Whether you’re an experienced project manager or just starting out, project planning is essential to a successful project. It’s when you determine the scope of a project, create a timeline, set milestones, and assess risks. It’s also the time to identify a clear project leader and communicate with key stakeholders, as well as establish a schedule for meetings and updates. Having a plan in place helps you avoid surprises and prevents your project from becoming a disaster.
Project managers are in high demand, as evidenced by a quick search on LinkedIn for “project management jobs.” In fact, the project economy is expected to be worth over $100 billion by 2020, according to Forbes. That’s a lot of work that needs to be done, which is why project planning is so important.
It’s also the best time to discuss the project structure and workflow, which can affect a team’s approach (e.g., waterfall or agile). The choice of a project structure can impact your plan’s duration and how deliverables are prioritized. It can also have a big effect on your project’s budget, since different methodologies have varying requirements for documentation and approvals.
Once you’ve determined the scope of a project and decided how to organize it, you’ll need to determine what work will be completed by whom and when. This is the start of creating a timeline, which includes all deliverables, meeting dates, and milestones. You’ll also need to set a budget and identify which team members are responsible for what tasks.
To prevent scope creep, which is when a project’s requirements continue to expand throughout the project lifecycle, it’s important to set clear expectations in the beginning with a clearly defined project charter and scoping document. It’s also a good idea to have a discussion about what constitutes an approved request, so you can avoid any misunderstandings later on.
The next step is to determine which resources are necessary, as well as what level of expertise they require. Then you can create a subplan that defines which materials are needed for each task, a plan to procure those resources and a way to track them throughout the project’s execution.
Finally, you’ll need to assign people to each task and determine a start date for the work. It’s a good idea to have each team member contribute to the plan so they’re invested in its success. This also gives you the chance to get a feel for each person’s working style, which can be an important factor in the overall success of a project.
Make sure your project plan is accessible to all stakeholders by housing it in a collaboration tool like Wrike, where you can easily share updates without filling everyone’s calendar with meetings. As the project progresses, make sure to reevaluate your original plan and modify it as needed. It’s also helpful to conduct a post-project evaluation so you can learn from the experience and improve for next time.