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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chapter 25: Introduction to Project Planning

After the project has been initiated, you need to develop a project management plan, which becomes the primary source of information for how the project you are currently managing will be executed, monitored & controlled, and closed.

In this chapter, we are going to take a look at how a Project Manager would begin this planning phase.

So, lets get started!!!

Planning the Project

Once the project has been initiated, it’s time to do some planning. As I said in the previous chapter, any project that does not have a proper plan seldom succeeds. So, as the project manager it is our responsibility to plan properly and to ensure that our project is a success. This includes determining the project scope, during which time you’ll refine the project objectives and determine things like:

• How the scope will be executed
• How the execution will be monitored and controlled, and
• How the project will be brought to a proper closure.

Project planning is embodied in the project management plan that is developed through progressive elaboration. The project management plan is a document that defines, prepares, coordinates, and integrates all subsidiary plans, such as scope and risk management plans, into one plan. The goal here is to develop a source of information that will work as a guideline for how the project will be executed, monitored and controlled, and closed.

It is important for any project to have a good plan. It is possible that the project manager might leave the company or move on to another critical project where his/her expertise is needed and leave the current project to another manager. Eitherways, the presence of a good project plan will help the new manager, whomsoever it might be, to handle and manage the project effectively.

How Important is Project Planning?

Let us take a real time example to explain this. Lets assume that you are going to get married and for the sake of comparison, lets compare this marriage to a project. (I know it's a bad analogy but I think it would be a good example to explain the whole importance part of it)

Once you decide to get married, you need to fix a marriage hall, print invitations, send them to all your friends, meet up close friends & family members and invite them, arrange caterers, arrange decoration parties who will decorate the marriage hall during the events, arrange for flowers and garlands, buy new cloths, jewels for the bride, and on and on. The list is very long. Unless someone from the couples family (Usually the Fathers of the bride & groom) sit down and do extensive planning to ensure that the event is a success.

Imagine, what a disaster it would be to realize that the flowers & garlands werent ordered and the bride and groom are ready to tie the knot on the stage? Forget the disaster, it would be embarrassing for the couple and their close family members to see such an event.

Fortunately, the project managers (the dads of the couple) wouldn't let such a thing happen and plan it all out properly to result in a successful and happy wedding.

I guess, by now you have understood the importance of planning on the success of a project.

Elements of Project Planning

The planning phase of any project would involve 3 important things:

1. Refining the project objectives defined during project initiation and collecting requirements based on the stakeholder needs and expectations.
2. Determining the scope of the project.
3. Determining the course of action required to attain these objectives, which involves breaking down the scope and objectives into concrete, manageable tasks.

It is important to plan the project because not all projects need all the planning processes, nor do they all need them with the same level. Therefore, the content of the project management plan, the ultimate output of project planning, will depend upon the project under consideration.

As the project goes through different stages, the project management plan may be updated and revised through the change control process. Following are some issues that project planning phase addresses:
• Which project management processes will be used for the project, what the level of implementation for each of the processes will be, and what the inputs and tools and techniques for the processes are
• The project baseline against which the performance of the project will be measured and against which the project will be monitored and controlled
• How the changes to the approved plan will be monitored and controlled
• What the needs and techniques for communication among the stakeholders are
• How the project lifecycle looks, including the project phases if the project is a multiphase one

Note: This list is not exhaustive and the project plan may include a lot more than this.

The project baseline is defined as the approved plan for the scope, schedule, and cost of the project. The project performance is measured against this baseline, and therefore this baseline is also called the performance baseline. The project baseline is also referred to in terms of its components: cost baseline, schedule baseline, and scope baseline. How do you know how the project is performing? You compare the performance to the baseline. Approved changes in scope, schedule, or cost will obviously change the baseline.

Let us take a look at a pictorial representation of how the Project Management Plan is Prepared.

Before I begin explanation, this is just a high level view. The details involved in each of these steps might be more complicated and may require a lot of effort.
The output of the project Initiation Phase is the Project Charter, Stakeholder Register and the Stakeholder Management Strategy. These are the inputs in the process of creating the Project Management Plan.

Depending upon the complexity of the project, the project management plan can be either a summary or a collection of subsidiary plans and components, which might include:

• Standard plans from different aspects of project planning, such as the cost management plan, communication management plan, scope management plan, and risk management plan.
• Other components, such as the milestones list, the resource calendar, and baselines for scope, schedule, cost, and quality. A baseline is a reference plan against which all the performance deviations are measured. This reference plan can be the original or the updated plan.

In a nutshell, project planning involves determining exactly what will be done and how it will be done. Executing a project means implementing the project management plan for that project. Therefore, the project management plan contains the project scope that defines what needs to be done to meet the project objectives.

But how exactly is the project management plan actually developed? Don't worry, that is what our next chapter is going to explain…

Previous: Planning a Project

Next: Developing the Project Management Plan

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