How to plan your project
Your manager has just asked you to project manage the office move. Where do you start? Who should you involve? This may seem like a daunting task, but with careful planning, everything will fall into place.
Often managers fail to plan projects and would prefer to just get on with it. However, what many managers fail to realise is that having a robust project plan will save time, money and many other problems!
The first step is to identify your project goals. However, in order to do this, you must also identify the projects’ stakeholders. These are anyone who has an interest in the project, or might be influenced by the project or indeed, could influence the project. Having identified your stakeholders, you need to find out their needs and the best way to do this is to talk to them. Try to get as much detail as possible. They may have a hidden agenda and it is key for you to try and draw this out if you want your project to succeed!
Having identified the stakeholders needs, the next step is to prioritise them. From this list you can create a set of SMART goals. Once the goals have been established, ensure that these are recorded in the project plan. Believe it or not, this is the most difficult stage of the planning process but having completed this stage, we can now move on to the project deliverables.
Having identified the goals of the project we can now create a list of the things that need to be delivered by the project (project deliverables). It is also important to specify when and how each item on the list will be delivered. Once the deliverables have been identified, these and the estimated delivery dates, can be added to the project plan.
The next step is to produce the project schedule. Start by creating a list of all the tasks that need to be carried out for each deliverable identified in the previous step and then for each task it is necessary to determine the number of hours or days required to complete the task and the resources required to carry out the task (people, machinery, equipment etc).
Having established how much effort each task will take, you can calculate the total effort required for each deliverable and determine an accurate delivery date. You can then update your project plan with the more accurate delivery dates.
It is often at this stage that we discover that our client or sponsor, has imposed a delivery date that cannot be met. Going back to our example of the office move, we may have found that this can only be completed within a 6 week deadline, but our manager wanted it completed within 4 weeks. It is at this stage that we would have to inform our manager that their deadline is not realistic based on our estimates.
If you discover this to be the case for your project, your priority must be to inform your sponsor immediately. Don’t panic though; there are options to deal with this situation:
- You could renegotiate the deadline although this will delay the project
- Additional resources could be employed at an increased cost
- The scope of the project could be reduced (meaning less will be delivered)
Your sponsor may not agree that the original deadline cannot be met. This is where you would use the project schedule to support your estimates and to put forward the case for pursuing one of the options above.
The next step is to consider what other supporting plans you should produce for your project.
A human resource plan identifying the names of any individuals who may have a leading role in the project. Their roles roles and responsibilities on the project should be clearly described. Then, state the number and type of people needed to carry out the project. include start dates, the estimated duration they will be required and how they will be recruited.
A communications plan should be produced detailing who should be kept informed about the project and how the information will be communicated to everyone on the plan. This could be in the form of a weekly report, describing how the project is performing, if any milestones have been achieved and details of work planned for the next period.
A risk management plan is in my view, a critical element of managing a project. Many projects fail because the project manager has failed to identify the risk involved in their project. Therefore, it is important to identify as many risks to your project as possible so that you can take the necessary precautions if something was to go wrong.
You can keep track of the risks you have identified using a risk log. Add each risk you have identified to the log, note what will happen in the event of it occurring, and what will be done to prevent it from happening. It is important to review the risk log on a regular basis as new risks can arise after the project has started. Just add the new risks as they occur during the life of the project.
If you follow these steps, this should help you to produce an effective project plan. It is important to continually measure progress against the plan and remember to update your plan as the project progresses.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article and would like to find out more, why not join us on our 3-day Project Management Workshop which covers this and many other related topics?
For more information contact Marie O’Donnell at Marie@professional-futures.com.
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