To be a successful at project planning, you need to be able to deliver quality work while balancing a budget and sticking to a deadline. This can be a tricky process even for simple projects, which is why advance planning and organization are essential.
The tips below can help you accomplish your project planning goals and set you up for ongoing success in the field.
Clients generally know what they want in terms of project deliverables, but don’t ponder the minute details- that’s what a project planner is for!
The scope of your project defines more than the desired outcome. It also determines and documents specific goals, deliverables, tasks, deadlines, costs, and other key elements, leaving you with a blueprint for the entire endeavor from start to finish.
For example: You are planning a project to build a new commercial structure in your city’s downtown. This involves:
All of these steps are part of the scope. They also have a logical sequence, with most stages depending on the successful completion of the ones before them. When you confirm what needs to be accomplished and when, you can maximize the allocated resources, time, and budget needed to accomplish all deliverables and prevent the project from being taken off track, a frustrating phenomenon known as ‘scope creep.’
Another important project planning step is to create and implement a detailed and realistic schedule. When you finalized the scope you defined the necessary steps: the schedule is where you estimate and document how much time each one will take.
To create a workable schedule, you need to:
Project resources are the elements needed to complete all deliverables. They include:
Planning so that you have them when and where you need them is another important factor in staying on schedule and within budget. For example, If the limestone you need for the exterior of the commercial building is on back order and the supplier is unsure exactly when it will come in, don’t take any chances. Review alternative materials with the client.
A project risk is any occurrence that:
An example in a construction context might be your concrete supplier miscalculating and quoting the wrong price for material needed to pour the foundation. When they run the numbers again, your cost suddenly goes up by hundreds of dollars. All it takes is a few incidents like this one and suddenly your project is substantially over budget.
With project planning, the secret is to be proactive, not reactive. Instead of dealing with problems as they arise (which guarantees that your project will be over budget and overdue), you should plan for risk so that the project has the best chance of maintaining its trajectory and finishing both on time and on budget.
Prepare for these uncertainties by talking to your team and colleagues to identify common risks associated with this type of project and developing a plan to deal with them. While it may not be possible to prevent them from happening at all, proper planning enables you to minimize the negative effects if they do occur.
Many project planners do their work using a Google doc or Excel spreadsheet. While this approach makes it easier to organize information, you still have to enter everything by hand and getting a convenient project overview is practically impossible. The right project planning software will not only deliver project status at a glance: it will also manage the more routine tasks for you so that you can concentrate on the areas that require your expertise or immediate attention.
A tool like Teamweek, for example, uses brightly colored Gantt chart layouts that make it easy to monitor progress and keep track of milestones that require collaboration with different team members. You can also store all project documents and deliverables in one place, preventing important assets from being lost in the dreaded ‘email void’.
Other benefits include:
If you’re new to Teamweek, there is a sample project plan available on the product website that you can use to familiarize yourself with the environment and functionality. Teamweek is powerful but so easy to use that you’ll be a master at it in no time!
When your project concludes, it’s time to carry out a critical review of the project plan. What stages went well and which ones fell short of your expectations? Document the strategies that worked and take a critical look at the ones that didn’t. The information you collect will be invaluable when you plan your next project.