This paper summarises the results of a comprehensive systematic literature survey on the front-end of a project, commissioned by the Project Management Institute. The dedicated literature on the front-end is sparse: although the front-end has been shown to be critical to the strategic success of the project, this phase of the lifecycle is not well understood. This paper presents the literature on the concept of the front-end, and defines a temporarily ordered structure of generic processes that form the ‘front-end’ and how these fit together as a coherent whole. These start from the preliminaries to the initiative, then the project purpose (for various stakeholders), the initial analysis and scenario analysis; the analysis of alternatives and choice of project concept; assessment of the project, finishing with setting up project execution. It summarises the recent literature at each of these elements in turn, specifically as they relate to the front-end.