Six Steps to create a Project Plan that sets your project for success

Understanding Project Planning

You define the project. You are aware of the goals to achieve. So, now what? Do you start with the project execution? No, that is not the right step. The next correct phase is to create a project plan.

Project planning is a process of detailing the steps of the execution of a project. It defines the key activities, required resources, and timeframe for project accomplishment. It is the answer to questions such as:

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What tasks to do in the project?

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How to reach the project goals?

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When to start and end the project?

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Who will be involved in completing the project tasks?

Project planning lays the foundation for project execution and management. It defines the input, the transformation process, and the output. This transformation process converts the input by the firm into the desired output.

Project planning is a process that turns your idea into a tangible outcome. Without a concrete project plan, a project remains just an idea. You may execute it, but it remains directionless or moving in many directions.

So, before the execution of the project, you must define the project plan. Project planning includes defining the:

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Key phases of the project

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Activities and tasks for each phase

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Human resources with specific skills who will work on the project

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Timelines for each phase, activities, and tasks

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Budget and prepare a phase-wise costing

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Requirements for equipment, technology, and any other

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Possible risks and approaches for managing or mitigating them

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Contingency plans

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Communication strategy to share project updates with all stakeholders

Creating a project plan is not easy. It takes time and effort. But, it has several benefits for your project execution and completion. Let’s look at the benefits.

Benefits of Project Planning

Project planning provides a specific structure to the project team to carry out the tasks. It ensures the proper execution of the project. There are many benefits of project planning, which are listed below:

Clarification on the objectives

You must be fully aware of the objectives that you are trying to achieve. A project plan clearly defines the objectives and goals. This gives you a clear idea of what you aim to achieve through project execution.

With a proper project plan, the team can keep its focus on the end goals. This also reduces the possibility of scope creep. Thus, when you know what to achieve, there is a greater chance of achieving it.

Description of roles and responsibilities

The project lists out the employees and staff who will be a part of the project team. It also mentions the key responsibilities of every person. This way, project managers can track the work of every team member.

This also allows the manager to check for under-allocation or over-allocation of resources. If under-allocated, resources are sitting idle, thereby wasting time and money. If over-allocated, resources have a lot of work, thereby leading to delays.

Detailed communication plan

Project planning involves the communication plan between all stakeholders. This allows team members to stay up-to-date with the status of every task and activity. You can discuss key ideas, change in plans, and project status, and hence, improve commitment.

Risk assessment and management

Project planning requires you to describe the possible risks to a project. These risks may relate to less budget or time, the wrong direction of project movement, or the wrong allocation of resources. With knowledge of these risks, you can develop contingency plans.

This allows you to define the action plans for each risk. Thus, you can assess these risks and manage them when required during the project execution. It ensures better risk management for the entire project execution.

Better estimates of time and costs

Project planning provides details on the project scheduling and cost allocation. You can know when to start each phase and the duration to complete it. You are also aware of the costs allocated for each phase, task, or activity.

With a clear project plan, you keep a track of time and costs. Without it, you may exceed the timelines or you may spend more than the budgeted costs. Thus, project planning ensures that you do not delay the project or overshoot the costs.

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Steps of the project planning process

Let us explore the various stages of project planning. The key steps of the project planning process include:

Identify all stakeholders

You must be aware of all the stakeholders of the project. Once you know the stakeholders, only then you can understand their needs. Project stakeholders can be:

With a proper project plan, the team can keep its focus on the end goals. This also reduces the possibility of scope creep. Thus, when you know what to achieve, there is a greater chance of achieving it.

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Customers

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End-users of the product or service

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Project team

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Senior management

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External partners

List project goals

The second step is to make a list of the goals of the project. This you can achieve by interacting with the various stakeholders of the project. Ensure to prioritize the goals for better classification during the execution.

The mentioned goals must be SMART:

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Specific

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Measurable

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Achievable

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Relevant

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Time-bound

Define the deliverables and scope

You must list the key tasks and activities that you have to perform. You must also know what not to do to avoid any obstructions to the project. It defines the factors that will help you measure project success. You can do this by preparing a work breakdown structure.

Your scope and goals are ready, which enables you to define the deliverables. You must be specific about each deliverable along with the delivery date. Each deliverable must show the completion of a phase, task, or activity.

Define the budget, timelines, and resources

A clarification on project scope and deliverables give you an understanding of the skills required for the project. Based on this, identify the people you need in your team with the relevant expertise. Make sure that you include a multi-disciplinary team that will execute the project successfully.

Based on the goals, deliverables, and resources of the project, you can estimate the costs. You must consider all the other resources such as equipment and materials. Now, estimate the cost for each task and then collate to get the entire project estimation.

Another important factor is the timelines of the project execution. You need to carefully calculate the time taken for each task or activity for the project. This also enables you to understand the dependency of tasks.

Create a project schedule

Now, you have defined activities or tasks, resources, timelines, and budget. With all this information, create a project schedule. The steps for creating a project schedule are:

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List each task in order so that one leads to another and finally the goal is achieved.

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Now, assign relevant individuals or teams for each task.

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Calculate the time taken to complete each task.

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Work from the last delivery date of the project to define the start and end date of every task.

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Make the necessary adjustments in time, costs, and resources

Create a risk management plan

You must factor in the possible risks that may derail the project. The possible risks can be:

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Less time

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Less budget

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Unclear goals

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No definition of roles and responsibilities

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No attention on the dependency of tasks

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Poor communication and collaboration

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Technological disruptions

There might be many other risks besides the ones listed above. You must list each risk and identify the possible action plans for each. Allocate time and budget for each to avoid any disturbance in project execution.

Conclusion

With the project plan ready, you must share it with all the stakeholders. Ask them for changes and edit the document accordingly. Also, communicate the project plan to your team members who will work on the project.

Thus, project planning is a crucial process that needs your full attention. Your in-house project managers can use any of the project planning techniques to make an effective project plan. Or, you can hire a professional consultant to help you in project planning.

Technovisors is a leading IT consulting and digital marketing firm in Ahmedabad. We help companies in project planning for different kinds of IT projects. We create the right IT plans for your business transformation.

Beat the project management blues and enjoy a hassle-free project execution. With Technovisors’ professional quality services.

FAQs

There are many tools available; some are general while some are industry-specific. You may use any tool depending on your industry and project nature. You must be aware of your project variables and goals. This will enable you to decide the best project planning tool for your business. There are many tools available; some are general while some are industry-specific. You may use any tool depending on your industry and project nature. You must be aware of your project variables and goals. This will enable you to decide the best project planning tool for your business.
No, it is not compulsory to use software for project planning or management. Again, it depends on the nature of your project and goals. A simple, small project may not need software. But, a complicated, big project with several steps may require you to use the software.
There are no disadvantages to project planning. But, if not done properly or not implemented correctly, it may lead to some problems. Some of the possible disadvantages include:

• Some managers do not consider that changes in environment or project variables can affect the project plan. Such complacency may affect the project’s success.
• Some managers plan a lot but do not put the plan into action. If planning does not lead to execution, then it does not serve any purpose.
• If managers believe in following the plan exactly, then it obstructs creativity. Team members may not feel encouraged to experiment, innovate, and take initiative.

Pathik Shah

(CISA, FCA, CS, DISA (ICAI), FAFP (ICAI))

Pathik is a multi-disciplinary professional with more than 22 years of experience in compliance, risk management, accounting, system audits, IT consultancy, and digital marketing. He has extensive knowledge of Anti-Money Laundering rules and regulations, and he helps companies comply with legal requirements. Pathik also helps companies generate value from their IT investments.