A project plan is the compass of a project; it sets the course and the direction of the project that team members must follow closely, regardless of the industry, type of project, or their level of expertise. Naturally, the better and the clearer the project plan, the better chance that the project will be executed successfully.
With this goal in mind, there are seven steps to creating a better project plan.
First, do your research well.
Start with taking a deep breath before reviewing all the documents and materials related to the project. Make sure you completely understand the scope of work and the details required. Write down the goals of the project, the sponsor’s and stakeholders’ expectations, the resources available, and other details in a special notebook. If possible leverage past project plans that have been of similar nature, scope and complexity.
Second, develop baselines and baseline management plans.
Include the information in the two components of a project plan: the project baselines and baseline management plans. The baselines are the measurements used to assess the entire project on whether or not it is on track. They include the scope, the schedule, and the cost baselines. The baseline management plans include information on how variances that occur in the execution process should be handled. In other words, they include what to do when things do not go as planned.
Third, create a detailed WBS.
Create the WBS (work breakdown structure) of tasks, estimate how long each single task would require to be completed, estimate the cost of each task, and develop a schedule comprising of all the tasks involved in the project.
Fourth, identify key stakeholders who are required to approve the project.
Certain stakeholders will approve certain parts of the plan, except the sponsor who will need to review and endorse the project in entirety. Take note of stakeholders who are responsible for approving parts of the project, such as business experts, project managers, quality and risk analysts, and others.
Fifth, develop the staffing plan.
The staffing plan includes a chart showing time periods and the incoming and the outgoing resources, such as freelancers and independent contractors hired for parts of the project. To be accurate, this plan must be based on detailed WBS. Moreover, if there are resources that must remain in the project from the beginning to the end, the information must also be included.
Sixth, ensure project quality.
Develop a project quality plan to ensure deliverables that meet the sponsor’s expectations and what the customers would use. The plan should emphasize methods to prevent and eliminate errors, rather than merely supervising and inspecting the project. It also includes the level of quality being aimed at throughout the project. For this, the quality plan should include the standards and metrics used in the project.
Seventh, assess risks.
A risk is an incident that may or many not occur. However, if it does occur, it would affect the project to an extent, which can range from insignificant to extremely significant. Thus, it is recommended to assess the impact of the risks involved to better prepare the team and stakeholders if they do occur. The higher the risk, the better prepared the team must be, which must be written down in a risk management document.
Overall, developing a project plan requires careful and meticulous considerations and record-keeping. The project manager must have a comprehensive understanding of the project details, present them in a well-developed project plan, and ensure that the execution of the project is facilitated and communication properly.