. Constraints, Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies (CRAID) – at this stage it is likely this may be a little light in places and not be a real representation of the project environment
  5. High-level plan

Step 3| Approve the Project Stage– Approving the Project Stage is an activity that repeats throughout the project lifecycle. Here we are confirming:

  • There is enough of an identified business need
  • The project can be given a mandate – so it can be a prioritised activity and
  • We have the appropriate sponsor to progress to the next stage

Key Deliverables of the Identify Stage

  1. Project Brief (with a verified need)
  2. Mandate to Progress the Project to the Next Stage
  3. Assigned a candidate Project Manager
  4. Appointed a Project Sponsor
  5. Formal permission to start

Project Lifecycle Identify Stage FAQ’S

What is a Project Mandate?
A Project Mandate is official permission to progress with a projects activity. The Project Mandate can take a wider meaning within project methodologies and be defined within a document which is later refined – and in turn developed through a project brief. However, simply put we see a Project Mandate as authority to progress. A project Mandate and the maintaining of one should be assessed throughout the project (so not just at tollgates). A project which loses its mandate will soon run into numerous issues.

What does CRAID stand for?

CRAID is an acronym developed on from RAID which stands for Constraints, Risks Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies (with Constraints being the addition to RAID). This is a log which captures these items for their active management.

What is a PMO?

The PMO stands for the Programme (or Project) Management Office. In many large organisations or within large projects a PMO will be in place. The PMO’s role is to define and ensure the maintenance of standards for project management either within that organisation or project organisation. They may, as part of their duties, perform an assurance role and ensure synergies and collaboration takes place across projects. In addition, they will perform the tracking of projects to their set methodology which will also include the benefits being delivered.

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