STEP 3: CREATE YOUR PROJECT PLAN
Project plans do not always provide the answer you want to hear. For
example, you may have a condition that the project is to be completed
by the end of May, but the plan shows it will take until the end of July.
Alternatively, you may have a maximum of £10k to spend on your
project, but the plan shows it will cost £25k. The Project Plan enables
you to check that you can actually do the work within the conditions
defined, and that it makes sense for you to do it.
Project Plans sit at the core of managing projects and so this is one of
the longest chapters in the book. Good planning is what enables a
project manager to take the understanding of what is to be delivered and
reliably make this happen to a predicted cost and time. Doing any
complex task without planning first means you do not know how long
it will take and how much it will cost – and such predictability is often
essential in business and private life. More critically, without a plan your
ability to meet the original objectives of the project (the ‘why’ and the
‘what’) is completely uncertain. Without a plan you are stepping out
into the dark.
Introduction to the Project Plan and estimating
The next few pages of this chapter provide an introduction to project
planning and estimating, by presenting all the information you need to
understand before you create your Project Plan. The subsequent section
then applies this knowledge and presents the actual steps to develop a
plan through a detailed worked example.
How you will do your project and achieve the objective you are setting
out to achieve is defined in a document called the Project Plan. At one
level, a Project Plan is just the list of tasks you need to do to complete
your project. Essentially, this plan shows the order of the tasks, the
length of time each task will take, and who is responsible for doing each
one. The plan is used for many things, but most importantly:
It enables you to understand how long a project will take, and how
much it will cost to do.
It provides information you can use to explain the project to other
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PROJECT MANAGEMENT: STEP BY STEP
It allows you to allocate work to different people in the project. This
is very important as a plan is as much a tool to do work allocation
and management of people, as for understanding the length of time
it will take.
It is the basis for managing your project to a successful completion
(as will be described in Chapter 4).
Professional project managers have a huge set of tools, a vast set of
jargon, and usually some helpful experience to produce plans. The work
to produce the plan for a major programme of work requires skill and
expertise, but the fundamental activities in producing a plan are not that
complex and are easy to apply for reasonable sized projects. Planning
builds on the normal human approach of breaking problems that are
too large to resolve in one go into smaller chunks, and this process is
called decomposition by project managers.
I am first going to define the logical activities in producing a plan, and
then I shall describe how to create a plan in practice. The six activities in
producing a plan are to:
1. Divide the overall project into its component tasks, and continue
to divide the component tasks into smaller tasks until you have a
comprehensive list of things that must be done to complete the
2. Estimate the length of time each task will take.
3. Order the tasks into the right sequence.
4. Determine the people, money and other resources you need to
meet this plan and determine their associated costs.
5. Check what resources you actually have available and refine your
plan to take account of this. Once you have done this you have a
6. Review the plan – does it match your needs? Looking at the plan –
can you actually do it, and should you do it?
The six activities are shown here as a simple logical sequence. In practice
you will go through these activities several times before your plan is in a
state you are fully happy with. Before you start to develop your plan, I
introduce these topics in some more detail.
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