Planning in Project Management
Project planning, a two-word phrase that spans everything from doing “it in your head” to complex gantt and mind map plans. With, all that variability, there’s a lot consistency as well, including the fact that project plans can get stale and out-of-date quickly after inception. So, here’s a quick blog on project planning and the two key questions that I’ve found consistently improve your results, regardless of how you approach project plan. Let me know what you think.
Two questions that improve any project planning effort.
1.The first question is simply this: “How much face validity does the plan have, to you, to other, in representing the key steps needed to reach the outcome?” This question is generally applicable, but creates the most value when heading into uncharted areas, creating innovation, etc.
Face validity is the impression you get while looking at a plan, that it addresses the needed steps. Face validity is outcome based and the plan looks like it will realistically get you to the outcome. You might be surprised at how many people get lost when creating a plan, want to make sure they include everything and lose the focus on “what’s the outcome” and “are we doing what’s needed to get us there.” There really is no other basis for plan validity. It’s what separates forms and lists from a real plan.
2. Here’s the second question: “Is it (the plan) working?” That conveys two things, which can be very difficult to get. It conveys that you keep the plan open to adjustments, that means reshaping the plan based on what happens mid-stream.
It also conveys that you’re getting data, updates, results, feedback in a timely manner that lets you respond to that question based upon current data nothing else. Most people mistakenly believe that project planning is limited to the first part of a project. Like there’s some point at which you finish the plan, and then you just execute it from there. We can say that’s a big mistake, at least it sure is on most of my projects.
If you don’t update the plan, it quickly becomes outdated and marginalized, or drags the entire project management process down because efforts are aligned with an outdated plan that doesn’t reflect current realities well. What if project planning keeps going until the project is complete and you’ve done your “lessons learned” review? For me, project planning starts with a definition of outcomes, schedule and resources, but continues throughout the life cycle of the project with a continual reference to that key question – Is the plan working?
How project management software is beneficial in project planning?
The Project Planning is one of the important elements in project management, which records and tracks the various entities of a project, such as the schedule, cost and effort. We can integrate it with various other modules to provide a complete solution for all the aspects of project management. Tasks can be created and scheduled hierarchically and assigned to team members. Bidirectional integration of PM software with their existing software allows managers to import and export their task information, in addition to their event and task information.
Managers can baseline project plan for tracking schedules and milestones using task history and baseline reports. Project management is divided into four basic classifications: Tasks, Modules, Life-cycle Stages, and Versions.
Versions can be created either in the Project Plan module or from the Administration module, under the Project work space. Versions are integrated with Bug Tracker and Issue Tracker, two other modules.
Modules and Life-cycle stages are classifications within a project version. Modules are different components or units of a project, while life-cycle stages are different phases of a project life-cycle, such as the requirement analysis phase, the design phase, the project implementation phase, and so on.
Tasks can be linked to a module as well as a life-cycle stage. The project activities are broken down into smaller tasks thus creating a work breakdown structure (WBS), and this helps in allocating work to the various people involved in the project and planning the project activities in an organized way. Each task can be associated with the cost of the task, estimated and actual, and the start and the end dates of the task. Key Task Scheduling and Project Tracking Capabilities provided by a good project management software are:
- Automatic Task Creation through Opportunity Management System
- Automatic Task Creation through Change Request application
- Provision for creation of multiple Baselines for Project Plan
- Flexibility to specify percentage allocation of resources
- Configurable Rules for flagging tasks based on estimated effort, duration, and deadline.
- Extensive Reporting Capabilities with ability to create Custom Reports
- In-depth analysis of project cost, revenues, resource utilization, project quality and profitability
- Integration with existing systems
Project planning is mistakenly thought of as a phase at the front end of projects. It goes throughout the life cycle of the project and is best shaped by two ongoing questions:
- Does the plan have validity, does it make sense, will what’s included, what’s focused upon, clearly get us to the outcome?
- Is the plan working, have you checked, based upon what data? Separate yourself from the crowd – keep it real and keep it current.
Project management software plays an important role in project planning by effectively managing, tracking projects and improving project profitability. Helping you regulate processes and workflows leading to optimal resource utilization, project risks along with enhanced productivity.