Have you ever heard this buzz phrase typically favored among motivational speakers, “People don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan!”? But, as many times as it’s been hauled out in front of audiences at seminars, TED talks, and rallies, it contains an underlying truth: a good plan increases the chances of success. So, a good project management plan will tip the odds towards a successful project, which could be a game changer for a business.
This article will tell you all you need to know to build excellent project management plans in the new year. We will also explore why it’s essential to have a project execution plan, how to ensure the plan succeeds, project planning tools and resources, managing an ongoing strategy, and other helpful information.
We begin by defining a project management plan.
What is a Project Management Plan?
A project management plan is usually a formal document that breaks down a project’s budget, cost baseline, schedule, timeline, and deliverables. The paper is generally approved by the client or project sponsor, although, depending on the organization, other key stakeholders or C-suite executives might also need to approve.
The project management plan, also called a PMP, spells out the strategy for how the project will be executed, monitored, managed, and closed. A realistic, well-laid-out project execution plan helps ensure the project will proceed smoothly and on schedule.
You can read more about project management plans here.
Why is a Project Plan Important?
The short answer? Project plans are necessary because it’s a valuable tool in helping guide teams, the project manager, stakeholders, and sponsors through the project phases.
The long answer? Shockingly, due to poor project planning, 11.4% of business investments go to waste. Project management plans break down larger projects into realistic, manageable, and easily trackable tasks, help build the right project team for the job, create a reasonable budget, and set a realistic schedule.
Here are five benefits of creating a good project execution plan.
1) It gives the team a workable baseline. After you have agreed on the project’s scope, timeline, and budget for your project in more detail and had these factors approved by the project’s sponsors, you can measure the project’s actual execution against the projected progress.
2) It aligns the project with expectations and prevents confusion. When you have a detailed project plan approved by all sides, everyone understands what’s expected and when it’s expected. There are no unpleasant surprises.
3) It prevents scope creep. Experts define scope creep as a situation where the project takes on added features, tasks, or deliverables that go beyond the project’s original parameters. Hence, these changes sneak or creep into the scope, and things begin to change, not for the better.
4) It makes it easier to manage resources. Breaking a project into manageable pieces gives you a clearer understanding of the needed resources to meet the milestones and deliverables.
5) It increases confidence in the project. People feel more at ease if they get the sense that you know what you’re doing. A solid project management plan shows stakeholders, management, and sponsors how the project’s various elements will come together. As your team meets each milestone, people can see the progress measured by the management plan.
Now that we’re aware of the importance of a solid project planning process, it’s time to dig a bit deeper into actual project planning.
Things to Know Before Writing a Project Plan
Before you commit your project management plan to writing, you must identify these five elements.
1) Project Baselines. Identify the project’s scope, cost, and schedule. Although the project’s charter should already include these factors, this is the stage where you go into more detail.
2) Project Dependencies. Or, in plainer language, what must happen before these other things happen? For instance, what must happen before you choose your team members?
3) Project Stakeholders. Identify the project’s stakeholders, including who needs to be informed of what and when.
4) Project Milestones. At this stage, you’re setting up the key markers of the project’s progress. These markers take the form of whatever milestones make sense to you. First, break the project down into manageable pieces, each with a clearly defined goal. This process improves teamwork and keeps everyone motivated since it shows you when each milestone has been achieved, which helps boost morale. Additionally, milestones serve as signposts for the project’s overall progress.
5) Project Responsibilities. Who does what?
So, let’s take that first step in creating our project execution plan.
How to Create a Project Management Plan: Example
If you look up “how to create a project management plan,” you will receive an assortment of “can’t miss” methods, outlines, and project management plan examples. Here’s a solid project management plan you can follow.
Gather the Project’s Requirements
This stage involves defining the issue, considering solutions, identifying the project’s objectives and goals to make it easy to implement those solutions, and planning out the methodology. Again, tools such as project planning templates and project planning software are available to help you better organize your thoughts.
Define the Project’s Scope
How big is this project? You’ve already established the issues and solutions and identified the needed objectives and goals. Now you need to specify the milestones and deliverables.
