Before considering how to plan a project, we should decide why we are planning and what information the plan should address.
The project plan should be designed in such a way that the project outcome also meets the objectives of the parent organization, as reflected by the project portfolio or other strategic selection process used to approve the project.
A good plan should further include allowances for risk and features that allow it to be adaptive or be responsive to emerging events that might disrupt it while being implemented.
Finally, the plan should include any constraints on activities and input materials prescribed by law and society.
The purpose of project planning is to facilitate a formidable direction to project start to successful accomplishment. It is a complicated process to manage a project, and plans act as a road map of this process. The road map should have sufficient detail to determine what must be done next but simple enough that project staff are not lost in a welter of minutiae.
The more time you spend planning, the less time you need to spend on implementation. Plans are only good intentions if degenerated into hard work.
The process of developing project plans varies from one parent organization to another, but any project plan must contain the following basic and core elements:
- Overview of the plan. This is a short summary of the objectives and scope of the project, together with the lists of the significant events in the proposed project. It also addresses the expected benefits or profitability and probable technical hitches. It is typically directed to the top management and contains a statement of the goals of a project, a brief explanation of their relationship to the parent organization’s objectives, a description of the managerial structure that will be used for the project and a list of the major milestones in the project schedule.
- Objectives or Scope. This contains a more detailed statement of the general goals or project deliverables and outcomes noted in the overview for the purpose of communicating to project team members and other stakeholders to make decisions that are consistent with the proposed project expectations. Such statement should include profit and competitive aims as well as technical goals.
- General Project Approach. It describes the managerial and the technical approaches to the project work, including plans that go beyond the parent organizational standard management practices. The technical discussion describes the relationship of the project to available technologies. If consultants and sub-contractors are to be engaged without special approval, it should be clearly made known in advance.
- Performance plan. It includes a complete list and description of all reporting requirements, customer-supplied resources, liaison requirements, advisory committees, project review and cancellation procedures, propriety requirements, technical deliverables and their respective specifications, drawings, special instructions, lead times or delivery schedules, incentives for exemplary performance, penalties for non-compliance, specific procedures for making changes in project contractual obligations, payment modalities and any other specific management agreements.
- Payment modalities. The conditions that must be met before any payment is made should be clearly specified.
- Quality management practices. Safe-fail tests required to ensure right and consistent quality levels should be clearly specified.
- Warranties and guarantees. Performance commitment required to assure and re-assure competent implementation of the project activities should be clearly specified.
- Schedules. It outlines various schedules and lists of all milestone events. Each task is listed and the respective estimated time apportioned to it including specific staff responsible for each of such tasks are identified.
- Human Resources. It lists the expected staff technical competences including special skills, types capacity building required, possible recruitment challenges, legal or policy restrictions on work force composition, security clearances, confidentiality protection, protection of intellectual property rights. It is helpful to time-phase personnel needs to the project schedule.
- Financial and Other Resources. Details of both capital and expense requirements are provided. One-off budgets are separated from recurring project costs. Cost monitoring and control procedures should also be provided adequately. Special resource requirements for the project such as special machines, special equipment and other special physical and non-physical facilities should be fully covered.
- Total project cost. Specific cost breakdowns for all the project activities required to implement the project competently should be clearly indicated.
- Risk Management Plans. Potential problems that commonly strike projects similar to the one being undertaken as well as potential lucky breaks that could affect the project are analyzed and substantially covered. Mitigation plans to deal with such problems and breaks should be developed early enough in the project’s life. Improving project plan is a more effective risk management approach than using the actual risk management tools.
- Staff obligations. The responsibilities, roles and duties of project management team member involved in the implementation activities should be clearly specified and counter-signed by each individual staff.
- Evaluation methods. Each and every project should be evaluated against standards and by methods established at the project’s inception, allowing for both the direct and ancillary goals of the project. A brief description of the procedure to be followed in monitoring, collecting, storing and evaluating the history of the project should be developed.
- Change control. These are the procedures for reviewing and making decisions about requests for changes to any aspect of the project plan.
- Documentation. List of all the records and documents to be produced and how they will be organized and maintained is prepared.
- Implementation. Discussion and guidelines showing how the client will convert to or adopt the results of the project are prepared.
- Economic justification. Summary of alternatives in meeting project objectives clearly showing trade-offs between costs and schedules is prepared.
- Testing. Listing of things to be tested including procedures, timing and specific staff responsible for each.