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What’s In a Project Name?

A project manager is discussing a new project with his team members.When you first start off in a new project you are going to be worried about a number of things so the name of the piece of work might not seem all that big an issue to you.

After all, drawing up the project plan, building bridges with the stakeholders and working out what the blooming project is all about in the first place are likely to appear far more important issues than the name of the thing.

However, there are some good reasons for spending some more time on this aspect of the work than you might currently be doing.

Inspire Your Team

Let’s just look at a quick example here and imagine that you are in charge of running a piece of work to deliver a new quality control system into a business area. You could call it something unexciting like New Controls Implementation or maybe even The Improved Controls Process. However, wouldn’t it be more exciting and inspiring if you could come up with a name which puts a bit more life into the subject? Personally I would go for something like Helping Users Work With More Quality. It means the same really but it just sounds more human and encourages us to think about the end users more. It can be a good idea to get your team members involved in coming up with ideas for names as there is almost certainly going to be at least one really creative person in the team. Even if you don’t have the chance to choose the name yourself you could still use this more inspiring title as a sort of informal subtitle to the project.

Avoid Confusion

A more practical reason for spending some time on the name of the project is to avoid confusion. I remember when I was part of a big overall project team and there must have been about 30 pieces of wok on the go at the same time. The problem was that most of them had very similar names and none of us could clearly differentiate between them at times. If you are working in a multi project environment then you should make sure that there is no risk of anyone seeing the name of your piece of work and confusing it with another one. This is also something to consider if you are going to divide your overall project into different sub projects. It might all seem very clear at the start but once you get into the meat of the work you might not clearly remember which stage is which if they all have very similar names on them.

Make It Clear What You Are Doing

Quite apart from the previous points we also need to take into account the fact that you should look to make it clear what you are doing. There are a number of reasons for this, from making life easier for busy stakeholders who receive lots of updates on different projects to avoiding alienating the business end users who probably aren’t used to project language. If the name of your project doesn’t really reflect what it is all about I would suggest that you change it to something more appropriate. This also has the added benefit of allowing you to focus more clearly on what you are doing.

Draw Out Comments

I think that this final benefit is also an important one to think about. This is to do with the comments and questions you get back from stakeholders, team members and anyone else who has a look at your work. It would be nice to think that they all spend hours poring over our project definition document and the plan but we know that this usually isn’t the case. Instead, many people are likely to give it a cursory glance. If you give the thing a fairly non descript name then you also limit the possibility of anyone delving too deeply into it and asking questions. On the other hand, if you make it clear from the title what it is about and how exciting it is you stand more chance of drawing more people in to look at it. Of course, the person who is most going to benefit from this is you. If you can get lots of comments, questions and even criticisms early on you can expect to run a better piece of work thanks to it, and the name can play a big part in making sure that you do this.

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