The basics of an effective project plan

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I have had to remind myself that this current series of blog posts is predominantly aimed at those new to project management. So, whilst, discussion of the people in projects, and the attitudes and behaviours of the team and the project manager is important, many novice project managers, understandably, want to focus on the more tangible basics; building and improving their "hard" skills.

So I'd like to focus on the most essential of all aspects of project management – the project mangement plan.

Project management involves the management of a variety of tasks and the people responsible for those tasks. It includes planning and scheduling tasks and controlling the budget associated with delivering an end-product, in a finite time period. The final outcome will produce a significant change in an organisation or community and that change is what sets project management apart from business-as-usual management.

The project management plan is not just the schedule, although clearly this is an essential item, but is a plan for how the project will be managed so it includes:

  1. A summary describing the aims of the project and the expected benefits, including any assumptions or constraints.
  2. The processes that will be used to monitor and report on the status, and handle risks, change, quality etc.
  3. Documentation of the scope, requirements and budget as well as a time and dependency-based schedule such as a Gantt Chart.

In its simplest sense a project management plan will include the following elements:

Project aims  If the final deliverable of a project does not meet the requirements of the client then it has not been successful. Therefore, you must establish what those requirements are (and prioritising them).
Project deliverables These are the tangible items that will ensure the needs of the client are met and will include time estimates.
Project schedule A list of individual tasks along with how long they are estimated to take, who will complete them, any inter-dependencies and any important milestones along the way. There are many software packages to help you do this efficiently.
Resource requirements The project schedule will enable you to justify the project's resource requirements for time, equipment, budget and people. Identify individuals by name or skillset along with their responsibilities within the project.
Communications plan Who needs to be kept informed about project progress and how will this be communicated? Typically there will be various reports with differing levels of detail for different stakeholders that cover progress and planned work for the next period
Risk management  This involves the identification, monitoring and mitigating of risks.
Quality guidelines  You need to know what level of quality is expected and required so the definition needs to be detailed and measurable. It also needs to take into account available budget and resources.

Putting together an effective project plan is essential but so too is sticking to it throughout the course of the project or adapting it as needs change, whichever is most appropriate for a particular project.

Learn more about project controls and planning in APM Learning. 

This is a project management fundamentals blog written and sponsored by Parallel Project Training. For more about our project management training courses visit our website or visit Paul Naybour on Google+.



Posted by Paul Naybour on 9th Dec 2014

About the Author

Paul Naybour is the Business Development Director for Parallel Project Training. He is a well-known speaker in the APM Branch Network, a Project Management Trainer and Consultant.

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