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The Practical Project Manager

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How To Build A Project Plan

Hey people,

So this week, I have decided to go straight to the one thing that all project managers are expected to produce: A project plan. Here are the key components that make a project plan.

Project tasks

Once the project teams have decided what needs to be done, a list of activities must be populated. How you approach this is dependent on a number of factors including but not limited to the nature of the project, your experience and expertise on the project and even the culture of the organization.

One approach is to meet each of the project team members individually and develop a plan based on their responses. The other approach is to have a session with all the project team members in the room and develop the plan together. I work in an integrated environment so I prefer the second approach. It also serves to show the team the impact of their actions to the project and how they interface with one another.

List all the tasks in a manner such that it follows the methodology that is approved by your organization. This ensures you follow process and creates some consistency in execution of projects.

Break down the tasks into the smaller components to assist with following up and to also provide clarity as to what a task actually entails. This will help especially with estimation of effort.

Project resources

The other name for project resources is who will be needed to do the tasks. This is critical because the project manager relies on other resources within the organization and outside the organization, in the case where a vendor has been contracted. It is also the issue important to get the actual roles and assign each tasks to someone.

It is also important to understand what percentage of their time the resource will be allocated. There is also the chance to determine what kind of project you are running. Is it fixed unit, effort driven or fixed duration? Whichever method you decide will determine resource allocation. Typically, most project managers use fixed duration where a task is assigned a duration, say 5 days and a resource is allocated to the project for the five days.

Dependencies

There are several dependencies that must be taken into consideration and that affect the timelines for the project. The dependencies are Finish-Start, Start-Finish, Start-Start and Finish-Start. The one that is most common is Finish-Start. An example would a project can only begin after a contract has been signed off. Think through the dependencies and then assign each task a dependency. Not all projects will have dependencies.

Duration and Dates

Once you have the tasks, dependencies and durations of the tasks, you now need to get the dates of the project. You only need to determine the start dates, and the rest of the dates should fall in place. Estimate durations based on past experience and feedback from project resources to get as close to accuracy as possible. You should now be able to have a fully done project plan.

See a sample project with all the elements below

Project plan

Now that you have a project plan, you can start monitoring the progress based on the schedule.

Let me know your experiences with project scheduling. What are the major issues you face when trying to come up with a schedule?

Image Courtesy of nasirkhan / Shutterstock

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