Every project has a story to tell about its objectives, team, timeline, and deliverables, and getting the story correct takes detailed project planning and management. Some of the stories are brief and to-the-point, while others are epic books full of twists and turns. Every story is created around a story arc or outline—or, as we call it in project management, a project plan—regardless of length or intensity. So, what is project planning? Let’s learn everything about it with this article!
What is a project plan?
The process of establishing the project scope, objectives, and steps required to complete the work is known as project planning. It is concerned with choosing ahead of time what, when, how, and who will take the essential steps to achieve predetermined goals. In this context, planning is a pervasive management activity that is carried out at all levels of the project hierarchy, with the scope, detail, and scale of the effort differing. One of the most critical processes in project management is project planning. A project management plan is the output of the project planning process.
The project management planning process involves inductive problem-solving. It begins by concentrating on the “what” and “how,” which are intertwined. The project goals, which must be defined at the beginning of the planning process, describe what is to be done. These goals might be new product development, market share maintenance, market share acquisition, profit maximization, expected sales volume, profit maximization, a combination of these, or something like that.
For project personnel, the objectives get to be the “reason to be.” All following work should be focused on completing them throughout the course of scheduled future time periods. By definition, the project is finished after they are done. The “how” issue for planning revolves around the chosen aims and nature of the product, as well as the level of technology, target market characteristics, business policy, and available manufacturing or developmental procedures. The “how” issues will have an impact on required technical and manufacturing capabilities.
Facilities, equipment, supplies, raw materials, and personnel skills must all be identified and purchased or hired as needed. The product’s manufacturing plans and durations must be compatible with delivery times. These resource decisions are the “who” and “when” parts of the planning process and they are comprised of the input considerations shown in Figure 1. The project manages these resources internally, although they are acquired through external channels. There are two external categories of concerns for project planning that must be taken into account: the project’s organizational environment and the external environment of the firm as a whole.
For those who are studying PMP project planning, the above-detailed information about project planning might be basic knowledge but it is a must-have before starting creating a project plan.
After knowing what is project management plan, let’s find out the role of project planning in the next part.
Purposes of Planning
For project personnel, project planning is a means of communication and a source of information. The project’s overarching objectives must be communicated to the project team once they have been developed and approved. The expectation is that by involving them in the process of defining specific objectives, they would be able to align their own aspirations with the project’s goals. Information for action is supplied to all levels of the project personnel when the specifics of the plans are planned and costed.
Foundation for Management Action
All other management actions are built on the basis of planning. Managers may plan their operations more efficiently by knowing what is necessary, who is to execute particular duties, how they should be completed, and when events should be scheduled. The requirement for control is inherent in the planning function. Feedback on progress toward completing objectives and goals is gathered when the strategy is implemented. The manager can objectively evaluate progress by comparing actual to planned data, making appropriate adjustments to the master plan, and taking remedial action for ongoing operations. The plan also informs the management about upcoming deadlines and events, indicating when choices must be taken and when feedback systems must be activated and monitored.
Problem Definition and Solution
Planning is a form of problem solving that encourages the definition and solution of problems. The division of objectives into goals and objectives assists in determining difficulties as well as creating and analyzing alternative strategies to fulfill objectives. Each option must be assessed in terms of time and cost, as well as the required product grade of performance. Tradeoffs between these key variables may be required during the original planning stages, but they may subsequently be used to develop workaround strategies if problems arise. This strategy necessitates the development of a comprehensive action plan, which will be the topic of the next paragraphs.
Stages of Project Planning
The beginning of any project is probably the most difficult stage. When there is an unclear or poorly defined goal, getting started might be difficult since there is no clear sense of direction. At other times, the question of how to get there is mixed up with the decision of where to go; the project is outlined before specific objectives are defined.
Definition of Project Objective
A clear definition of the project objective is the first step in successful project planning. This should ideally be a single phrase, such as “The goal of this project is to make the tax return as simple as possible so that an ordinary citizen with an eighth-grade education may complete the short form in three hours or less without professional assistance.” This goal is clear, attainable, measurable, and specific.
The project’s description is the next step. The better a project’s description is, the more likely it is to succeed. The following list shows ten basic questions that should be covered in the description.
- WHAT is to be done?
- WHEN will it occur?
- HOW much will it cost?
- WHO will do it?
