4.0 The Process of Project Planning

You have worked previously on the Statement of Work (SOW) and have in-depth knowledge about your project. Moreover, you have also become aware of the various aspects, assumptions and risks associated with your project. Therefore, you should resort to further planning, which includes:

  • Detailing of Activities: A detailed Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) should be made in line with the work requirements and time frame
  • Determine Dependencies: A network diagram should be made in order to demonstrate dependencies between various project activities
  • Identification of Resources: Take your time to identify all the resources needed for the project including equipment, manpower, finances, facilities, etc.
  • Establish Schedule: Work on maintaining an achievable schedule in line with the project time frame and redefine the project scope.
  • Project Management Plan: Gather and incorporate all the information into a project management plan to be used as a baseline document for your project. The plan should then be approved by the primary stakeholders associated with the project.

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) #

The WBS is considered an efficient tool that facilitates the listing of all tasks involved in any project. It is the first step in the project planning process. The WBS system allows you to form main heads concerning major activities that need to be performed. Additionally, you can group different minor tasks under these major activities enabling you to get a clear view of the project execution process.

A key step in the formation of WBS is to identify major milestones and detail such tasks that need to be done in a stepwise process to achieve efficient task management. Note that major milestones have previously been identified in the SOW. This approach will provide optimal results if you and your team are familiar with the workflow, milestones and project. However, if there is decreased familiarity then you should resort to including someone in your workspace (but not necessarily in your project) an individual who has prior experience with such a project.

For better understanding, let us take a look at a simple WBS for a website design:

Furthermore, for projects that include more detailing, the following WBS can be adapted:

Pro-tip: One should be mindful of the level of details in the WBS. It should vary between 3-5 for ease of comprehension. If it exceeds 5 it becomes increasingly complex.

The Network Diagrams #

The WBS only allows for grouping and structuring the workflow yet, it fails to give an account of the dependencies in project activities. Henceforth, a network diagram comes into the picture for this purpose. Network diagrams allow you to illustrate the dependencies, sequence and schedule of various project activities. After forming this diagram, you will be able to determine your project schedule in line with the project timeline.

For further understanding, consider the following network diagram of the “Build Shed” project:

The rectangles in the above network diagram demonstrate the main activities that need to be performed whereas the arrows show the relationship between those activities. From careful observation, the following information can be gathered from the network diagram:

Few activities can be carried out parallel to one another. It includes the Cut Wood activity, the Build Shed base and Supervise cement hardening activity. However, it is only possible if there are different teams working side by side on each set of activities.

The diagram has a series of light and dark arrows. The dark arrows depict the Critical Path which can be understood as areas or activities of the project that will consume maximum time. It includes activities such as building shed base, supervising cement hardening and assembling shed. Any delay in these activities will in turn affect the time frame of the whole project. Thus, these steps should be carefully monitored in order to ensure timely project completion.

The Gantt Chart #

Both the WBS and network diagrams fail to provide a brief overview of the project schedule in hand. A Gantt chart is of immense importance in this regard. Given below is a Gantt chart for the build shed project:

It should be noted that the Gantt chart is not purposed to show you the relationship between various project activities. But there are a few software packages that may allow you to depict activity relationships through Gantt chart. They further allow for the demonstration of project overview and critical path of your project.

Notice that you have learned to map out project activities and established a schedule through the careful determination of activity sequence in your project. The next step in this regard is to flesh out the necessary resources needed to complete your project. After this step is completed, you may need to move back to the Gantt chart to refine your project schedule.

Estimating Resource Requirements #

This phase entails the identification of resources required to execute the activities of your project. The necessary resources will include finances, manpower, material, equipment and other requirements. For instance, in order to design a website, you would possibly need software, programmers, designated space for meetings, computers, graphic designers, etc.

People as Resource #

People are considered the most important resource in any field. You will need to identify the expertise and necessary skillset complimenting the project at hand. After this identification, you will need to find people matching your pre-identified skills as part of HR management. An optimal way to go about it is to create a skills sheet matching skills to the required activities. Additionally, specific columns for the name of people and their particulars can also be added. Given below is an example of a skill sheet:

You can clearly notice that the above chart not only contains skills and activities, but it also encapsulates names of individuals, their skill level, their date of initiation and termination, total cost and the outcomes that are anticipated to be produced.  This information should be obtained and filled in as soon as you can. You may also be required to contact managers of a few people you need for the project in order to check their availability. It is advised to always cross-check the information with your project team and pay specific heed to the following:

Firstly, inquire the functional manager regarding the skillset and the effort days that will be required by a person to fulfill the project activities assigned to him through workload planning. This should then be cross-checked through the concerned person who will be executing the activity.

Always check up on the availability of your project team by keeping in mind their personal commitments, vacations, other projects and sick leaves.

The cost of each individual should be calculated and recorded by the functional manager. It is advised to be detail-oriented in cost calculation as it will serve to avoid future discrepancies.

Pro-tip: Work on a brief hierarchy for signing the project budget. If you plan to get multiple approvals before project budgeting can be finalized and made, it will tend to waste a lot of your time. Additionally, it can also hamper the project time frame.

Non-person Resources #

Non-person resources include equipment, machinery, supplies, facilities and finances. Similar to the skill sheet, a non-person availability sheet is prepared in this regard. Given below is an example of a non-person availability sheet:

Both these charts give a fair idea of the material and non-material resources needed in your project. Now, you can go back to your Gantt chart and make adjustments, modifications, and refinements appropriately. Several parameters will need to be changed depending upon the availability of financial resources as well as your team members.

Creating the Project Plan #

The project plan will contain all the information that we have discussed previously and all the data you have collected till now. Typically, a project plan incorporates the following sections:

Previously, some of the key information of your project was listed in SOW as the project charter. You would need to refine both of them appropriately. Besides, you have acquired significant knowledge of your project thereby, you can choose to include or exclude any of the above sections.

Get your plan reviewed by the primary stakeholders of the project. Keep in mind that a document versioning system of your plan is necessary since minute upgrades will be required throughout the course of your project.

Pro-tip: The project management approval page should be signed by the primary stakeholders before you start the process of project execution.