Project planning is a high-level process that enables project managers to direct and control a project during its lifecycle to meet the requirements of a particular project. When you are new to project management, you might be lost in the jargon and the methodologies.
Here are a few simple steps that will help you create, plan, and manage a project.
1. Project conception and initiation
The first step in project planning is to carefully examine the project to determine its benefits for the organization. Which business problem does your project solve? Does it benefit the organization in meeting its goals?
Moreover, project managers present their project concept to a decision-making team (usually important stakeholders) during this important step.
2. Define the scope of the project
The scope of a project lays the foundation for the rest of the project to build upon. As a project manager, you have to develop a concise and precise scope statement.
A scope statement describes the outcome of a project. It might change during the lifetime of the project. However, it’s important to begin a project with a scope statement as it eliminates communication problems and gives everyone a clear direction.
Here are important considerations for developing an effective scope of your project. Make sure you include these in your scope statement.
- Problem that the project solves
- Objectives of the project
- Project justification and benefits of acquiring goals
- Important milestones
3. Identify milestones and set goals
This step is about identifying milestones and setting goals for your project. These goals must be in line with the overall project scope and strategy.
Once you have set project-specific goals, you will have objectives for your project. Write down the goals and include them in your project plan for clarity.
Sometimes, it could be difficult to prioritize goals due to their nature and the scope of the project. However, you can use tools like Eisenhower Matrix or simply prioritize according to urgency and importance of each goal.
4. Add tasks and subtasks
When you have set the goals, you can create tasks and subtasks to achieve these goals. Here are the steps required for completing this step successfully.
- Identify tasks and activities needed to achieve subtasks
- Know your resources and estimate the time to complete each individual task
- Determine cost of each task and consider resource constraints
- Identify task dependencies in relation to other tasks
After you have created tasks and subtasks, you can easily assign team members to each of the subtasks. That will give you control over the project while allowing you to determine the cost of work as well as their completion time.
5. Define deliverables
After you set goals, it’s time to identify deliverable. These deliverables will help you meet your project’s end goals.
Breakdown large deliverables into smaller deliverables or work packages (WBS) so that you can easily schedule project and estimate cost for each deliverable. WBS helps you define the structure of the project. It helps you with the following important aspects of project planning.
- Helps you define deliverables
- You can set up duration of each task and subtask
- It allows you to determine resource requirements
- It’s easy to make cost estimates after defining deliverables
6. Create a project schedule
Add all the tasks to a calendar along with cost estimates. Add subtasks under it so that you can visualize the task hierarchy. It will help you visualize how and when each resource is being used. It’s a great way of knowing which tasks will require repeated work.
Project managers can visualize the life of each task, from its start to the end, along with time and budget spent on its completion. Moreover, they can develop cost baseline according to time-phased budget by scheduling tasks and subtasks in proper hierarchy.
To create a project schedule, project managers can choose from a variety of scheduling tools. One of the most commonly used tools is Wrike Gantt Chart. You can add deliverables, tasks, completion date, and milestones in the chart to create a schedule for you.
7. Determine dependencies and available resources
Now that you have created tasks and schedule for the project, you should be able to define dependencies.
Using dependencies helps you to identify tasks that affect other tasks directly. For example, if task A is delayed, it might delay task C and D.
When you use dependencies, you can easily re-calculate project completion time in case some tasks are delayed.
It’s important to understand that introducing the dependencies can change your project schedule, shifting completion dates for some subtasks. Be sure to incorporate that into your project.
8. Monitor progress and complete a risk assessment
Risk assessment is an important part of project planning process. You should hope for the best but ignoring risks attached to your project could become your biggest mistake.
When you do a risk assessment, you are aware of the possible issues and the risk that comes with them beforehand. In case, your project goes that route, you can easily minimize the loss and turn things back to your favor – but only when you know possible risks and issues related to your project.
When doing a risk assessment, you must consider steps that you’d take to prevent risk in certain cases while minimizing their impact on your project in other cases. It will be your risk management strategy.
Here are steps that would help you develop a solid risk management strategy.
- Understand your risk tolerance
- Communicate risks to stakeholders
- Determine the risks that you want to manage and the risks you want to ignore
- Use risk matrix to prioritize risks
- Find project risk triggers
- Develop an action plan to minimize risk and reduce its negative impact
- Evaluate your risk management strategy
Developing a risk assessment strategy will help you to make your project ‘risk aware’.
9. Present your project plan
When you have completed all project planning steps and have a solid plan to achieve your goals, it’s time to present your project plan to stakeholders. While presenting the plan, be sure to turn it into a discussion rather than making it a one-sided affair.
At the time of presenting your plan to stakeholders, it’s important to understand roles. How will see project reports? Who is going to determine project viability? Who will approve the final project? Answering these questions will help you move the project to the next stage quickly and without any confusion.
Finally, before you present the plan, work on your communication skills. You don’t want to leave stakeholders confused after the meeting. Instead, you want each one of them to know their roles and responsibilities related to the project.