The Importance of a Good Beginning: Three Activities to Start Your Project Off on the Right Foot

a handshake, a heart, and a magnifying glass representing the 3 good practices for good beginnings
“You know that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken....”
— Plato

Is your social media feed full of “back to school” pictures? It’s the time of year where everywhere you look it seems that there’s a news story, an Instagram post or some other reminder of the first day of school. It turns out that these back to school traditions – like pictures and school supply shopping – are really important in the long run. That’s because, as consistent evidence shows, early positive school experiences are incredibly important for a child’s social and emotional wellbeing and future academic achievement. In short, good beginnings matter.

Good beginnings aren’t just important for school children. Good beginnings also matter in our jobs. Did you know that up to 50% of new employees quit within the first 120 days of a new job? Or that 50% of all senior-level employees hired from outside a company fail within 18 months of starting a new position? Within the first few weeks and months in a new role, employees form fast impressions that can dramatically impact retention and, in turn, an organization’s productivity and bottom line. Again, good beginnings matter.

We’ve found that in software development, good beginnings can make the difference between a successful project and a failure. In fact, according to a recent report by the Project Management Institute (PMI), only:

  • 50% of IT projects are completed on time

  • 50% come in within budget; and

  • One in three projects actually accomplish the original project goals

pie charts illustrating the statistics of IT projects

But importantly, 75% of IT project failures aren't related to technology. Instead, they can be traced to a lack of business analysis. Essentially, in an effort to get to market quickly and keep pace with digital transformations occurring in their industry, many organizations don’t take the time to properly align their IT projects with the needs of the company, its customers and end users. Uh oh…a bad beginning.

In our work, we’ve seen first hand how a good beginning sets the tone for the rest of the project. A true understanding between all parties involved and a good grasp of project requirements is crucial.

 The 15-85 rule; focusing on the first 15% of the project ensures the remaining 85% is successful

The 15-85 rule; focusing on the first 15% of the project ensures the remaining 85% is successful

Here are three activities you should always include in the project inception phase to make your end result more successful:

a handshake

1. Use initial meetings to not only gather requirements but also build relationships. We feel that one of the most important components of a “good beginning” is understanding not just what’s needed from a technical and business perspective, but also appreciating the roles, demands and predispositions of the key players involved in the project. When we understand where the key stakeholders are coming from, we can manage expectations, anticipate needs and collaborate in a more effective, impacting manner.

a heart represents using empathy to understand others

2. Building an understanding of users with Empathic Design methods is also key to a “good beginning”. Empathic Design provides a blueprint for building products that matter to users – ones that are emotionally resonant. Understanding these end users – what motivates them, their usage patterns, personalities and needs – is critical to designing product that will be emotionally significant (and in turn, commercially successful).

a magnifying glass represents a careful technology assessment

3. Where are you today? What assets does your company already have and what needs to be refactored? How will you get from point A to point B? Understanding the technical lay of the land before beginning a project is a best practice we implement into the inception phase of every client engagement. Through our Technology Assessment we can establish a path for transforming any existing system or application, building the next best solution or deciding whether to buy vs. build.  We can also identify technical debt and major architectural changes that may be needed to take the business forward. This sets the stage for a more successful, timely and cost effective end product.

Beginnings matter. That’s why DVmobile includes these three inception activities within our robust seven part-inception process. Learn more about how DVmobile can get your project off to the right start or let’s connect and discuss your project in more detail.

As always, feel free check out more about the DVmobile process through the links below:

blog author Danny Sanchez

Danny Sánchez

UX/UI Designer at DVmobile, Men-at-Work fan, and 3D printing guru


Danny Sanchez

DVmobile, 1644 Platte Street, Highland, CO, 80202, United States

UX/UI product designer.