Good project planning equals good results. A project plan defines how a project is managed and executed. It provides an overall concept of the project and can highlight any obstacles you may face. A plan can help you and your team prepare for issues that occur throughout the project cycle, and how to deal with them.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. It is an old saying, but there is an element of truth in it. Not only to project management plans but to all tasks and businesses.
There are several real-life examples where companies can achieve their goals through effective planning, one of which is Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Due to good project planning, they managed to improve card sales by 99%.
The project plan is the key. So in this post, we'll learn everything about planning projects, including how to create them.
The definition of Project Planning
In a nutshell, project planning is the process by which a Project Manager (PM) creates a blueprint to describe a project's workflow. Another purpose of this plan is to estimate the time the team will take to complete the task from start to finish. Commonly, PMs use a Gantt chart to describe the project to the client.
Although many stakeholders have lost trust in the project plan, the process is still widely accepted. This is because project planning contains essential elements. Usually, each client has a specific question, and the answer lies in the well-created project plan.
The importance of Project Planning
Behind each sure-fire project, there are hours of preparation and designing. The little things make a big difference in a project, including project planning details.
And, with an effective project plan, you know the project's future. Then, planning documents are also crucial for the following:
1. To serve as guidance for all team members
The project planning document contains the detailed scope, timeline and budget. This is the starting point that you have to decide, define and get client approval at this stage. So you can measure actual execution against project progress. Because the project plan will be the guide for all team members to perform. Therefore, you need to be detailed in planning a project.
2. To eliminate confusion in projects
We all hate unpleasant surprises. Unfortunately, projects almost always have surprises.
Luckily, a project plan limits them because everyone knows the project's purpose. Practically, there is almost no room for uncertainty because the document also maps out deadlines and exact results. This makes everyone prepared for it.
3. To outline project details and scope
Project alignment also provides another advantage, scope creep. When stakeholders discuss project expectations, you can identify opportunities that arise outside the project's scope. What's more, you can also handle it quickly.
You can refer to the planning document to remind everyone of what was agreed upon. This is why there is no ambiguity about the project's scope.
4. To serve as detailed resource management
The best way to create detailed resource management is to break the project into smaller parts, milestones and tasks. Write down the details, how to use them and whether they are sufficient to accommodate changes.
5. To increase team confidence
The last reason you need a project plan is to boost confidence in the team. When you have detailed project management planning documents, everyone on the team will feel confident about the project, including support, stakeholders, and clients. You and your team will always know what to do when you are stuck in a project execution issue.
5 simple steps of Project Planning
After understanding the role and importance of project planning, it is time to learn how to make project plans. Here are five simple steps to create a project plan.
1. Schedule a meeting with stakeholders
The first step is to meet with stakeholders. They are the ones you will report on the progress and improvement of the project. This process aims to set initial expectations before starting the project. During the meeting, discuss these things:
- The purpose: The concern, the goals, and the problems the project is trying to solve.
- The budget: How much money is allocated? How is the budget divided?
- Timeframe: What kind of timeframe do they expect in this project?
- Problems and obstacles that may arise in the project.
2. Set the goals and end line of the project
After discussing what stakeholders are looking for, it's time to list needs and set more specific goals. You can set KPIs to measure the value of a project's success. KPIs allow you to assess the achievements and drawbacks of the project.
3. Define roles and responsibilities in the project
The third step is to assemble a team to help carry out the project. As PM, you must determine each member's roles and responsibilities.
- Risk analyst: Who assesses the risks and challenges associated with taking on a project.
- Industry expert: who helps develop the project scope?
- The project’s sponsors are those who fund the project.
- Project team: Who carries out project tasks? You can write more specifically this part.
These roles are not an exhaustive list, and this is just a quick guide. All projects have different needs, so feel free to add other positions as you see fit.
4. Create a project timeline and budget estimate.
You've got a team and the project's goals. Now it's time to compile a project timeline and budget. Below is how you compile it.
- First, identify the tasks you will have to finish and their position (whether important or urgent).
- Then, divide them according to the team's role. Also, identify the number of resources needed to finish the task.
- Estimate the time and cost required to complete the task, including materials and rates.
- From these deadline tasks, create the timeline. Then from the estimated rate, make an initial project budget.
5. Present the plan to stakeholders
You have everything you need in your document, and then the next step is to present it to stakeholders. Usually, they will provide some feedback on several things. Take note of these inputs and potential changes. After the presentation, several project plans will require changes and additions.
What we can take from this is that project planning is essential. Creating an effective and perfect project plan requires much brainstorming and is definitely not easy. However, that doesn't mean a beginner can't make it.
Take some time and start making a project plan before starting a new project. Leverage relationships and stakeholders to help you, including utilising the help of technology. Find a project plan according to your style and feel the ease of execution with careful planning.