Any project is a long chain of interconnected processes and tasks. Therefore, the basis for starting any project is a plan. It is necessary to think it over and draw up a list of actions and stages, define goals, tasks, responsible persons, etc. A good plan can greatly increase your chances of success. Let’s take a closer look at what a project plan is and what needs to be taken into account when drawing it up.
What should you know about planning?
Many people mistakenly think that the project plan is a technical assignment for employees. In fact, task analysis (TA) is as much a part of the project management plan as many other components. First of all, it is necessary to take the peculiarities of organizing work and control over implementing assigned tasks into account. If the team does not know what each of its members are responsible for, it is very difficult to make such a project successful.
The plan allows you to define goals, objectives, and executors (they can be either full-time team members or freelancers). The project plan distributes tasks and sets deadlines. In this case, the plan must be developed even before the actual work begins. As the project progresses, the plan can be adjusted. Thus, the main objectives of the plan are as follows:
- Determining the scope of tasks.
- Detailed descriptions for each task.
- Setting estimated time for tasks.
- Appointment of responsible persons.
- Setting deadlines.
- Specifying options for what to do if a task turns out to be unrealizable.
Having a plan allows you to clearly prioritize, complete tasks without unnecessary fuss, and keep all processes under control. However, how do you develop a plan correctly? Consider 6 key steps that will allow you to clearly and correctly formulate all tasks and set priorities.
Step 1. Identification of key stakeholders and meeting with them
First, you need to identify the stakeholders and discuss your project with them. These should be employees of your company, on whom the success of the project will depend. It is necessary to find out how valuable the project is, what is the interest of the stakeholders, and how they are ready to help in implementing the plan. At the initial stage of planning, it is necessary to discuss needs and expectations and prepare the basis for determining the scope of work. The future budget and terms of the project implementation may depend on this stage. In meetings with key stakeholders, you need to get answers to the following questions:
- How will your project benefit the company?
- How is it aligned with the missions and goals of your company?
- What are stakeholder expectations?
- What is the indication of the success of the project implementation?
- What budget can you set to bring the project to life?
- What will the finished project result in?
In fact, meeting with stakeholders lays the foundation of your project, and the stronger this foundation is, the easier it will be to implement the project.
Step 2. Goal selection and prioritization
Statistics show that 37% of projects fail to be implemented due to the lack of specific goals. If they are not formulated, it is impossible to establish the connections between requirements, objectives, and implementation deadlines. Once you’ve got support from key stakeholders, it’s time to formulate goals and prioritize them. One option for this is the OKR methodology.
OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. Its essence is to synchronize team and individual goals. This system consists of two components – ambitious goals and key indicators for their achievement. If the goals are abstract or unattainable, it is necessary to formulate key results using the SMART methodology (specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, time-based).
Where can I get these tasks?
You can use ready-made plans developed and tested by project management software. This saves management’s time significantly for the development of their own plans. Definitely, not all projects are suitable for universal checklists, but from ready-made solutions you can take ideas and customize them for your project. For example, the SE Ranking check list for marketing channels includes a basic set of points that can be used both right away or can be changed/added with tasks therein. The advantages of such services are that you can monitor the progress of the tasks, assign different tasks to managers, build a plan structure based on goals and formulate the tasks that are needed in order to achieve each goal. You can also set control points in order to control the goal achievements.
Step 3. Definition of deliverables
The most important part of any project plan is the result. It must be achievable and measurable. For example, the result might be to achieve a certain amount of gross revenue, a certain conversion, or the number of orders per month. In addition, it is necessary to determine the timing of task implementation.
Without the specific metrics you want to achieve, you won’t be able to measure the results and understand whether you succeeded in what you’ve planned. However, reports on the results, a retrospective meeting, and work on bugs are required in any company. Therefore, be sure to define clear goals and what results you want to achieve.
Step 4. Create a project schedule
After you have prepared an initial plan, received the necessary support from stakeholders, and thought out the main tasks, it is time to prepare a list of work required to implement the project.
For each task, you need to set a deadline, think over what resources will be allocated for its implementation, and appoint a responsible person. All information must be compiled into a single plan and made publicly available by placing it in your project management software. The team should be able to check the plan at any convenient time so that there is no misunderstanding.
When all the goals, objectives, and milestones have been identified, it is time to schedule the work. For this, for example, you can use a Gantt chart. It is a handy tool with which you can visualize the stages of your project and monitor the progress of its implementation, the amount of work performed, as well as dependencies.
Step 5. Problem identification and risk assessment
Even the most experienced professionals cannot always implement a project perfectly. You can face problems at any stage of the work. It is better to anticipate troubles than to deal with the consequences along the way, so it is necessary to work out the risks in advance. To do this, it is recommended that you make a list of the key employees involved in the project and determine what you will do in any given situation. The main challenges faced by teams are as follows:
- too optimistic expectations about the timing of implementation;
- the planned budget is too small;
- poorly specified requirements;
- misidentified roles;
- changes in requirements;
- reducing the budget along the way;
- communication problems.
All possible problems need to be worked out in advance with your team. Of course, it is impossible to determine all the pitfalls at once, but it is advisable to have a plan B in case of any difficulties.
Step 6. Presentation of the project plan to stakeholders
After your plan is ready, you need to meet again with the stakeholders. It is recommended to prepare a clear agenda before the meeting. You need to discuss all the issues that we’ve talked about in this article:
- goals and benefits of the project;
- scope of work to be done within the project;
- the scheme of connectivity between requirements and tasks;
- demonstration of the project schedule (timeline);
- tasks assigned to each team member;
- risk assessment.
There are no absolutely identical projects. One project can go smoothly, and in another, a lot of problems can arise, even if the same specialists are working on both projects. It is impossible to eliminate all risks, therefore it is better to foresee them in advance. If you have a plan of action for the project, as well as scenarios in case of any problems, the chances of your success significantly increase. By working according to the plan, it will be much easier for you to achieve the desired result.