Published on November 15, 2019
Read time 7 minutes
Project Management Basics: 6 Steps to a Fail-Safe Project Plan
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Nowadays, the organizational culture is a hectic circus that can’t really progress along without finished and well-thought-out plans to carry out activities, no matter how big or minutely small they are.
All of this is because of the wind shifting in the marketing departments. Meaning? If you want something to work, whether in-house or outside the company, plan it out and go to town on it. But for that, the first thing you have to do is devise a Project Plan. This is the foundation of project management basics.
What is Project Planning?
To Plan for a project in the industry right now is a necessary process. It is the most important first step that is endorsed by every expert in the game. Project planning is the ultimate procedure to establish the scope and nailing down the objectives necessary to achieve the end goal.
Its importance cannot be more emphasized than this, that the output of this whole shebang is a project management plan and if you’re familiar with management principles, then you would know how important that is and if you don’t then let us tell you.
What is a Project Plan?
A Project Plan or a Project Management Plan is a very thorough documentation that contains all of the details like the project scope and objectives that are needed to achieve the goal. This plan is represented as a Gantt chart which makes it easier to communicate to the stakeholders.
Why do you need a Project Plan?
The Project Plan is a vital part of a project because planning for a project is literally the first step in achieving the goal. It’s always the first step that has to be completed in order to gain approval and then the resources are showered to get the output that the company wants.
Properly planning for anything is very beneficial in any scenario because it lets you save vital time when you are in the developmental phase. A good plan has a lot of elements attached to it.
For example, you can have all of the data regarding the dates on which your resources will be available so that you’re not surprised when they don’t show up one day.
You also won’t have to worry every day about paying invoices or some other financial transactions because you would have planned a process that will take care of all of these things at the end of every month or any custom payment cycle you set for your company.
Also, you won’t be surprised when the final outcome is a bit off script because you would have planned different output scenarios which would help you and your team to get back on track.
Planning effectively streamlines the actual process of development.
What is the duration of the project planning process?
Well, there is never a defined duration for a project planning process because it obviously would take a long time to build a city than an app. The duration depends on the size of the projects.
The most common and effective way to estimate the duration of planning a project is to study similar projects to yours. Find out how long it took that plan to be formed. This won’t give you an exact answer but still, you would get an accurate estimate for your project.
If you want a more accurate answer, then you should probably talk to the manager of those other similar projects and they’ll let you know if that length of time was enough or not.
Without further ado, let us proceed to the actual steps that are needed in forming a Foolproof Project Plan.
Steps to a Fail-safe Project Plan
1. Identify and Meet with Stakeholders
A stakeholder can be any individual or company that is prone to be affected by the outcome of your project plan. So that makes your customers and end-users stakeholders also. It is your job to keep their considerations and interests in the loop when you are creating your project plan.
You should meet and communicate with the project sponsors and the key stakeholders. This meeting will help you to discuss their expectations, establish baselines for timeline, project scope, and budget.
When all of this is done, you can create a scope statement that is a finalized document to record project scope details that effectively helps to bring all of the concerned parties on the same page. This will also reduce the chances of miscommunication that can be very costly in the developmental phase.
2. Set & Prioritize Goals
Once you complete the first step of collecting knowledge about what the stakeholder actually wants, go ahead and prioritize them and set accurate project goals for you and your team. These goals should effectively outline all project objectives that you need to finish in order to obtain your goal.
You should keep the language that you use in this writeup to be exact and not too technical so that it’s easily communicable and shareable to all of the interested parties without raising any problems.
3. Define Deliverables
The next step is to identify the deliverables for your project and the planning steps for your project that are required to achieve the project goals. Also, you should identify the specific outputs that the project is expected to produce.
Also, you should estimate the due dates for each individual deliverable milestone in your project plan.
4. Create the Project Schedule
The project schedule is another thing that is very important in the whole project planning process. You will have to look at each deliverable and specify all of the tasks that are needed to be done to accomplish every one of them.
For each task, you should properly define the duration that it will take, the resources that are actually necessary to complete it and who are the required team members that will be best suited for the project execution.
Next, you need to identify any and every dependency related to your project. Are there any tasks that have to be completed first so that the other tasks can begin? You need to enter your dependencies, milestones, and deliverables to your Gantt chart or if you want a pre-prepared solution then lookup for templates and apps online which can help you in this.
You also need to understand how you can write a project management report that is needed for a summary review of the current status of your project.
5. Identify Issues and Complete a Risk Assessment
If you have been in the game for a long time then you would know that no project is risk-free and you always have to have different emergency scenarios, if your original one doesn’t pan out. You can’t rely on “crossing your fingers and hoping for the best”, you need to have plans for every risk.
Are there any hidden or expected issues that can affect the project planning process? These issues can be like a team member’s vacation or some other upcoming public holiday which can stall productivity.
You need to identify clearly what these issues are but first, you should properly assess the incident to check if it actually is a risk to the project or not.
Keep in mind that when you are in the development process of a project plan, you should know how to manage the risks attached to the project and consider all of the steps that can be useful in preventing or tackling down the risks from happening.
Conduct a proper risk assessment and develop a strategy to really make sure that you are prepared to take down any and every negative element coming to harm your project.
6. Present the Project Plan to Stakeholders
When all of the above steps are completed, you would have an incredible project plan to boast in-front of your stakeholders. In this meeting, you can explain to them how you have taken their input into consideration and how you have embedded it into the plan.
You can also present all of the solutions to any conflicts that may have arisen between the team or the stakeholders about something. And for this to happen, you really need to have an open discussion and not just one-sided opinions flying around in the room.
The next step is to assign the roles to your stakeholders. Who needs to be presented with what report and how often do they really need to see it? Which decisions will be approved by whom?
You need to make sure that your project plan is crystal clear and void of any confusion. Also, you need to make it accessible for everyone so that they don’t have to chase you down for minor updates.
You need to have all of the project plan data on display in a single room so that all of the concerned stakeholders and team and track progress, make edits and share updates without filling your calendar up with lots and lots of meetings.
So, all in all, a Project Plan is a vital element of the project development cycle and you really need to put extra effort into it so that you can avoid blunders and hurdles that haunt the land of the actual project development execution.
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