As you probably know, the project life cycle always starts with the initiation phase, which is the project planning. But what exactly do project managers do in this phase? If you are looking for a guide to plan your project, you are in the right place because we are going to uncover step by step in the project planning process. Let’s get started!
What is Project Planning? #
Planning a project is a discipline that tackles how to complete a project within a determined period of time, often with stages that are clearly defined and resources that have been allotted. Project planning is one of the primary responsibilities of project management and a foundation for the successful execution of a project.
Projects are time-bound and frequently risky endeavors of substantial complexity, and they frequently involve the introduction of new software, the formation of a new business, etc. So, when you plan the project, you should have all the formal documents that specify the project’s execution and control phases. The project manager often uses project portfolio management software to help them in the process.
The Purpose of Project Planning #
Why do projects require planning? Why is the planning phase essential to all projects? Well, it’s simply because in the real world, there will always be risks that affect your project. Either there will be issues with resources, talent, or even funds. Due to the complexity of each project, project managers need to spend some time in the initiation phase to carefully plan the project.
Usually, if the project manager is having little experience, he or she would just burrow inside the office and use plans, reports, statistics and project management software and measure data to move his project forward and just act as a conventional project administrator. While a project manager with no experience will just start with fiery motivational speech and inspiration to the team and dives into the task right away. Few weeks later, he or she will understand that both deadlines and costs are spiraling out of control and that the goals cannot be accomplished in the allotted time. Thus, the project is completely out of control.
Experienced and successful project managers understand that project planning is an essential process to keep up with the budget and timeline. Without appropriate planning in advance, both time and financial requirements will skyrocket, leading to failure.
The Benefit of Project Planning #
Once you understand the purpose, it’s easier to list down all the benefits and advantages of project planning, which are:
- Enable communication and centralized source of information for the team;
- Assist key stakeholders in understanding what is expected;
- Specify who will execute certain duties, when those activities will be performed, and how they will be performed;
- Improve project management as it evolves;
- Enable effective project monitoring and control;
- Control project risk and generate meaningful input for the next step of project planning.
How Long Does The Project Planning Process Take? #
This is difficult to answer because it depends on the type of the project itself.
The easiest way to predict the duration of your project’s planning phase is to examine the duration of planning for similar projects that have occurred in the past. Talk to the project manager if you can, since they will have an opinion on whether or not that amount of time was sufficient!
How To Plan Your Project? #
Your project’s success depends on how well you plan it. As a project manager, you need to think about all the parts of your project management plan, like work, time, resources, and risks. So, make sure that you follow these 13 steps when you plan your project!
1. Outline the Business Case #
Your business case is the reason you have a project. The business case contains project goals, advantages, and ROI. If a problem is being addressed, it is described here. The business case explains what must be done and how, including a feasibility analysis to examine the project’s practicality. If the business case is approved, you have a project to run!
2. Identify the stakeholder #
The second step is to identify stakeholders of the project. Your project stakeholders are usually your customers, the product’s end-users, the organizations, leaders, and the project’s team. However, not all of them will be involved in every project aspect. Depending on the type of the project, stakeholders may also consist of external organizations and affected community members.
3. Define project scope #
The project scope tells a project team what they will do and what they won’t do. It looks at what the team wants, what the stakeholders want, and what the customer needs, and then decides what’s possible. To put it simply, project scope includes both what you have to do (deliverables, sub-deliverables, work packages, activities, tasks) and what you can do (but don’t have to). This is essential for the project plan because knowing what isn’t a high priority can help you avoid scope creep, which is when you use valuable resources on something that isn’t important to the success of your project.
4. Define responsibilities and roles #
After identifying the project’s stakeholders, you must define the essential project management skills and abilities required for completion. Once you have this list, you may assign roles and duties to each stakeholder. Remember, that the roles of each stakeholder must be clearly defined so that each member of the team is aware of their duties. However, some individuals play numerous roles.
5. Hold a kickoff meeting with the team #
The tone of the working relationship between project stakeholders is established during the kickoff meeting. The kickoff meeting is an opportunity to bring together all stakeholders and articulate a shared vision for the project. The kickoff meeting is essential for introducing team members and establishing productive working connections.
