13 productive project planning activities (plus importance)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 9 September 2022
Published 27 April 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Due to the many stakeholders involved, leading a project can at times seem like a significant undertaking. Despite this, with the proper planning in place, you can lead a project effectively and overcome any challenges that you may face. Learning about the different steps involved in the planning process can be beneficial if you work in project management and want to learn how to create an effective project plan. In this article, we explain why project planning is important and outline 13 productive project planning activities that can help you create an effective project plan.
What is the importance of project planning?
Project planning is helpful because managing a project effectively can be a challenging process, as it typically involves working with many stakeholders to achieve a specific aim within a set budget. An effective way of easing this process and improving the project's chances of success is by implementing a detailed project plan. This enables the project manager to manage the project's resources more effectively and to anticipate and deal with problems as they arise throughout the project.
13 productive project planning activities
Effectively planning a project is a great way to simplify the complexities of a challenging task. Below, you can find a list of 13 productive project planning activities that can help you create an effective project plan:
1. Identify the project specifications
Identifying a project's requirements is a typical starting point in the project planning process. This includes outlining a project's objectives and detailed project requirements, such as its vision, scope, costs and time frames. Outlining these requirements can be useful as they provide all stakeholders with a consistent vision and goals.
2. Determine cost estimates
An essential part of the project planning process includes identifying and revising the project's cost estimations, in addition to its time estimates. For instance, if it's an IT-related project, try to determine detailed estimations for the hardware, maintenance and network costs. Additionally, you may also wish to consider the cost estimates for consultants, contractors and training. Alongside these direct costs, try to form estimates for the project's indirect costs. For instance, an indirect cost of the project may refer to the time spent on training, which reduces an employee's ability to focus on other work activities.
3. Assess the project's risk
Another key project planning activity involves performing a risk assessment for the project. After identifying each potential risk, it's a good idea to rate each one based on its potential impact on the project. For instance, you may decide to use a ranking system where one indicates a low impact and five signals that the risk to the project is high. In addition, you may want to rank the likelihood of each risk occurring.
By performing a risk assessment, you can proactively take steps to mitigate any potential issues before they arise. It's also helpful to regularly review and revise this risk assessment throughout the project planning process.
4. Consider the variables that affect a project's success
An important aspect of the project planning process is to identify the key factors that determine whether a project is likely to succeed. Some examples of these variables are likely to include a realistic project budget, time frames and expectations. In addition, the skills of the team members involved may likely affect the project's chances of success. By identifying these factors, you can make informed decisions regarding how to allocate the project's resources.
5. Establish a project charter
Writing a project charter is another effective project planning activity you can consider using. A project charter is a detailed summary of a project's resources, costs and time frames and is typically between 20-30 pages long. Project managers usually write these charters after receiving input from the project team's core members. After completing the charter, project managers can use this document alongside the project plan to seek approval for the project.
6. Use a Gantt chart
You can present a project plan in a variety of formats, such as a Gantt chart. Project managers typically use these charts to display the different elements of a project plan, including its activities, tasks, resources and dependencies, onto a calendar. Additionally, some project managers use Pert charts to graphically display the tasks that are necessary to complete the project onto the calendar.
7. Identify stakeholder concerns
When looking to create an effective project plan, try to identify any stakeholder concerns and their involvement with the project. Anyone that's affected by the project is a stakeholder and this includes employees, clients, sponsors and project managers. Identifying these concerns is vital as stakeholders typically want to gain something from a project and if you address these concerns in your project plan, you can increase the chances of the project gaining approval.
8. Set SMART objectives
When creating your project plan, it can help to set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) goals. For example, consider how you'd want to boost website traffic compared to gaining 50% more website traffic for a client's site by a specified date. When you set objectives like in the second example, it results in having a clear idea of what you want to achieve.
You can then use this as a benchmark to determine how well you've performed in your attempt to reach this goal. For example, if the objective is to increase website traffic and you only manage to increase it by 1%, while this may be a boost, it probably wouldn't be deemed a success. Setting clear expectations and goals helps to ensure that everyone on the team is aware of the project's primary purpose and its desired results.
9. Set deliverables and deadlines
When you create a project plan, it's vital that you determine what the client requires from you. These are your deliverables, and you typically set a deadline for each one. For example, the client may want you to increase website traffic and provide monthly traffic reports so they can see that this is happening. Alternatively, they may want you to improve the website's on-page and off-page SEO to improve its ranking on search engines.
10. Create a project timeline
Creating a project timeline can also help you to develop an effective project plan. Each project timeline typically includes deliverables, tasks and due dates. To make it easier to achieve your project objectives, you can attempt to break down the project deliverables into more manageable tasks. You can then delegate each of these tasks to manage the project effectively. This process includes determining who's responsible for each job and when it's due. Doing this improves accountability and can help to avoid potential misunderstandings as the project progresses.
11. Investigate shortfalls in the project's budget
Identifying a project's costs can help you allocate the project's budget and investigate any shortfalls. You can then seek additional funding or redistribute the project's funding to remove these budget shortfalls. This helps to ensure that the project stays within its budget. It's important to note that sometimes you may be unable to avoid exceeding a project's budget. In these instances, regular communication with the client and being upfront about this overspending can help to put less strain on your working relationship with them.
12. Create communication plans to keep the project on schedule
Good communication is essential to a successful project. Creating a communication plan can help to keep a project on schedule and ensures that all stakeholders are aware of any changes that occur during a project's progress. As part of your communication plan, consider the following:
the frequency of communication with the project's stakeholders, such as daily, weekly or monthly interactions
the method of communication, such as face-to-face meetings, phone calls or emails
the stages of the project where communication is necessary, such as completing certain objectives or milestones
13. Begin the project
After you've planned the project, assigned the resources and scheduled the necessary training, you're now ready to start the project. At this point, you can organise a meeting with the entire team, including both core and extended team members, so that everyone is fully briefed. When looking to start the project, it's essential that you communicate with the rest of the organisation, alongside other stakeholders, about the project's progress. You may decide to do this via a newsletter, email or a dedicated web page.
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