Project Planning

What is Planning?

Project planning is highly important and is fundamental to successful project management. Effective planning will ensure the on time, and on budget delivery of any project. The project schedule (the deliverable from the planner) provides “the project” with the outline structure and activity detail to ensure minimum risk to the overall delivery. At a simple level, the schedule tells us how long the project, or any part of it, will take. In addition to providing dates, the project schedule also tells us:

  • Who is accountable for every aspect of the project
  • The approach being undertaken
  • The major deliverables from the project
  • The timing of the key decisions and review points

Why is planning important?

Projects are the vehicle which delivers organisations their future, helping them to achieve their strategic objectives. Effective project management is therefore vital to ensure organisations thrive and remain competitive.

Without adequate planning, projects will overrun and are very likely to incur additional costs – thus putting the anticipated business benefits in jeopardy.

The ability to build and manage a project schedule is one of the essential requirements for a successful project outcome. The project schedule forms the basis on which the cost and resource plans are constructed. Project schedules provide visibility of all the phases, stages and activities for the entire project enabling real time project status reports and analysis from both a financial and time perspective.

Planning allows for the accurate measurement of the project status and provides early warning of problem areas, allowing risk management and the running of “what if” scenarios to mitigate any compromised position.

A programme of related projects requires even greater levels of planning so that interdependencies are fully understood and controlled. Planning of a portfolio of projects (a mixture of independent and/or interdependent projects) is required to manage overall resources and ensure effective cash flow management.

Key features of project planning / scheduling:

The project schedule will provide the following features:

  • Planning provides: A baseline against which to measure progress – without a plan concepts such as “early” or “late” have no meaning
  • Planning provides: A breakdown of the project into manageable packages (work breakdown structure) based on deliverables/outputs
  • Planning provides: A listing of accountabilities for different activities
  • Planning provides: A clear way of showing project interdependencies
  • Planning provides: Clear visibility of key dates, milestones and time constraints
  • Planning provides: A pictorial presentation of project progress

It is important to recognise the project planner’s role is not simply to report on what has happened, but also to forecast and reforecast the future. The project planner will employ a control cycle so that schedule remains a live document.

Project Planning Cycle

The role of the project planner is to:

  • Provide a consistent format for reporting progress
  • Assess the percentage complete of all project activities
  • Identify critical paths
  • Provide early identification and resolution of projects risks
  • Provide Slippage, Deliverable and Milestone reports
  • Input to the resource plans and cost profiles for the project
  • Act as the key contact between all the key stakeholders
  • Provide a detailed understanding and greater control of any project interdependencies
  • Provide an in-depth analysis of the value of work completed and resources.

Key Benefits of Project Planning to Organisations

Project planning is a fundamental project management technique required for the successful delivery of all projects. Through the role of planning your organisation will gain:

  • A fully developed and maintained project schedule and resource plan
  • Greater accuracy with resource planning and improved cash flow management
  • Improved communications and buy-in from the project team and key stakeholders
  • Increased control over project interdependencies
  • Increased ownership of key project activities
  • Real time reporting (Macro and Micro Level)
  • Realistic project timescales and budget allocation
  • Risk and Earned Value Analysis
  • Pictorial presentation of project progression
  • Overall reduction in project costs
  • Projects and benefits delivered on time