But you can avoid the free expansion of its volume and inflation of the budget and achieve your goals. However, sitting down and planning the entire project is not as easy as it seems.
Usually, the next questions appear: how to predict how long it will take to complete tasks? How to turn the expectations of stakeholders into concrete results of work? What if something goes wrong? How to make an ideal project management plan?
We have collected the most efficient tips on how to create a successful project plan.
Start with TOR
The basis for a successful project plan is the terms of reference (TOR). Why? Because it helps to reach an agreement at the beginning of work. Later, when new requirements arise, and the scope of the project will begin to expand, it will be possible to return to the TOR and check what the plan was initially intended for.
The TOR should include a description of the goals and objectives of the project, its intermediate results, the definition of stages, a preliminary scope of work, the calculation of time and costs, as well as a general description of the roles and areas of responsibility in the team.
Set the timer
Gather stakeholders and team members and determine what you want to achieve and how you are going to do it.
Stage 1: Stakeholders. Write down who you should contact for help, information, or approval, and identify the project sponsor. If the list is too long, break it into primary and secondary participants.
Stage 2: Components. It is your work hierarchy. List all essential units of work and proposals (you will evaluate them later, but for now write it down). Limit the list to 30 points, and if team members try to add something else, round out and go to the next step.
Stage 3: goals and results. Write down the purpose of the project, then determine what its results should be. Check whether everything is correct by asking the question: “If we do everything that is indicated in stage 2, will we achieve our goals?”
Stage 4: possible alternatives. What are some alternative ways that will lead you to the same results? Is there a better way to achieve your goals?
Stage 5: economics and obstacles. What is the project financing strategy? How important is it compared to other projects? What resources do you need? What obstacles will you face?
Stage 6: plan of attack. Examine the list of units of work and determine what should be done first. Put the letter A at this point. In the same way, place B, C, etc. Then find out what can be done simultaneously with points A, B, etc. So you will make a project schedule.
Stage 7: assumptions and risks. What difficulties may be encountered in performing each task? How can you reduce risks or find workarounds?
Stage 8: key success indicators. Identify the 3-4 most important stakeholders and ask: “What is the most likely outcome to satisfy them?” These will be the indicators of project success. Decide how to measure each one after the project.
You can (and should) work on the project further to clarify the work plan, but in just an hour you will be able to draw up an entirely decent offensive plan: identify interested parties, define goals and determine project results.
Do not complicate
Project plans can become cumbersome very quickly, especially when it comes to the opinions of stakeholders and sponsors. In order not to make matters even harder, we suggest you start with five questions that will create the foundation and give depth to the details of the plan.
- What for? What are the main benefits of this project for business?
- What? What is included in the scope of the project?
- Who? What are the leading roles required for the “What” clause?
- When? When is it necessary to complete the “What” clause to get the “Why”?
- Where? Where is best to do the job? Where can “What” be used by customers and end users?
Only after you finish answering these questions, you can proceed to the answers to the question "How?".
Best practices of project management planning
As you can see, there are different approaches to creating a project plan. There is no right way, but there is one technique with which all experienced managers agree: before embarking on a job, clarify the main goals of the project with the interested persons.
Another tip: before you start, hold an organizational meeting. Take the opportunity to explain to the team the goals of the project, the role, and areas of responsibility, set standards for successful work and choose a methodology and tools for project management.
One last thing: fix everything. Project progress notes will help you analyze your work and make smarter decisions.
Main components of the project management plan
What should be included in the project management plan? The carefully crafted project plan consists of the following elements:
- Concept: answers to “what?” and “why?”. It is brief information about the design, goals and final results of the project.
- Implementation strategy: Answers to “how?” Related to the project. What technique will you use? Will the result be issued at one time or in several stages?
- The scope of work: what is included (and not involved) in your project? Describe here the hierarchical structure of the work and the main results.
- Schedule: depending on how clearly your project is described, this can be either a general plan for the implementation of individual tasks or a detailed Gantt chart indicating milestones and deadlines for their completion.
- Organizational structure: an overview of the hierarchy of the project team, roles and areas of responsibility. If several teams or divisions take part in the work on a project, it is necessary to indicate how these teams will work with each other, who should be considered as interested persons and who is responsible for achieving each result.
It may seem like a tremendous amount of information, but remember that this is only a sample of a project management plan. A good program will not necessarily include all these elements.
As successful managers point out, “An overly detailed plan will not make you smarter or more organized. The longer it is, the greater the chance that no one but you can finish reading it to the end.” A simple project plan that is convenient to follow is the best option.