The tone for the working relationship that will exist between the various stakeholders throughout the entirety of the project is set during the kickoff meeting. Due to the fact that the specifics of the project have not yet been sorted out, it is important that you, as a project manager, include a discussion on the project’s objectives, budget, and timeframe in the meeting agenda. Additionally, roles are assigned at this point and collaboration starts.
6. Set project goals and objective #
When it comes to project planning, goals and objectives are two separate things. Goals are the desired outcomes and are typically broad in scope. Objectives, on the other hand, are more explicit; they consist of quantifiable actions that must be completed in order to achieve the goal. In constructing a project plan, the goals and objectives are derived organically from the business case, but in this phase you add more specifics. In a way, you are refining the goals outlined in the business case and developing clearly defined tasks.
Once you and your team have established a common understanding of the project’s goals, as well as the steps that must be taken to achieve those goals. Break down the project’s overarching objectives into individual goals and tasks, prioritize activities based on their importance and dependencies, and implement a framework to ensure timely corrective measures when goals are not fulfilled.
7. Determine the budget #
After defining the project’s scope, you will have a list of tasks that must be accomplished to effectively complete the project. To accomplish this, you will need equipment, supplies, human capital, and, of course, the budget. Your project budget will cover all of these costs. Creating a project budget begins with estimating the costs related to each task. Once you have these projected expenses, you can create a cost baseline, which will serve as the foundation for your project’s budget.
8. Set the project timeline #
The project timeline provides a detailed list of the stages of your project as well as the lengths of time you can estimate them to be completed in a reasonable amount of time. Make sure to always keep track and monitor the project schedule. If necessary, you should also check on the progress using the software or perform daily scrum meetings or daily stand-up meetings every morning just to see if the team is still on track.
9. Define deliverables #
Deliverables might vary in projects. Deliverables is a unique and verified product, outcome, or capability to execute a service that is created to conclude a process, phase, or project. To simply put, project deliverables could be product, result, or capability. So, in this step, you and the team need to determine what the final deliverable will be and how you will determine if the quality exceeds the expectations of your stakeholders.
10. Create a project schedule #
In this step, you need to create a project schedule. Project schedule is a document that outlines the project’s timeline, the organizational resources required to execute each job, and any other team management information. Obviously, needless to say that the project schedule must be thorough and straightforward.
To develop a project schedule, you must break down the steps of your project into particular tasks and activities, establish task dependencies, sequence the activities, and calculate the resources needed and length for each job.
This method may disclose essential alterations to your roles, timeframe, and/or budget based on the information gathered. This is a crucial stage in drafting a simple project plan, as well as a valuable aspect of the process. It is preferable to make these modifications before the job begins, rather than weeks or even months later.
11. Risk analysis and mitigation #
Every project involves a certain degree of risk. A risk is a potential problem that could develop during the duration of your project. Even with a comprehensive project plan, internal and external influences might affect the project’s time, cost, and scope (triple constraint). Rather than being surprised afterwards, it is crucial to recognize risks in the project process and mitigate them during the planning process. So, you need to hold a meeting or solicit input from all members of the team regarding the risks to consider.
12. Create project management plan #
The project management plan is a document with multiple components needed to execute the project. Depending on your project, the necessary components may vary, but in general, you will need the following documents to develop a project management plan:
- Project Charter
- Project scope statement
- Risk analysis and mitigation plan
- Change management strategy
- Cost management plan
- Resource management strategy
- Stakeholder management strategy
13. Communicate the project plan #
Once you have made your project management plan, be sure to share it with the team and anyone else who has a stake in the project in a clear and concise manner. You may have prepared a communication plan for your project when you created the project plan.
It is very important to set up clear communication channels and goals for a project. As a project manager, you should show all stakeholders how you want them to talk to you.
Plan Your Project with Portfolio Project Management Software #
A successful project management plan requires the proper organization of the project’s activities, tasks, and resources. Attempting to accomplish all this with a collection of poor spreadsheets for project management and shared documents, or worse, with notes, pens, and post it notes, is overwhelming and inefficient.
You may design a great project management plan and execute it successfully using project planning software like FoxPlan, which makes the process of planning your project easier from beginning to end. Your time can be better spent working on the project itself.
In addition, project management software may encourage effective communication between and across teams, help you track important performance metrics, store all project data to a centralized area, and allow you to extract information on your project as it moves forward.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to put everything you’ve learned about project planning into practice! Start planning your project for FREE today with FoxPlan Project Planning Software!