Create a Project Charter
The project charter is a formal, usually short, document that describes the entire project, including the objectives, how the project will be carried out, and the project’s stakeholders. Note that a project charter doesn’t go into detail. Instead, it’s a superficial glance at the entire project that puts everyone on the same page and helps project planners go into greater detail in the subsequent planning steps. Charters typically include:
1) Reasons for the project
2) Objectives and limitations of the project
3) The primary stakeholders
4) Identified risks
5) Project benefits
6) General budget overview
Build a Work Breakdown Structure
A work breakdown structure, also called a WBS, is a project management tool that aids managers in visualizing project deliverables using a hierarchy that relies on priorities and interdependencies. You can use a WBS template or project planning software to simplify assigning tasks, monitoring progress, and even tracking project expenditures. These resources aren’t mandatory but make the job considerably more manageable. The main takeaway is to have a document that gives the manager the project’s big picture and makes it easier to assess progress and keep things on track.
Break the Project Down into Tasks
After you create your WBS, it’s time to decide how to break up the tasks and who to assign them to.
Create a Timeline
The timeline includes dates for all milestones and deliverables, and dependencies, which are your “first do this, then do that” tasks. Many project managers use a Gantt chart to visualize the project’s timeline.
Create a Budget and Estimate Project Costs
Everyone’s concerned about costs today, so you must accurately define project costs and form a budget plan. Make sure to factor in some wiggle room for unplanned contingencies.
Identify the Project’s Risks
While we can’t think of everything, it’s essential to identify possible risks, including factors that may mess up deadlines, security, and even safety risks to personnel.
Allocate Your Resources
This distribution includes funds, staff, and technology.
Arrange Centralized Access for the Plan
Finally, the project management plan and the charter should reside in a central location where everyone, the team, management, stakeholders, and clients, can access them.
The Tools and Techniques of Good Project Management Planning
In addition to templates and project planning software, you need the following techniques to create a successful project management plan.
Experienced, Expert Judgement
The project manager must the project manager will analyze management and technical information and implement them into the project management plan.
Data is key. The more information you have, the better the plan. Here are some popular data-gathering methods.
1) Brainstorming. Bring everyone together and hash out ideas and solutions. These sessions should include team members, stakeholders, and subject matter experts.
2) Focus Groups. This method primarily involves stakeholders discussing how to approach project management and integrate different plan components.
3) Interviews. Nothing brings a personal touch like some one-on-one conversation. Interviews also give the stakeholders a chance to be heard, set expectations, and clear any misconceptions.
3) Checklists. Checklists help the project manager develop a comprehensive plan and verify that every issue has been addressed.
Team and Interpersonal Skills
Every successful project management plan needs people with the appropriate “soft” skills to make things easier.
1) Conflict Management. When two or more are gathered, there’s the potential for conflict. Conflict management brings people together and forges agreements.
2) Facilitation. Facilitation ensures that all associated individuals are on the same page. The team members, project manager, and stakeholders must have a mutual understanding and contribute equally toward the project’s success.
3) Meeting Management. Every project brings with it the need for meetings. This skill ensures that meetings are scheduled to ensure the project’s progress and to submit verified reports to the appropriate parties. And speaking of meetings.
Did we mention there will be meetings? Typically, project managers schedule a project kickoff meeting at the end of the project planning stage but before teams execute the project. The kickoff meeting communicates the project objectives and team commitments and outlines stakeholder roles and responsibilities. In addition to the project kickoff meeting, there are meetings to discuss the project approach, determine how the tasks will be carried out to meet the project’s objectives, and establish ways to monitor and control the project.
How Do You Maintain an Ongoing Project?
It’s one thing to create an effective project management plan and implement it. It’s a whole other matter to keep it running smoothly. The best way to maintain an ongoing project is to set up channels that handle project changes and feed information to the appropriate individuals in the project team.
How is Project Management Different from Financial Management?
Project management is a temporary management process focusing on project planning and completion. Financial management is an ongoing process focusing primarily on managing the organization’s operations.
There can be an overlap between the two management responsibilities since project management includes budgeting, which financial management will have something to say about.
Do You Want to Learn More About Project Management?
The best way to ensure a good project management plan is to have a good project manager design it. And the best way to ensure a good project manager is to sign up for this fantastic project management bootcamp. UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management provides students with a six-month certification course that imparts valuable project management skills in demand today. This project management course is aligned with PMI-PMP and IASSC-Lean Six Sigma and allows students to earn the 146 PDUs they need to maintain their CCR for PMI-related certifications.
When you complete the course, you earn your certification and an alum membership to the UMass Amherst Alumni Association. Regarding project manager salaries, Indeed.com indicates that project managers working in the United States make a yearly average of $83,584, with a low of $53,523 and a high of $130,529.
So, dramatically upskill your current project management career, or choose to begin a new one. This bootcamp will boost your skills to the next level and increase your understanding of project management, better equipping you to tackle the project management challenges in today’s fast-paced business world. Sign up today!