With tough business environment demanding faster execution and turnaround, organizations are taking short-cuts for planning and monitoring the projects. While these might reduce planning time, they might introduce the elements which could increase project efforts and thereby the costs. Project plans could be simple but they need to be at an appropriate level of detail. Project professionals and business leaders would be better off if they could consider ten easy-to-implement steps to ensure rigorous planning and subsequently successful execution and value delivery.
1. Be sure that the project team members are committed and are available from the start the project till successful closure and value delivery. More often than not, when the project team is prepared for the challenge, goals, and objectives of the project would be more likely to be achieved.
2. Always define the scope of the project by ensuring that it is understood consistently by all stakeholders. In project WBS, map all the scope/deliverables to the respective summary task/milestones along with ownership assignment to team members.
3. Enter effort estimates and tasks durations by specifying the estimated time to complete the tasks. The effort is defined as a number of hours needed to accomplish the task. Duration is usually expressed in days for the completion of a deliverable. For example, if a deliverable takes 24 hours of effort assuming a single resource, then the duration would be three days. If the same 24 hours of effort could be completed by three resources working together, then the duration would be one day.
4. Prepare initial project schedule and enhance it by converting them into logically sequenced network diagrams. This would aid in arriving at the duration of the project, expected start and completion dates of tasks and milestones, and identify the critical path for the project.
5. Use project plans to show how, when, what and to whom the resources are intended. This again depends on the schedule and needs of the project. Once you understand the resources you need, you can add them to your project schedule and assign resources to a task. Estimated resource usage is important to identify both under-allocation or over-allocation of resources.
6. Review the initial plans together with all stakeholders to identify any risks/challenges in execution. Get the project plan approved by relevant stakeholders including project sponsors, resource managers, and functional managers to make sure that it is ready to move to the next phase.
7. Publish the plans for all the stakeholders in line with their roles and project needs. With the plan ready and effectively communicated, project would move to execution process rather smoothly.
8. Risk management and budget planning are very important. With budget (in terms of hours or/and monetary value) being added on the plan, actual expenditures/hours can be monitored well. Risk management is required to identify what may go wrong in the project along with possible response strategies.
9. Revisit your plan periodically to make updates based on any new information that you may have such as a scope change, a new risk or an issue. Keep in mind the project plan is a dynamic document. Once you have documented the plan and the project is underway, revisit the plan to track and monitor the work that has been completed.
10. Be sure to communicate constantly. Project execution will be better when everybody in the team is informed about the status based on their role and needs.
Successful projects need extra effort. It requires the careful planning, right tools, and good project management skills. The above steps ensure that the complete process is seamless and less stressful for all project stakeholders.