Project Planning 101

Project Planning 101

Project planning is no easy feat, especially in business. Industry professional Chirine Salha outlines the fundamentals of getting a project off the ground and the key to ensuring it runs smoothly.

A project is a unique event — with a specific goal or impact in mind — that should deliver a business benefit in a defined timeframe. It requires a team to work together temporarily in order to make sure it is completed. Project planning ensures monitoring of the schedule, deliverables and budget at every step. A project plan should start off by clarifying project goals and objectives with stakeholders.

Identify and meet with stakeholders
The starting point is to identify stakeholders involved and clarify project goals and objectives. A stakeholder is anyone who is impacted or affected by the results of the project. They could be sponsors, owners or end users. This meeting should set a baseline vis-à-vis expectations, budget and timeline, allowing for a scope of work statement.

Set up a project brief
Once you have a list of stakeholder needs, prioritize them and set specific project goals. The brief communicates the necessary information to get the project approved and authorizes a team to work on it. The brief tells the initial project story, from its purpose to how much funding is required. It includes but is not limited to:
• An executive summary
• General information
• Project objectives
• Business needs
• When work is set to begin
• The timeline
• How much it will cost
• Impact on other existing operations

Project roles
The next step is selecting the appropriate people. This is an important activity that directly impacts the success of a project. Roles vary according to the type of project.
• The project sponsor is accountable for the project and approves the project brief.
• The business owner is accountable for delivery of the project and makes key decisions.
• The project coordinator coordinates groups and provides delivery assurance.
• Other team leaders are accountable for delivery within their functional areas.
• The overall project manager sets up the project and runs it on a daily basis.
• There are team members who deliver specific project tasks, such as legal specialists, procurement and risk management representatives.

Project kick-off meeting
Once the team is shaped, the kick-off meeting sets the tone for the entire project. Its purpose is to:
• Explain the value and purpose of the project
• Introduce documents or tools to be used during the project
• Introduce the project manager, team members and other key stakeholders
• Establish roles and responsibilities
• Outline project delivery standards and define project communication
• Review project phases and explain the escalation path
• Discuss project meeting expectations
Define deliverables and create the project schedule• Identify the deliverables and specific outputs required to meet the project’s goals
• Anticipate the due dates for each deliverable in the project plan
• Keep in mind that a great deal of tasks are interrelated, and you must define the chain of tasks that must be completed
• Determine the resources necessary

Project planning tools
Besides a schedule, set yourself up with planning tools. These are made to help all concerned keep track of project progress. The critical path method (CPM) and work breakdown structure (WBS) are familiar tools.
Conduct a post-project review and keep project documentation
No matter how well it is prepared, a project plan is always ground for learning. It is a review that happens after the project has been completed or the benefits have been realized. It should answer key questions, such as: Did the project meet its objectives? What went well and what could have gone better?

Chirine Salha
Senior Consultant

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