Scope, Time, and Cost planning in a project: A difficult task for Project Management

I was in New York last month in a PMI seminar and discussed on various points with so many experienced project managers globally. I was just surprised to know their initial and planning approach towards a project. Amazing! Just Amazing! How neat their planning procedures are – How strong their initial stages are – I think 1000 times whether this can be applied in my project. How fantastic it will impacts really – Unbelievable!

The main difference is we never plan a project in due time or we never got the sufficient time for a planning. As a project manager you have to collect the project requirements correctly and I am telling you – it is a huge task. We failed here only. If a project manager can collect his/her projects requirements correctly – he can plan effectively.

Note that a perfect planning doesn’t means that you have planned perfectly on the project deliverables, but it signifies that how perfectly you have planned to manage the requirements of the stakeholders and expectations of the stakeholders balancing the project objectives. There are sub-plans as well in a place and as a whole it forms the entire project management plan. They are:

Scope planning

Schedule planning

Cost planning

So many times we heard the term scope baseline, cost baseline, and schedule baseline…also we heard the term performance baselines. What are these? Why it is so important for a project manager to understand these terms? Is there any formula to derive these? No, not at all, indeed! Let me explain you on these terms in the detail:

Scope planning

After collecting the project requirements you need to define the scope…the high level project requirements you can get from the project charter itself. But you need to investigate the entire project requirements and mainly the stakeholder’s requirement for the particular project. After this you can create WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) up to the work package level and further you can split these work packages into the activities and at that point you can decide and plan what particular work need to perform for an individual to complete the work package. And this as a whole called as scope baselines…it consists of the project scope statement, work breakdown structure, and work breakdown structure dictionary as a whole. In work breakdown structure dictionary, you can get the information on the activities – what works need to perform for a particular activity.

Schedule planning

This is one of the important planning in the project management professional. After defining scope and creating the project scope statement you need to fix a schedule or you can say a milestone date for the activities performed in your project. You need to determine the resources required for your project – you need to estimate the durations required for the determined resources to fulfill their activities to furnish the work package allocated to them. In that way you will be able to fix the schedule for that particular work package. Initially we take granted the information in hand and create a schedule based on the bottom-up estimating and as project progresses it is further updated. Note that planning is progressively elaborated. You can estimate the schedule through PERT as well using the formulas described for the same.

Cost planning

Now you have decided your schedule and now you can decide the cost as well very easily as to determine the cost mainly you need the scope baselines and the project schedule. Again, you can do bottom-up estimating as the information in hand initially and further it can be altered and polished as project progresses. Note that you must add your risk cost as well in this cost planning as contingency and management reserves.

In total, the scope baselines, schedule baselines, and cost baselines are known as performance baselines and as a project manager you need to monitor those baselines throughout the life cycle of the project.

Apart from the above, the project manager has to perform below mentioned planning as well:

Human Resource planning

Communication planning

Risk planning

Procurement planning

Change management planning

Configuration management planning

Process improvement planning

As a whole it is known as project management planning. Ethically, a project manager should plan the time and cost planning perfectly. It is not expected from a project manager to keep CPI and SPI below 1 and at the same time it is not expected from a project manager to keep CPI and SPI far ahead of 1 i.e., 1.5, 1.6., etc. Suppose, you are managing a project and your CPI is 1.5, then in that case you can release your resources for the other projects to manage the CPI effectively or you can crush the project to complete the project a bit earlier…but all these activities depends on the nature of the projects and demand of the projects. You can think a lot if you have managed your CPI and SPI in the right way.

This is the project manager’s responsibility to decide these planning baselines with the help of stakeholders, project team, and project management team.

About the Author Pradip Dwevedi, PMP

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