“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” (Alan Lakein) Roli Pathak introduced the 5 phases of project management in her article Top 5 Project Management Phases. Phase #2 is the Planning phase.
You will recall from Project Management Phases: Exploring Phase #1 – Initiation that the final documentation of the initiation phase includes an informal project plan. It contains your team’s task order, estimated resources, and a projected completion date.
Exploring Phase #2 – Planning
Roli stated in her overview “a project management plan is developed comprehensively of individual plans for – cost, scope, duration, quality, communication, risk, and resources.” Let’s take a closer look at each item the project manager and planning team should investigate or fine tune during this phase.
- Costs – Your team will create a plan for cost management detailing every action regarding how you plan and oversee your project costs. Next, you must estimate costs for each activity on that list. From there, your team determines the project budget.
- Scope – With initiation phase documentation in hand, your planning team will make fixed determinations regarding project assignments, costs and outcomes drafting necessary supporting documentation.
- Duration – Your team has refined the scope, so you can add to the planning documentation your estimates for the best-case timing scenario. At this juncture, your planning group will propose what the most likely timeline would be including potential delays, etc.
- Quality – During this step, your team will evaluate and detail how deliverables will adhere to expected quality standards and criteria outlined for by clients, stakeholders, and/or investors. In addition, you will brain storm ideas for process improvement during this stage noting enhancements in the planning documentation.
- Communication – Your project group will describe how you plan to communicate with executive management, etc. as well as define an escalation strategy process.
- Risk – You and your team can use the risk assessment created by decision makers during the initiation proposal step to describe how you will manage those risks. If you identify additional risks, update the project documents. Since a risk can mean a plus or minus impact on the project, your team will outline contingencies for both scenarios.
- Resources – Be sure to consider everything necessary for your team to deliver on the project goals. Include financial resources, equipment needs, supplies, and materials, creating an itemized list.
In her phase 2 introduction, Roli mentioned several important actions and tools unique to this phase. Activities that mark the planning phase are creating a WBS, developing a schedule, using milestone and/or GANTT charts, resource estimation, establishing communication and assessing risk. Here are some brief descriptions for these specific tasks with additional resources for info on each topic.
- WBS – The WBS, work breakdown structure, is an outline your team will use to rank every project task. Your planning group breaks down larger responsibilities on the outline into sub-tasks. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), the Basic Building Block for a Project Plan
- Scheduling – Define what activities to include in your project, determine the best sequence of tasks and estimate the resources and duration to create your schedule. Time Management for Project Success | How to Avoid Project Failure: Effective Scheduling
- Gantt Charts – A Gantt chart uses horizontal bars to illustrate the progress on the project timeline. What is a Gantt Chart?
- Milestone Charts – Milestone charts serve as an abbreviated visual representation of progress. A milestone indicates an action or responsibility planned at a specific time during the life cycle of a project. This chart type contains triangles to indicate a single date, and you can integrate them into Gantt charts.
The Project Management Question and Answer Book Figure 5-12: MILESTONE CHART
- Resource Estimation – To determine what assets are essential for your project, your team should record each item you intend to use. Be sure to include equipment, human capital and any other materials or financial considerations. Then, you can schedule each expense and distinguish the total cost of the project per activity.
- Communication – Poor communication is one of the most common reasons why projects fail. Good communication requires that you deliver the correct message to the appropriate audience at the best time. Communication Theories Applied on Project Management.
- Risk Assessment – It’s imperative that you and your team assess risks properly. Roli cautioned in her overview of the planning phase that “A plan for managing identified and unidentified risks is determined as this may affect aspects of a project later on. Risk management planning includes risk identification and analysis, risk mitigation approaches, and risk response planning.” Understanding the 4 Types of Risks Involved in Project Management |The Rules of Project Risk Management – A Book Review
Take the time to plan thoroughly. Success is contingent upon creating a solid strategy for the project.
Check out these additional resources that detail activities of the planning phase and how to stay on track. 8 Signs You Are Managing Your Project The Wrong Way