Every successful project includes a planning phase. Jumping into any project without a solid plan is planning for failure. While there are many ways to plan a project, a simple 5-step planning process can greatly enhance the odds of success for any project. These five steps have proven to be effective over a vast array of successfully completed projects.
- Define the Scope of the Project
- Organize and Prioritize the Project Tasks
- Create a Timeline
- Allocate Resources for Each Task
- Communicate with the Resources and Stakeholders
Step #1: Define the Scope of the Project
Prior to performing direct work on the project, it is necessary to define the scope of the project clearly. Projects have a tendency to drift off course without precise objectives and boundaries. The scope of the project should define the desired outcome and the limits of the project.
It is important that everyone in the planning phase understand the scope of the project clearly before moving on to the next step in the process. It’s not possible to determine the appropriate tasks without defining the objective.
Step #2: Organize and Prioritize the Project Tasks
The project tasks are those things that must be completed during the process of completing the project. You’ll know when your task list is complete when everything is included that is necessary to bring the project to 100% completion.
The project tasks should be prioritized based on the required order of completion:
- What needs to be completed first?
- What logically follows next?
- Which tasks can be done concurrently?
This step is completed when all of the tasks have been clearly identified and the order of execution has been established.
Step #3: Create a Timeline
A project timeline serves as the overall guide for the project. This is arguably the most important step in the project planning process:
- The start and end dates for the project are determined.
- The specific tasks and the amount of time allocated to each project team member are defined.
An incorrect timeline results in a project that isn’t completed on schedule.
Step #4: Allocate Resources for Each Task
Any project worthy of planning will require resources. The failure of a project to meet its deadline is most often due to poor resource allocation.
The resources necessary to complete project tasks frequently include:
- Budget: What is the financial cost of completing all of the project tasks?
- People: The team members and the skill sets required for success.
- Equipment: This could be anything from a computer to a crane.
- Materials: Building supplies, pens, paper, and anything else consumable.
- Facilities: Where will the work take place? Is it necessary to reserve office space, meeting rooms, or other facilities to complete the project tasks?
Step #5: Communicate with the Resources and Stakeholders
The final step of the project planning process is communication. The quality of communication impacts whether any relationship thrives or suffers. This is just as true in project planning as it is in any other relationship.
Everyone involved in the projects needs to be made aware of what is happening with regards to the project. This includes:
- The people involved in completing the project tasks.
- Those that control the needed resources
- Those with an interest in the success of the project.
The sooner and more clearly this communication takes place, the better.
Every project can benefit from the application of these five steps. It doesn’t matter if the project entails building a skyscraper, creating software, or launching a new product or service. When the five steps are completed well, a project is much more likely to be successful and to be completed on time. Use these five steps in the planning phase of your next project.