A feature kickoff meeting (sometimes called a "project kickoff meeting") is a meeting held between a project manager and relevant stakeholders to discuss the development of a new feature. Here, most of the basics of the project will be outlined, including development time, budget, requirements, and responsibilities. It's also an opportunity for the development team to meet the client sponsoring the project.
Feature kickoffs typically take place after the project has already been confirmed, so this meeting isn’t meant to be a pitch or a time to make any deals. This should largely be a paperwork-free event, in which ideas and expectations are discussed and aligned on.
A significant portion of the discussion at a kickoff meeting should revolve around milestones. By setting milestones with both the developers, managers, and clients present, you can set realistic goals that line up with the clients' vision.
You can think of a feature kickoff as the first day of a new project. It should set the tone for the rest of the project, so managers must enter this meeting with clear objectives. Otherwise, a key opportunity could be missed, causing the project to suffer later on.
Feature kickoff meetings are primarily held between the project managers and any relevant stakeholders. That could be sponsors, clients, investors, or executives. The exact group will vary depending on your organization but, no matter what, the person leading the project must meet with the person paying for the project.
It also helps to have the development team at this meeting if possible. This serves two important purposes. First, it allows the stakeholders to put faces to the team working on the project, and second, it allows the team to get an understanding of what is expected from them.
By having these three groups (managers, stakeholders, and developers) meet before the project begins, you can substantially decrease the chances of miscommunications further down the line. Everyone should be asking questions, suggesting ideas, and confirming what is and isn't reasonable.
While many people may be in attendance at the feature kickoff meeting, it's up to the project manager to lead and plan the discussion. To get the best results, managers should follow a few guidelines when setting the agenda.
First, the project manager should introduce any parties by name and job title. Mainly, you will be trying to help the stakeholders better understand the roles that the developers will play. You can ensure clarity by talking about past projects and letting the developers speak a little about their work.
Next, you'll want to discuss the general timeline for the project. If this has already been discussed, then will be a brief review. If not, then everyone should work together to come up with a reasonable roadmap or Gantt chart for the weeks or months ahead.
Lastly, you'll want to come up with goals and assess the risks of each goal. For instance, how likely is a particular goal to fail, or how likely is another to run over budget? Allow everyone to suggest ideas and offer insights unique to their perspective.