Why is planning crucial to the success of projects? We consider a project plan as a map of sorts to show us how to get from the first phase of the project all the way through to the finished product in a timely, successful manner. Project managers (PMs) should never rush through these plans, as they will miss valuable details that could cause delays and other issues to occur with projects. Poor planning often results in conflict among the members of project teams since they may not understand what their role is in the project completion. How can PMs avoid issues in their planning process? Let’s cover what project planning should include no matter the type or size of the PM’s project.

Stakeholders Engagement

Clarifying the project to all stakeholders is considered a unifying force for all new and complex projects according to Angela Lecomber, the author of “Planning for New and Complex Projects“, which was published by The Project Manager. This ensures that the stakeholders all have the same vision of the outcome of the project. Project managers for this reason must reach out to all stakeholders to be certain they understand the project’s objectives along with its outputs. The PMs also need to ensure that all stakeholders agree to the outputs of the project.

Benefits Mapping

Benefits mapping looks beyond the outcome and outputs of a project. It states how the project will improve the company after the completion of the project. In many cases, these benefits last for many years.

Scope of the Project

The scope of the project is an important first step in the actual project plan according to the PMBOK. It provides an overall view of the project, including the specific goals, tasks, deliverables and expected deadlines along the way and at the end. The scope is a summary of things to come.

Activities to Execute the Plan

Activities will be the tasks that the teams must perform to complete the project. All of these are dependent on what type of project the PM is planning. Each project is unique and this means that all activities could be different in each project. An activity could be as simple as connect part A to part B or could be quite complex in nature. A PM needs to state clearly each activity.

Project Resources

The project resource section of the plan needs to detail all materials that the project team requires to accomplish its tasks. However, people also are resources. The PMs need to include how many team members it will take to complete the project on top of all the materials it will take. They should also chart out how many outsourced or outside independent consultants and contractors will be necessary. The resource section of the plan also should clearly define each team member’s individual role. In this manner, a PM qualifies his need for each person that he states is needed for the project.

Project Schedule

A project schedule will provide a deadline for each part of the project in case the entire project is not to be completed at one time. Many times, teams complete projects in a series of phases instead of from start to finish in a singular phase. Scheduling in this manner clarifies the goals for the team members and allows them to work more efficiently. Each phase also may have a specific duration of time in which the team needs to complete certain tasks. PMs should not expect this schedule to proceed smoothly at all times. Interruptions will happen and they will need to change the plan when necessary. However, without a schedule they will proceed through projects as haphazard as a boat without a rudder.

Quality Assurance for the Project

What is quality assurance? It sets forth guidelines to ensure the quality of the project, as per the expectations of the stakeholders. The quality assurance part of the plan will include company or industry standards along with are desired specifications. Basically, this is a prevention strategy to ward off negative issues that could otherwise affect the overall quality of the projects. PMs need to refer to this section of the plan often during the work on the project.

Risk Analysis of the Project

Risk analysis identifies and quantifies the various risks that could negatively affect the project. An analysis such as this could include anything from schedule delays to budget overruns with many issues in between. The purpose of this section of the overall project plan is to develop strategies to overcome the risks if they actually occur.

Cost Worksheet for the Project

The stakeholders or company executives will most likely set the overall budget for the project for the PMs. The PMs, though, may want to include a cost worksheet in their plans on top of the overall budget figures, as this could allow them to track and control the cost of the project efficiently. The worksheet could include the budget figures, management reserves, contingency reserves and the planned allotment of the funds.

How Long Does It Take to Devise Plans?

How long it takes to draw up the plans for a particular project depends on the complexity and size of the overall project. A PM may be able to jot down his plans for a simple project in a matter of minutes or a few hours. However, it could take weeks to devise effective plans for complex, lengthy projects. Project managers need to spend time ensuring that their plans include all the above ideas and anything else that needs to be included.

Is your company’s PMs planning effectively enough for each project they oversee? Do you see where they can improve their planning? Enact appropriate measures today to ensure that all your project managers understand the importance of in-depth project planning.