May 4, 2020
A Beginners Guide to Project Planning
If you’re about to embark on a new project, planning is key. A good project plan is extremely valuable as it can help you save time and money. It gives you a better overall picture of the project and can highlight any constraints you may face. This allows you to prepare your team for any problems you may come across along the way so that you can overcome them more efficiently.
So, below you will find a project-planning template to help guide your project plan, as well as an overview of some common project planning tools.
Project Planning Template:
- Project Goals
The first step in project planning is to outline your project goals. These goals are what need to be met to meet all stakeholder needs and requirements.
To begin, you should identify all the stakeholders of your project – including indirect stakeholders. Stakeholders include anyone affected by your project. So, they could include investors or project sponsors, target customers, and users, as well as your project manager and dedicated team.
Next, you will need to determine all of their needs. You can do this through interviews or surveys. This ultimately helps you to identify the requirements that will provide the most value. Since you will most likely end up with a long list of needs and requirements, you will then need to prioritize.
Once you have prioritized all requirements and laid out everything that is a high priority, you can create a set of project goals. Using the SMART technique (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely), you can identify whether each goal is feasible.
The last part of this step is to record your goals in your project plan so that the purpose of the project is clear.
- Project Activities And Deliverables
The second step in planning a successful project is to break down all the tasks and activities that need to be done to produce the project deliverables. This helps to create a clear plan of what is involved in the project.
You can define your project deliverables using the set of goals you created in step one. List all of the deliverables with an estimated date of delivery. This will help the project to stay on track and keep to the schedule.
Setting due dates for essential deliverables allows you to easily track the project’s progress throughout its course.
- Project Schedule
To create a schedule for your project, you need to detail all the tasks involved in each deliverable that you defined in the previous step. By doing this, you will end up with a comprehensive list of tasks that you can allocate to various team members or groups.
For each task, estimate the amount of time it should take to complete and specify who will carry it out. Once you have done this, you will be able to see how long each deliverable will take to complete so that you can determine a more accurate date for the completed project. Then you can go back and update your deliverables section where you listed some rough deadlines.
In this step, you can also see if a sponsor has given an unrealistic deadline for a deliverable. If this happens, you must renegotiate and explain your calculated deadlines to the sponsor.
There are many different project planning software applications, like Microsoft Project, that can help you map out and keep track of your schedule.
- Risk Assessment
One of the most important aspects of project planning is identifying any risks or issues you may face throughout the project. These problems could be anything from a team member going on vacation to delays in getting parts for the project.
It is important to conduct a thorough risk assessment so that you can prepare contingency plans and have a risk management strategy in place should things go wrong. In this step, you need to define any steps you can take to prevent certain issues from arising or to limit the impact they have on the project.
- Present To Stakeholders
Now that you’ve mapped out your project plan, it is time to present it to the project stakeholders. Make sure that you address all of their concerns and explain how the project meets their expectations and requirements.
One thing to note is that the presentation of your project plan should not be one-sided. You should have an open discussion with your stakeholders so that everyone feels that they are included and that their opinions are valued.
In this step, you should also determine stakeholder roles so that you can keep the relevant people updated on the progress of the project. Using collaborative project planning software can make it easy for everyone involved to stay updated and make any edits or comments without holding a formal meeting.
Project Planning Tools
Now that you know all of the steps involved in project planning, let’s take a lot at some useful tools that will help your project run smoother.
A PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) chart is a useful tool for projects that value time over costs. This diagram charts out all scheduled tasks in a sequence. It allows project managers to get a visual representation of the project and estimate the timing of each task more easily.
A Gantt chart is a very common project management tool. It visually maps out all tasks so that the stakeholders and project manager can see how the project is progressing. It is, essentially, a horizontal bar chart that shows the duration of different tasks and project milestones.
For more complex projects, it can be difficult to identify the most important tasks. Mapping a critical path helps you to identify high-priority tasks and helps to reduce timelines in your project.
Before you dive straight into a new project, you must take some time to create a project plan. Project planning can help you gain a better overview of your entire project and map out your schedule more accurately.