The project planning phase is where you will layout every detail of the plan from beginning to end. The plan you create here will lead your team through the execution, performance and closure phases of the project life cycle. As part of your project plan, you’ll want to consider following factors:
- Project scope
- Project estimation
- General workflow and process
- Team roles and responsibilities
- Feedback from clients and project members
- Key project milestones (like deliverable reviews and meetings)
- Approval processes
- How to work with the stakeholder team, to ensure you get it done on time and within budget (the fun part!)
It’s recommended that you start by defining your project scope. There are several ways to define scope. Just make sure you have a sense for how much time you want to spend on the overall project. Projects tend to go off the rails without some level of constraint or control. There’s no problem with setting guardrails, during the project planning phase and readjusting later if needed.
When it comes to estimating, you might want to use a work breakdown structure (WBS) to help identify tasks and effort. A WBS is a visual layout that breaks out the scope of a project.
Once you’ve made your time and effort estimates, you can create a project plan that lays out phases, tasks, resources, responsibilities, milestones, and deadlines. This is a critical step in managing your project, so take your time and think through every step with your team.
Because communications can make or break a project, you’ll want to think through and even document how you’ll communicate as a team. Communication plans are especially valuable when your team is large or if you have stakeholders who work outside of your organization.
Risk Management Plan
The last part of project planning is to make sure you’ve got a risk management plan in place. The plan identifies foreseeable risks and how they can be avoided. It’s the project manager’s job to look out for risks and report them to the team. The best way to do this is to create a simple list that outlines:
- Title of the risk
- Details of the risk and why it exists
- A plan for how the risk can be avoided or solved
- Additional notes that might be important for the team and stakeholders to understand
Risk management is a conversation you want to keep going throughout the project. Keeping a list of risks, on your status report, helps keep them top-of-mind and allows the team to provide input.
Having these plans in place, will make the following stages of your project easier. Read in part 3 about the stage Project Execution.