- WHAT products or services will be delivered as a result of the effort?
- WHAT is the responsibility of both the developer and the user?
- WHAT determines task completion?
- WHO is responsible for approving the product as completed?
- WHAT mechanisms will be used to cope with formal adjustments?
- HOW will actual progress be measured?
Detailed Work Plan
The steps necessary to attain the goal must be documented when the project has been sufficiently stated. This is the right time to talk about how technology can be used. The engine is one of the subsystems to consider while designing an airplane and describing its performance objectives. Is a suitable engine existing, or will new technology be required to meet the specified performance requirements? Are the actions to be only changes of current equipment, or will they entail new equipment research and development?
Once activities are determined, the planner must start planning resources to complete those activities. Make-or-buy decisions enter the process at this point, when the availability of in-house talents and technology is weighed against the costs of contracting out the effort. Estimates for the budget are made, and staff requirements are established.
The identification of the project control system is an important stage. What measurements and means of communication will be most helpful in evaluating project progress? To codify the information gathered, many project documents need to be created.
How to Write a Good Project Plan
The purpose of studying PMP project planning is for knowing how to write a good project plan. A project plan is more than just a list of dates on a document. It’s your project’s story, and you don’t want it to be a tall tale!
Any strong project plan should be able to answer the following questions:
- What are some of the most important deliverables?
- How will we meet those deadlines and deliverables?
- What members of the project team will be involved in the deliverables, and what role will they play?
- When will the team accomplish its milestones, and when will other team members contribute to or provide feedback on those deliverables?
Learning how to develop a project plan is not difficult. To create a well-written and on-target project plan, follow these 8 basic project planning stages.
Read more: Project Management Principles
8 crucial project planning steps
Let’s see how to create a project plan.
Step 1: Investigate the scope and value of your project by conducting research
Make sure you have all of the information before you start drafting a project plan. Examine all of the project’s papers and communications.
Examine the scope of work and any supporting documents. Make an effort to be comprehensive.
Before you commit to anything, be sure you understand the details and ask thoughtful questions.
In writing a project plan, a competent project manager is well-informed and methodical. At a minimum, you’ll be expected to know everything there is to know about:
- The project’s objectives
- The requirements and expectations of your customer
- Your client’s team composition and decision-making process (i.e., how they’ll evaluate and approve your team’s work)
Understanding your client’s team and process may assist you in answering the following questions:
- Who is the project’s sponsor, and how approachable is he or she?
- Who is the project manager, and will they be in contact with you on a regular basis?
- Who are the other stakeholders that your team has to be aware of?
Step 2: Ask the difficult questions
Besides all of your questions about your client team and their expectations, set aside some time with your key client contact and ask them some difficult questions about the process, organizational politics, and general risks before developing a project plan. This will demonstrate that your staff has the required experience to deal with a wide range of challenging personalities and situations, as well as that you are invested in the project’s success from the outset.
Questions that may have an influence on a project plan include:
- Have you and your team discussed how you’ll get feedback?
- Who is the last person to sign off? Or, alternatively, who owns the project?
- Is there anyone else we should think about who isn’t on your list (president, boss’s spouse, dean)?
- What is the deadline for the project? What causes or events (a meeting, an ad campaign, or an event) are driving that date?
- Are there any dates when you will be unavailable or closed?
- Will there be any meetings or times during the project when you’d like us to give a presentation to a bigger group (a board meeting) on the current project status?
Step 3: Make an outline for your project management plan
Take some time once you’ve got the answers you need to consider the responses based on the project goals and how your team would approach a similar project.
If you’re not sure where to begin, use the questions at the beginning of this chapter to define the project’s who, what, when, and how. Consider the tasks listed in the scope of work and, using a high-level overview, try to come up with a project planning and management strategy. To verify dates, all you need is a calendar.
An initial outline might be very rough and look like a task breakdown structure. Make sure you include the following in your outline:
- Deliverables and the tasks involved in their creation
- The approval process of your client
- Tasks and deliverables have timelines attached to them
- Resource suggestions for tasks/deliverables
- A list of the assumptions you’re basing your strategy on
- A list of absolutes related to the project’s budget and/or timelines.
Step 4: Consult with your team
The first step in starting a project is to clearly communicate the project goals and the effort required to achieve them. This is due to the fact that a project manager cannot be the only developer of a project plan.
