Project definition – Demarcation of projects

One of the biggest challenges in the development of projects is the determination of what should or should not happen in the planned project. Therefore it is important to define the project goals clearly at the beginning of the project. This is done by the temporal, contentwise and organizational project delimitation.

If you start without a clear goal, you shouldn’t be surprised that you end up somewhere.

Challenge: Definition of a project

At the beginning of a project there is always an idea. Someone, usually a manager, imagines implementing this or that and recruits an employee as a project manager to take care of it. This person usually has to approach the matter relatively unprepared and first gain an overview of the goals and approach.

However, these goals often do not coincide one hundred percent with those of the client and, if one has not clarified this in time, lead to some bad awakening on both sides in the further course of the project.  In order to avoid this, the „project delimitation“ method is recommended.

Objective of the project delimitation

The project delimitation ensures the same understanding between the project client and the project manager in the project in several dimensions:

  • Temporally (when should the project start, how long should it take and which interim goals will be set)
  • Content (what should be worked on in the project and what not)
  • Organizational (who should actively cooperate, who should be included by regular information, which target groups should only be considered marginally)

The ultimate goal of a successful definition of projects by means of project delimitation is the creation of a written project order, which will be signed by the project client.


Project delimitation procedure

In cooperation with the project manager and the project client

The project delimitation can take place only together with the client. After all, he knows best what he wants to achieve at the end of his project. If it is not clear to the project manager who the client is, the most important first step is to identify him. Only then can the project delimitation take place in a meaningful way.

By researching the history and background, interviewing the people involved and an initial analysis of the framework conditions that will be given in the project, the project manager can estimate in a first draft who has to do what and how long it will take.

Coordination of the first draft

This proposal is then submitted to the project client, who incorporates his views into the first version and removes any ambiguities (also through specific questions from the project manager).

This discussion forms the basis for the project order, without which the project manager should never start a project. Once this has been agreed and signed with the client, nothing stands in the way of a kick-off meeting in the project.

Project demarcation: graphical

Tips and tricks for project delimitation

  • If fixed players of the project team have already been determined, the project delimitation can also be worked out in the team.
  • The project delimitation is not carved in stone. In the course of the project, goals can be added (frequently in practice) or removed (less frequently in practice). As the project manager, make sure that you compare the content of an extension with the time and cost plan and, if necessary, apply for an extension.
  • The key players in the project should be carefully selected; an exchange of important project team members always involves a loss of time. Here not only the time availability, but also the interest and motivation for the project is decisive.
  • Intermediate goals do not only make sense for long project durations. The rule of thumb is one milestone per month or quarter. They contribute to maintaining the motivation of the project team and structure the schedule into manageable individual stages. From the milestone trend analysis, you can also derive a preview of when the end date will be reached.