What is Project Planning: Tools and Fundamentals

Project planning ensures project success and timely delivery, a crucially important function in any technical organization. Striving toward a perfect plan will help increase the probability of customer satisfaction and their trust in the organization for future investments. It’s the most crucial step in the reduction of risk and project failures. After all, every project manager knows that no one gets points for a brilliant idea if the execution ultimately fails. 

There are some necessary steps to project planning that can help yield a successful and efficient process. We can refer to different project planning tools like Gantt chart, PERT chart, or Critical Path Method when forming a project plan.

The following tutorial covers the basics of project planning, its fundamentals, why it’s so important for organizations, some popular tools used for project planning, and basic steps. We’ll also look at some opportunities to learn about these tools in more depth.

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What is Project Planning?

A project consists of five different phases: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closure. Planning is the second phase of the project life cycle, where a plan after the initiation phase is made so the process of execution may begin. The project plan serves as a roadmap for the entire process of project management

Project planning involves: 

  • Defining Objectives 

    The definition must include what the project is comprised of, its main aim, what it intends to accomplish, and what marks its closure
  • Explaining the Scope

    The explanation provides details on what the project intends to solve and who will benefit from the project
  • Scheduling Tasks 

    Each task is given a start date, an end date, and provides an estimate of how much time a task would take to complete
  • Generating Progress Reports 

    The document includes the work to be performed, deliverables, and the intended outcome of the project

Project Planning Fundamentals

Project Planning refers to defining fundamentals such as the following:

Determination of Scope, Cost, and Resources

  • The process of determining the scope, cost, and resources help estimate the time required to complete the project, the number of people needed, and the skill set required
  • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) helps this process by dividing the whole task into smaller, manageable segments

Identification of the Problem

  • A variety of techniques, like surveys or meetings, are used to collect information to assess problems
  • There can be multiple problems; then, the project team selects the issue that requires the most immediate attention

Identification of Stakeholders 

  • Identification of stakeholders gives a clearer image of the real problem, specifically which function or people might be affected by the project
  • Stakeholders work with the project team and contribute to the project's success

Definition of Project Objectives

  • A plan is made, keeping in mind the various expectations of the stakeholders
  • The success of the project entirely depends on how much of the expectations the project is able to meet

Why Project Planning?

Project planning ensures monitoring of the budget and schedule at every step. The project plan includes a schedule that guides team members in completing their tasks and helps them in knowing which tool they will need and when. It also helps the team stay engaged for higher project performance. The project plan ensures there is the active participation of all the team members and allows them to have an opportunistic approach towards their work.

Project planning ensures timely testing of the output at every step. When successfully implemented, everyone on the project team can foresee problems before they happen. This creates efficiencies and ensures the successful execution of the plan.

Additionally, project planning helps analyze, prioritize, and ensure an appropriate plan for all kinds of risks. Proper planning ensures that if there is more than one risk, they can be prioritized and dealt with accordingly. This step ensures that nothing will fall apart and the plan makes it easy for the project team to remember all the crucial details and deadlines.

What are the Components of a Project Plan?

The following are the components of project planning: 

Scope

It is one of the most important components of a project plan. The scope determines what a project team will and will not do. Defining the project's in-scope requirements make the work breakdown structure creation process easier. The project manager must define performance objectives as part of the project scope.

Budget

One of a project's most important components is the budget. To determine the project's cost, project managers consider the amount of labour and other resources needed to complete the project's objectives. Different phases, tasks, and activities require different budget allocations depending on their priorities and needs. 

Timeline

The term "timeline" describes how long it is anticipated for each project stage to be finished. It also entails stating how the project is broken down into tasks and subtasks. The definition of these timelines, the creation of individual and team schedules, and the selection of project milestones are all included in the timeline process.

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How Do You Create a Project Plan?

The following steps will ensure that the project will be executed properly: 

Define Stakeholders

Anyone with interest in the project is a stakeholder. Thus, any person, organisation, or party interested in a company or its actions' results is considered a stakeholder.

Define Roles

Stakeholders have a variety of responsibilities within the business. They may occasionally participate in making decisions, bringing in money, and performing other duties.

Introduce Stakeholders

It is essential to schedule formal or informal meetings with each team member at various points throughout the project. Before the project starts, issues like scope, budget, goals, schedule, and roles should be discussed.

Set Goals

Setting goals is essential to prepare for personal change and achieve project goals. It serves as a basis for managing performance and motivates and focuses attention.

Prioritize Tasks

You need to set tasks in order of importance. Also, the more significant task can be simplified into smaller objectives and tasks.

Create a Schedule

You must set up a system to make sure when deadlines are missed, corrective actions are taken. Your timeline may need to be modified, considering your objectives.

Assess Risks

A risk is a potential issue with your project that may or may not materialise. To avoid being caught off guard later, it is crucial to identify risks in project management and mitigate them during the project planning phase.

