Hot! Creating a Good Project Plan

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A strong project plan is a key component of any project outcome that is seen as a success.  The project plan needs to cover all areas of the project, so that it can give all who are involved in the project delivery a clear and common view of what needs to be done, by when and who needs to do it.

The project plan effectively gives an assertion of how and when the objectives of a project are intended to be reached, and it does this through presenting the significant products, tasks and resources that are needed as a part of the project.

PRINCE2 is one of the widely recognized project management methodologies around today and the plan forms part of the Project Initiation Document (PID), which shows the Business Case, along with planned costs for the project. In addition, the PID, with the plan defines the key management stages and other major control points throughout the project lifecycle.

A good project plan will be used by the Project Board as a baseline that project progress and costings can measured against.

So what are the elements of a good project plan?  A project plan should include the following key elements::

  • A description of the products to be produced
  • Activities that are needed to create the products of the project
  • Activities that are needed to validate the quality of the products
  • What resources, costs and time are needed to complete all the project activities
  • Dependencies that exist between the project activities
  • A description of any external dependencies that exist
  • Timescales for when activities will happen
  • The points throughout the project when progress will be monitored and controlled
  • A description of any agreed tolerances
  • Descriptions of any assumptions on which the plan is based, along with any prerequisites that must be in place

What governance should sit around the project plan?

Without any formal governance, the plan (and ultimately the outcome) becomes entirely the responsibility of those who put it together and decide on the activities and dates – and this could be you, the project manager!  That’s a big responsibility to hold!

Ideally, the plan should be approved by the project board along with the PID and it should be presented with all the relevant information in a format that the Board members can understand and question.  When the PID is signed off by the board, the plan is baselined and this then shows the original plan that the project was approved against.  On an ongoing basis, the plan is then be updated to take into account:

  • Progress made to date
  • Agreed changes in circumstances (scope, resource, effort, etc)
  • Revised costings/duration of the project

The initial and current versions of the Project Plan will then be used by the project board to monitor how far the project is deviating from its original size, cost, duration and scope.

From a practical perspective, it makes sense to use an electronic tool to manage project plans and there are a number of applications available.  The latest breed of software as a service products, such as, 5pm, Apollo and Teamlab, are available online, on demand with no need for special installations on local servers or extensive training for users.  These applications are typically very easy to use and payment is made on a monthly basis (in the case of Teamlab, it’s free!) and you can cancel your subscription with no penalties.

For more information on how these project management tools can help, please see:

Author

Jan Birley

Jan holds a PhD in computing and started out in software development and IT training. She built a strong career as a project and program manager focusing on IT in the Health Service sector. Jan specializes in taking greenfield and immature services/departments to effective business-as-usual operation and is currently responsible for the delivery of clinical assessment forms into a high profile clinical system. Jan has authored 100′s of articles on project-management related topics.

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