In present days keeping all trends in mind, planning and estimating for a project is really a big challenge. The customer always wants some scope changes and frequent changes in the project will plagued the project; that is a fear point for a project manager. The project manager has to take care of a lot of things in mind all together before working on the planning.
What are the real challenges in front of a project manager or how a project manager should plan and estimate any project? Planning and estimating is directly proportional; as you plan the same way you will estimate. The accuracy of the estimating is solely related with planning. So, as a project manager you should plan very effectively so that you could estimate your project accurately. Let me elaborate the main activities to be performed in planning:
Creating a plan:
This is the old saying that a project manager should spent more time on writing the planning. But it is a traditional thinking. Now-a-days, a project manager should not work more effectively on writing the plan rather a project manager should give more time on thinking, managing, balancing, negotiating, listening, gathering the information etc., along with writing. This will surely work more effective in project management than only writing the plan.
Creating a good and sufficient work break down structure:
A project manager should understand the project boundaries in more sufficient way. He or she needs to decompose the working activities into more smaller and manageable way so that it could be managed in more professional and accurate way. It is really very important phase for a project manager to sub-divide the work into work package level. A project manager should be very alert in not to include the out of scope work while structuring the work breakdown structure.
Make a consensus on the planning:
Whenever your project planning is ready; try to make a consensus on it with all your team members and key stakeholders. Otherwise it would be more problematic in the future for a project manager to control. Your planning should be realistic and achievable. Every person associated with the project should be agreed on it; they should feel that it could be gettable. Just remember that making a consensus on the planning is very much important for a project manager.
Establishing the roles and responsibilities for everyone:
As a project manager you should define the roles and responsibilities of each team members and stakeholders in the realistic way. Everyone should know what their role for your project is and what value they are going to add in the organization through working on your project. Most importantly, you should create a good reporting system for a project. It is an imperative process for a project manager to do this along with the human resource department. Now your planning is ready and you need to estimate per your planning. Although you have to perform a lot of activities in the time management knowledge area before a true estimating like defining the activities, sequencing the activities, estimating the resources and durations for your project. You need to develop the schedule then only you can estimate the cost for your project. But the bottom-line is that you need to plan very effectively so that you can estimate the same very accurately. For this you need to perform below mentioned activities:
- While estimating you need to estimate each and individual work package correctly – you need to define the durations and cost at each level correctly. Though at the starting level it could be a mere assumption and as work progresses it could be altered dramatically as you will notice changes in the project. As a project manager you have to be very alert on it.
- You need to create a contingency fund while estimating considering risk involved in your project. There could be some known risk and could be also unknown risk. Need to consider those while estimating. Note that contingency fund for known risk owned by the project manager while management reserve for unknown risk is owned by the higher management. A project manager should work on these contingencies actively.
Aggregating cost and durations at the work package level will give actual picture of your project while adding contingency buffers in it will create the ultimate durations and costs for your project.