Communicate

Setting up reliable communication lines and expectations for project communication is essential. Hold a meeting or solicit opinions from each team member regarding the risks you should take into account.

Reassess

You should reevaluate everything once you've reached the halfway point or other significant milestones. Doing so lets you assess which areas you are doing well in and which require more effort. Your original plan may need to be modified after revaluation.

Final Evaluation

You need to reflect on the project once it is finished. Learn from your areas of weakness and focus more on improving the ones where you performed better. Your likelihood of project success goes up as a result.

What are the 5 Phases of a Project?

Following are the essential 5 phases of each project: 

Initiation

You must create a business plan and define a broad project at this stage. Ensure the project meets business needs and that stakeholders and project teams agree. Creating the project success criteria throughout the project life cycle is the main objective of the Initiation Phase. Also, at this point, the feasibility of the project and its measurement are taken into account.

Planning

Successful project management depends on good project planning. The project team members focus on specific requirements, tasks, deadlines, and actions during the project planning phase. The project manager collaborates with every team member to develop the design, list the tasks, and determine the budget. S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) and C.L.E.A.R. (collaborative, limited, emotional, appreciable, refinable) are two of the most common approaches to setting project goals.

Execution

To keep the project on track for the remainder of the life cycle, the project manager attempts to manage every task and aspect of project delivery during this phase. During this phase, the project manager also must consistently uphold productive stakeholder collaboration. This ensures everyone is on the same page and everything goes off without a hitch during the project.

Monitoring and Management

By working in parallel with project execution, the project monitoring and controlling phase guarantees that goals and project deliverables are met. Along with keeping tabs on task progress, the project manager also looks for problems or risks, develops a plan to mitigate them with the team, and regularly communicates the project's status to stakeholders.

Closing and Review

The project management process ends at this stage. The final crucial tasks must be finished to ensure that the client is satisfied. However, the team should conduct a project retrospective regardless of the life cycle. The project team can consider new lessons learned and ensure that current project management procedures are improved for a future project during this post-mortem activity.

Project Planning Tools

Project planning tools help everyone concerned keep track of project requirements and deadlines. Some of the most popular project planning tools include the following:

Gantt Chart

  • Gantt charts are an industry standard that helps in tracking both time and interdependencies between tasks
  • Gantt charts are an essential tool to show different phases, jobs, and resources involved in project management

Critical Path Method (CPM)

  • Critical Path Method (CPM) is a crucial tool for determining the progress of the project to ensure that the project is on schedule
  • CPM helps in determining the essential or critical path by finding out the longest stretch of dependent tasks

PERT Chart

  • The Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) helps in analyzing the tasks to complete the project and the time required to complete those tasks
  • PERT simplifies the planning and scheduling of large and complex projects

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

  • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a process of organizing the team's work into manageable sections
  • WBS is a hierarchical structure of the deliverables needed to complete the project

Project Documentation

  • Project documentation is created during the project lifecycle, which involves project scope, its schedule, and the risk analysis
  • Project documents help in better understanding and risk analysis of the project

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Project Planning Steps

There are seven essential project planning steps:

project planning steps

1. Identify and Meet Stakeholder

The stakeholders might include the project manager, the customer, or the team. The first step is to identify and meet the stakeholders to discuss their expectations and establish the project scope.

2. Define Scope

Project scope involves determining a list of specific project goals, deliverables, budgets, and deadlines. Project scope helps in establishing boundaries of the project and responsibilities of each team member.

3. Set and Prioritize Objectives

The objectives are set and prioritized once the expectations of stakeholders become certain. More exquisite detail to initial ideas is given, which serves as a reference point throughout the project.

4. Determine Deliverables 

Deliverables are the reason why the projects are created. It is one of the most critical steps of the project planning to determine what these deliverables will be and how they will be delivered in time. 

5. Create a Project Schedule 

The project schedule outlines when different tasks of a project are supposed to begin and end. The project schedule helps measure the project progress and set up progress reports.

6. Risk Analysis

Identifying risks and considering how to deal with them is an essential step in project planning. Specific steps to prevent risks from happening or limiting their impact should be considered.

7. Set Progress Guidelines 

There must be a communication plan to update the stakeholders regarding the project progress. This can be done monthly, weekly, or daily so that all involved members can monitor the progress.

Learn How Project Planning Can Improve Your Organization and Career

Even the most promising plans will fall flat if they aren’t properly executed. The best way to ensure success is to employ one of the proven project management methodologies already used by some of today’s biggest and most agile companies. Best of all, you can upgrade your skills online by enrolling in Simplilearn’s comprehensive PMP® Certification Training today!

About the Author

Ishan GabaIshan Gaba

Ishan Gaba is a Research Analyst at Simplilearn. He is proficient in Java Programming, Data Structures, and Project Management. Graduated in Information Technology, Ishan is also passionate about writing and traveling.

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