Often, finding a direction to get started on a new project can be difficult. You’re bringing many people together with varied goals, expectations, and context. One of the first exercises I like to do when kicking off a project is to name it. While it can be tempting to go with something easy and follow the same old pattern, going with an informative, meaningful, and thoughtful project name will have several benefits.
A name can act as a North Star.
When a team encounters a conflict or is unsure about how to make a decision, having a stated purpose can make a huge difference. A name can act as that clear and concise purpose. It can help set priorities and a vision for the future. When the waves of a project knock you off course, you have your name as a beacon that will help you find your way. For example, when prioritizing features, you can ask if the work would contribute to the goal of the project.
A project name can inform those outside the team of the purpose.
In a large organization, you can use the name to send a message and manage the expectations placed on your team. The team name can clearly define your responsibility. For example, last year I worked on a project that was “The map translation project.” In the large organization, I was working for, this helped me explain to people that my team’s responsibility was data processing on the map, and outputting data representing that map. This was extremely useful when I was fielding requests that were the responsibility of other teams or outside of my control.
Changing a project name is an opportunity to recognize significant changes.
Often during a project, priorities may shift. It can be easy to gloss over that and not take time to build a new consensus. But, it’s important to stop and recognize the significance of that change. Taking the time to rename a project in that event, because the old name is now obsolete, can be a great way to realign.
A project name is a communication tool
In summary, there are many benefits to naming a project. In the end, I think they all come down to using the name as a communication tool, which is extremely valuable. What other ways do you have to communicate project expectations?