During the planning stages of every project it is vital that the framework and structures are carefully considered and put into place to help establish a strong core foundation to build the whole project around.
The critical initial planning stages offer project managers the chance to get off to a strong start that will set the tone for the entirety of the project from the beginning to completion and pave the way for success throughout.
Without proper planning in place projects can be susceptible to a number of problems including;
- Lack of strategic alignment
- Cost, quality and time constraint issues
- Inefficient use of resources
- Increased risk
- Communication problems
- Failure to complete the project on time or to the required standard
Here are some of the most important things to consider when planning your project.
By identifying the project goals at the very start of the planning phase you can establish a clear set of objectives based on the needs of the stakeholders. This in turn will help you to record your goals clearly and make them the backbone of your project plan.
Create a list of deliverables which will help to break the project down into more manageable tasks that can then be assigned to the most relevant team members. These tasks should be allocated to the chosen team member with clear instructions of expectations as well as estimated deadlines with each deliverable.
Identifying the important milestones of a project leads to a more efficient process throughout that if correctly managed, should work like a well-oiled machine. Defining the essential milestones allows project managers to;
- Develop a life cycle of the project broken into the main phases such as – initiation, planning, execution and closure.
- Perform evaluations and analysis following each phase.
- Ensure that all elements are performing as they should in order to meet expectations.
- Manage project risk.
- Track the projects progress.
A project cannot be successful without the right team members on board. A good project manager will do their best to utilise every person in order to create a successful team unit. To achieve this, it is important to;
- Get to know individuals and learn their key strength and weaknesses.
- Allocate work to the team member that is best suited to that task based on their abilities.
- Clearly identify the task / deliverables / responsibilities assigned to each person.
- Provide open communication throughout.
- Hold a big team meeting to kick things off and use this as a platform to motivate and excite your team about the project ahead whilst laying down the groundwork for expectations.
- Create an environment where people feel comfortable to give their opinions or advice, even if it goes against the grain. You never know, some of the greatest ideas might be ones you haven’t thought of.
The key to any successful project is communication throughout. Whether it’s with meetings, one to one’s, emails, phone calls or status reports – having effective communication methods put in place from the beginning will help the flow of your project and help avoid potential delays or issues from arising.
Thanks to advances in technology there are now more tools than ever at the disposal of project managers. These can be things such as project management software and resource management tools which can be utilised to act as a centralised platform, store documents and information, file share, give comments or feedback, provide templates and planning resources and collaborate with team members.
Identifying the requirements of your project at the initial planning phase will provide you with opportunity to find the right tools to effectively manage your project and create a unified team.
Every project provides an opportunity to learn and gain knowledge and experience from things that worked well and those that didn’t.
In order to be an effective project manager it’s important to review and evaluate completed projects to identify successes and failures. By doing this you will be able to use what you’ve learnt with future projects and make necessary changes in the early planning stages in future in order to succeed.