As an essential element of project management, project planning involves the development of action and planning elements that will allow the project to move forward in a coherent manner. If executed correctly, it will also include target dates for completion of each action item, allowing you to move forward with other pending items in an orderly manner.
Project planning will focus on identifying and organizing the individual tasks necessary to complete each stage of the project using the resources identified in the planning.
Let’s learn more about this concept and how it helps organizations meet all their goals.
What is project planning?
In project management, planning is an essential step for project success. In short, it is about identifying the tasks that need to be carried out, prioritizing them, defining their duration and deadline and assigning resources to them. The goal is to establish the project schedule.
Project planning forces you to consider all aspects of your project and think about the different stages. It is a delicate phase that largely depends on the complexity of the project for which you are responsible.
If the project is made up of interdependent tasks or if multiple people are assigned to multiple tasks, planning can become a real headache.
Steps for planning successful projects
Planning is a process in itself. Each task must have a start and end date to ensure that the project is completed on time. It is also important to know the availability of each member of your team to avoid delays.
To plan successfully, you must ask yourself three essential questions:
- What are the tasks to be performed?
- How long will it take?
- Who has to do these tasks?
Here are the steps to properly plan your project:
1. Understand the objective, scope and results of the project
The project objectives should be clear and precise for you and your team. This may seem obvious, but if you don’t know what the goal of your project is, you can jeopardize its success. You have to be committed, motivated and believe in the project.
It is also important to know the scope of the project and the different deliverables. To do this, you can establish indicators for project evaluation.
2. Define the project tasks
Project planning involves defining all the tasks you will need to do to complete your project. The task should be divided into smaller ones, which will be easier to understand and carry out.
For this step you can use a work breakdown structure (WBS). This tool helps you visually break down and prioritize the different levels and tasks of the project.
3. Estimate the duration of each task
Now you must determine the time (hours/days/weeks) and effort required to complete each task. This step is crucial to define the total duration of the project.
For the budget to be as accurate as possible, it is essential that all people involved in the project participate, and they must be able to give the necessary time to complete the tasks. For example, an architect can estimate the approximate time it will take to draw up plans for a building.
4. Order the tasks
This step of project planning consists of establishing the order in which the tasks should be carried out and the links between each of them. While some tasks can be performed in parallel, others depend on the start or completion of another task. These are the so-called dependencies between tasks in a project.
5. Assign resources to each task
Who does what in your project? Now that you know all the tasks that need to be done, the duration, the order of completion and their dependence on each other, it is time to allocate resources.
The term resources refers to your team, but also external contractors, suppliers, etc. In short, to all the people who will participate in the project. In short, all the people who will work on your project throughout its duration or occasionally.
Be careful, during this stage it is essential to take into account the different limitations to which your resources are subject. For example, if they are involved in another project at the same time, if they have vacations, if they work part-time, etc.
6. Build your agenda
This is the last stage of project planning: creating a schedule. It is in this phase when you must take into account the vacations of your staff and the occasional interventions of the different service providers.
Your schedule should be as realistic as possible. Avoid deadlines that are too tight or, on the contrary, too long. Keep in mind that your schedule is not fixed and will change over the course of the project. In fact, unforeseen events may arise, some tasks will take longer than expected and others will be completed more quickly.
7. Use a project management tool
There are methods for project management that make it easier for you to manage, the workload of your collaborators, keep a calendar and control delivery times.
Remember that you can use dashboards to manage projects and track their compliance. Without a doubt, it is an excellent tool to give visibility to what is happening with each of the tasks, in real time.
Project planning success is as much about resources, stakeholders, charters, and documentation as it is about all the other project factors that must work in harmony to ensure its success.
Good planning practices require evaluating project performance and making constant adjustments to the plan to reflect the true direction of the project as a whole.