What Is Planning in Project Management?
You may have a great idea for a project, but without planning, your project will remain just that — an idea. Planning is the critical step to take a project from an intangible theory to a tangible result.
What does project planning entail?
To bring a project to fruition, the project manager will need to assemble a project plan. The project plan describes the cost, scope, and schedule for the project. It lays out exactly what activities and tasks will be required, as well as the resources needed, from personnel to equipment to financing, and where they can be acquired. Good project planning also factors in risk and how to manage it, including contingency plans, and details a communication strategy to keep all stakeholders up to date and on board.
Project planning and management
Planning the project typically involves the following steps:
- Initiation: This step typically occurs before the project is greenlit. It usually involves putting together a business case document that explains the need for the project, followed by a feasibility study to determine the viability of the project in terms of its cost and projected benefits.
- Stakeholder involvement: Identify your project sponsors and key stakeholders. To ensure the success of the project, meet with them to discuss their needs and expectations. Map out the project scope, budget, and timeline with them, and make sure to get their complete buy-in.
- Prioritizing goals: A project — and a team — can only do so much. Prioritize your goals to make fulfilling them clearer and easier.
- Identifying deliverables: What are the specific deliverables that you and your team are expected to produce? You’ll need to know exactly what is expected of you, as well as when (i.e., the deadlines for each output). You’ll also want to define what success looks like for each deliverable and develop metrics to track and rank each one.
- Scheduling: Using the information in the previous step, you’ll need to map out the project's timeline.
- Developing a project plan: As previously described, a project plan lays out the steps needed to bring the project to fruition. It includes all the activities and tasks required in the appropriate order and workflow. The project plan will draw from all the previous steps.
- Bake in contingency plans: No project is without hiccups. Make sure you plan for any bumps in the road by assessing the risks associated with your project and putting plans in place to address them.
Once the project has been mapped out, it will need to be presented to the stakeholders, edited if necessary, and then managed. Project plan management includes troubleshooting when issues arise, keeping the project on schedule, and moderating the budget.
- Convergent Thinking vs. Divergent Thinking: Why Planning Isn’t Always the Right Thing to Do
- Project Management Basics: 6 Steps to a Foolproof Project Plan
- 5 Most-Common Mistakes in Managing Multiple Projects: Project Planning
- How 5 PM Experts Create a Fail-Safe Project Management Plan