PM Essence
Pre-Project Preparation

 - S.M. Parvej Islam, IT Project Manager, Telecom
Everywhere we learn How to manage projects, what are the steps to follow, what are the Dos & DON'Ts, different methodologies like PMP, Prince2, etc. but how to prepare for a project before it starts is something you learn only through experience. Today, I thought of sharing my experience on pre-project preparation from how much I have learnt so far. And since I manage IT & Telecom projects my view will focus more on similar aspects.
So to start with, in general below steps can be considered before the project actually starts.
• Prepare Job Description of resources you think you need for the project. Later, while asking for resources, it will save your time. 
• If the agreement with client is already in place, go through that thoroughly for critical clauses like payment terms, payment modalities, major milestones, SOW, compliance requirement, penalty clauses, etc. You will NOT have time during project to go through it.
• You will need to arrange for a good amount of logistics such as,
• Reserve meeting rooms for upcoming meetings
• If required, request admin for a project table for the team to sit together
• Check for the requirement of support laptop, projector, transportation, etc. and talk to admin upfront and share tentative timeline upfront
Ask vendors for their accommodation arrangement, and suggest any place nearby to your office premise, it will save travel time.

Estimate a rough budget required to support logistics and food & beverage purposes and get it approved and in your account upfront. Later you can settle the amount when the project ends.
If there's any integration requirement during project phase, you can ask specific team(s) to share standard connectivity details upfront and keep the documents with you.
Since all projects start with requirement clarification sessions, plan for required number of sessions, required participants/teams, duration of sessions, etc. and you can map with meeting room reservation with that.
Study background of the client's business & try to understand their need of this new system.
Get a copy of RFP/RFI and Business Case documents and study thoroughly, especially on benefit & measurement, terms & conditions, agreed scope, high-level timeline, ROI
part etc.
If your project has dependency on any other project(s), then
If the other project already started then get that project plan, study and get details of integration points, key milestones and understand them clearly and keep
required documents for your reference.
If the other project hasn't started already, talk to prospective PM and align with your high-level plan, key integration points and milestones and share documents for his/her reference
If it's any telecom related project, you may want to request for some test SIMs & handsets upfront.
If you have any configuration management system, get a designated space & get your folders mapped to the server.
In addition, if your project has vendor(s) involvement, you may want to check for steps as well
Request admin to prepare visa invitation letters.
Assign project meeting room OR table for their sitting arrangement together.
Get temporary access cards.
Talk to IT support team for their WLAN connectivity OR other VPN connectivity as required.
Share any request forms (e.g. VPN connectivity) with vendor up-front so that they can fill, scan & share.
Ask vendors for their accommodation arrangement, and suggest any place nearby to your office premise, it will save travel time.
If agreement is already in place, study the agreement carefully for penalty clauses, payment terms, SOW, deliverables, SLA, after implementation support, etc.
Since all projects start with requirement clarification sessions, ask vendor upfront on required number of sessions, required participants/teams, duration of sessions, etc. and send meeting requests to participants well ahead.
Ask vendor for their travel plan, this will help you schedule critical milestones.
Get an idea on other deployments of your vendor, if possible you may talk to 1/2 person from those organizations to have an idea on their system performance, listened to their implementation expertise and postimplementation support. Someone must have done all these background checks before, but you will see, having an understanding will help you during project execution.
If you are having foreign vendors, get an understanding on their culture & etiquette, time zone difference, food habit, national holidays, weekends & working hours.
Get communications and escalation matrix.
If possible, collect phone numbers of critical resources.
If it's any of-the-shelf product, get understanding on the system's standard features.
You may suggest your vendor on preferred mobile operator in your country which has good reception in your office.
Mentioned steps are only a handful of steps I can think of, there are many more nitty-gritties you need to take care of, but having a small checklist of your own hopefully.