Poor planning is one of the main reasons companies do not achieve their targets. That is why having a definitive project planning guide will help you stay on track. A project plan is a document that covers every aspect of the project and its management. It gives general information about the nature of the project and shows how it will be managed, executed and controlled. It will give you feasibility over how the project is going to unravel and includes factors to ensure you deliver your project successfully while managing time, costs and changes.
The 5 Big Project Plan Brief Questions
At a minimum, you need to be clear on:
- Why? The project’s strategic goals.
- What? The activities (or process), outputs and deliverables.
- When? The deadlines and dependencies.
- How? The process or methodology involved.
- Who? The client and their team of stakeholders.
Project planning process steps
There is no universally accepted project plan, but every great plan should include the following steps:
Identify stakeholder needs
The first step to your project planning should involve identifying your stakeholders and their needs. Having all stakeholder groups on the same page will minimize any miscommunication. Keep in mind that your customers are key stakeholders as well.
Outline the scope of the project and prioritize goals
The Scope Statement is arguably the most important document in the project plan. It is the foundation for the rest of the project. It describes the project and is used to get common agreement among the stakeholders about the scope. The scope statement clearly describes what the outcome of the project will be. It is the basis for getting the buy-in and agreement from the sponsor and other stakeholders and decreases the chances of miscommunication. This document will most likely grow and change with the life of the project. The scope statement should include:
- Business need and business problem
- Project objectives, stating what will occur within the project to solve the business problem
- Benefits of completing the project, as well as the project justification
- Project scope, stated as which deliverables will be included and excluded from the project
- Key milestones, the approach, and other components as dictated by the size and nature of the project.
Tip: Create a list of “absolute musts” that need to be achieved
Define roles and responsibilities
Who is responsible for each task and what exactly are they responsible for? How will each task be implemented? One of the key project management process steps is identifying who is doing what. This step ensures every single member of the team is responsible for particular tasks and can be held accountable if something goes wrong – or right!
Some of the key players are:
- Project sponsor, who owns and funds the entire project. Sponsors need to review and approve all aspects of the plan.
- Designated business experts, who will define their requirements for the end product. They need to help develop the scope baseline and approve the documents relating to scope. They will be quite interested in the timeline as well.
- Project manager, who creates, executes, and controls the project plan. Since project managers build the plan, they do not need to approve it.
- Project team, who build the end product. The team needs to participate in the development of many aspects of the plan, such as identifying the risks, quality, and design issues, though the team does not usually approve it.
- Others, such as auditors, quality and risk analysts, procurement specialists, etc., may also participate on the project. They may need to approve the parts that pertain to them, such as the Quality or Procurement plan.
Determine a project schedule
A project schedule determines when different tasks have to be completed and what resources are needed. A schedule will include your timelines and milestones at every stage. For this reason, involving your employees in this step is advised.
Tip: The people undertaking each task are in better positions to know the time and resource allocation they need. Include them when setting up your project schedule to ensure that the goals you have in mind are doable and your workforce feels happy from the start. Remember, team morale is very important if you want the process to go smoothly. You can also use your project management or time tracking tools to review past projects and get a better sense of costs and timelines.
Visualize the project plan
90% of the information that’s transmitted to the brain is visual, so it’s safe to say we process visual data more effectively. It helps to add a visual component to your plan to make everything more relatable. Using a project planning tool will help with the visual creation process as illustrated by the following project process diagram.
Conduct a risk assessment
It is highly unlikely that you will encounter a project without any risks. You need to assess what can go wrong at each step and have a plan in place for reacting to the risk.
Present the plan
Explain your plan to all your stakeholders, starting with the first step, and ensure that your plan addresses all needs, responsibilities, deliverables, and any solutions to conflicts. Address all queries and concerns before pushing forward. Feedback is also a vital part of the planning process but it should be constructive and on-point to avoid wasting time.
- How will we communicate throughout the project?
- Channels of communication and frequency
Monitoring and reviewing plan
- How will we measure our performance?
- How will we monitor and control the project?
Don’t forget to be clear on the why, what, when, how and who as you go on to create your project plans!