You could try, but if you’re looking for team buy-in, you won’t. That’s because you don’t want to put yourself or your team in an embarrassing situation by failing to reach an agreement on the strategy before presenting it to your customer. That would be equivalent to stabbing each and every one of your colleagues in the back. This does not bode well for the company’s previous reputation.
It’s also a good idea to tap into the super-smart people around you for ideas on how the team might achieve the tasks at hand without blowing the budget or the team’s morale. You may choose between Agile and Waterfall approaches as a project manager, but when it comes down to it, you need to know that the team can realistically execute the plan.
You may also use your project plan review time to challenge your own assumptions and encourage the team to try something new.
For example, if you’re developing a website design project plan, can designers start developing visual concepts while the wireframes are being produced? Will it be appropriate for this project and the team? Is it possible to have two resources working on the same task at the same time?
Not only does it help you develop a project plan to run ideas past the team and have an open conversation about the strategy. It’s also a great assist in terms of having everyone on the same idea regarding the project.
This sort of buy-in and communication builds teamwork and gets individuals enthused about achieving a common objective. It may be extremely beneficial to your team and project as a whole.
Step 5: Make a detailed project plan
When you’ve gathered all of the information you’ll need and spoken with all parties involved, you should feel confident enough to create a good project schedule using whatever tool you choose.
Any effective project planning tool will assist you in formalizing your ideas and organizing them in a logical, readable way.
Ensure that tasks, durations, milestones, and dates are all clearly defined to make your project plan legible. Make a simple project plan—the more straightforward and simple it is to read, the better. You should include the following features in whatever tool you use:
- Include all relevant project information, such as the client’s name, the project’s name, the version number, and the deadline
- Create headers and indent subsequent tasks to divide milestones and deliverables into parts. (Reading a long list of activities may be tedious and mind-numbing even for the best of us)
- Declare which team is in charge of each job (for example, “CLIENT: Provide feedback”)
- To avoid misunderstanding about who is responsible for what, assign resources to each task
- Make sure task durations are properly stated. A start and finish date should be assigned to each job
- Make a note of any tasks that appear to be difficult or require explanation. It’s never a bad idea to go overboard with the details!
- Make a list of project dependencies. These are vital when preparing for the possibility of delays
- If you’re feeling fancy, including both your company’s and your client’s logos
- If you want to go all out, use your company’s branded fonts.
Step 6: Make your plan public
You’ve almost completed the task! You’ve done your research, sketched out your strategy, talked it over with your team, and created a formal project plan. Before you send it over to your clients, do yourself a favor and have someone on your team evaluate it.
Nothing is more embarrassing than being a project manager and providing a plan that has a mistake, such as an inaccurate date. It will take someone 10 minutes, and you will be at ease.
Step 7: Make sure your team is aware of your strategy and that they have read it
You’ll want to double-check that your essential document has been examined after you’ve put so much effort into it.
Make sure to provide a summary of your project plan in prose style when providing it. A brief note that includes the overall approach, resources, assumptions, deadlines, and associated review timeframes can aid you in communicating what the project plan means to the project and everyone involved.
Don’t be hesitant about it: explain the thinking process that went into developing the project strategy and open it up for comments. Setting up a call with a client to go through the strategy line by line might be beneficial. This guarantees that your client comprehends the process and what each plan stage entails.
Sure, you’ll have to explain it a few more times, but at the very least, you’re helping to create excellent project planning standards across the board and informing your clients about how your team works. It also demonstrates that you are concerned.
Step 8: Prepare to continue planning
Some tasks are simple and straightforward, while others are a total nightmare that keeps you awake at 3 a.m. Plans will inevitably alter.
You’re on your way to creating a project plan that’s manageable and well-thought-out if you have a strong team and a defined scope of work. Your best protection against project instability is a well-thought-out project strategy.
You’ll be delighted if you’re a laid-back project manager who can adjust your strategy and plan to go with the flow while identifying the necessary risks. Otherwise, everyday changes will muddle your perspective, causing you to focus on things that aren’t beneficial to your team, customer, or project.
If you want to see more details about how to execute a project management plan, see more about project management process.
The above article has defined the basic information of project planning, the purposes of it, detailed work plan as well as steps for developing a good project plan. Hope you guys can have more beneficial knowledge and skills in building an excellent project plan through this article.
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