I recently outlined the five phases of project management in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) with a particular focus on the first phase, Initiating.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the next phase, Planning. We’ll also cover how to use SharePoint to plan your project.
Project Management Phase 2: Planning
A well-defined project plan is the basis of successful delivery. Spending time on this step will save time and prevent headaches later on!
The plan also determines reporting metrics and a baseline for measuring performance.
During the planning phase, you’ll need to work on deliverables and key areas like costs, scope, and change management.
Let’s start with Project Deliverables.
All projects have an objective, an output used either internally or externally by a client or your customers.
To reach this objective, your team will need to create outputs, or deliverables, on time.
A project deliverable is defined as:
- As a tangible output created as a result of work completed during the project.
- Within the scope of the project.
- Agreed with stakeholders (internal or external).
- Has a role in reaching the objectives of the project.
The completion of a project deliverable is a good check-in point with your stakeholders.
A project deliverable can also represent a project milestone. However, there are some differences between a milestone and a deliverable worth noting.
- Can be tangible or an important point on the project.
- Is a checkpoint for project performance.
- Does not have an impact on the project’s objective.
Although reaching a milestone is typically more relevant to a team, you may need to include milestone updates in stakeholder reports.
Project deliverables are managed using processes and tools such as the Work Breakdown Structure and RACI matrix. These are covered in the next section.
Let’s take a look at how to plan your deliverables.
Remember – deliverables should be documented and planned before any work begins! It’s worth investing time to this key piece of the project.
Firstly, you’ll need to start with the goals of the project. Think about:
- What is this project trying to achieve?
- What output is needed by stakeholders once the project closes?
- Can this output be broken down into smaller parts?
- How important is each part to the overall project?
- How will we create each part/outcome?
Next, you’ll need to gather clear requirements from stakeholders. Requirements must be within the scope, budget, and assigned resources of the project.
Clarify and document stakeholder requirements and expectations about the project along with agreed deliverables.
Using the objectives and requirements, break the project down into smaller chunks of work and identify what is needed for each phase.
From here, you can build a picture of how you will create the deliverable, or series of deliverables, needed for a successful project.
Once you have figured out the deliverables, there are some additional considerations worth exploring:
- Who needs to approve each deliverable?
- What will make this deliverable a success for stakeholders?
- What is the desired quality standard for the deliverable?
- Has a team created similar deliverables in the past? If so, what can you learn from their experiences?
- How will we track progress towards each deliverable?
As mentioned above, process deliverables help with project planning. Keep reading to learn more.
These documents are not deliverables; rather, they will make the project easier to manage!
Work Breakdown Structure
The work breakdown structure (WBS) is an outline of key project deliverables and the work needed to get there.
The list starts with the required deliverables. This goal is further broken down into manageable time blocks and tasks needed to reach this objective.
By focusing on the bigger picture, the WBS ensures that no element of the project is overlooked during the planning phase.
The Gantt chart is a visual view of the timeline. The Gantt chart helps to identify:
- The start and end date of a project
- Project tasks
- Task owners
- Length of tasks
- Task interdependencies.
The RACI Matrix is used to define task ownership. RACI refers to:
- Responsible: The individual or individuals who will complete the task.
- Accountable: The individual who ensures the work is performed, for example, the project manager.
- Consulted: These individuals or groups provide advice before, during, and sometimes after a task is completed.
- Informed: These are the people who should be kept up-to-date about the project but in a one-way system.
Additional Elements of a Project Plan
In addition to project and process deliverables, you’ll need to cover the below areas in your plan.
Estimate costs and create the project budget.
This should include ideal and likely timelines. It’s useful to start at the end goal and work backward to develop your timeline.
As we’ll see below, the Work Breakdown Structure is a helpful tool for timeline planning.
Scope refers to the work, and only the work, needed to deliver the project. Set the scope, including tasks and timelines, early to avoid issues in Phase 3 (Execution).
Scope creep occurs when too many ‘small’ changes are completed during the project without consideration of the impact on the overall timeline.
To help manage scope, create a system for capturing and addressing new requests during project execution, for example, a SharePoint list.
Decide how deliverables will match the required criteria. Along with time and costs, quality is part of the triple constraints that impact on a project.
Communication can make or break your project! Develop a detailed communication plan, outlining when and how key communications will occur.
This should also include stakeholder engagement.
Revisit the original risk assessment from Phase 1 and refine it with input from the team. Develop and share your process for identifying, reporting, and resolving risks.
Gather and allocate required resources, including the team and physical resources. Check for over-allocation and conflicts with other projects.
Determine key reporting metrics and how the project will be tracked against these metrics. Project metrics include cost, number of late tasks, and the number of open issues. Reporting options vary from metric tiles to status reports, real-time dashboards, and RAG (Red, Amber, Green) indicators.
Once these plans are prepared, review and update the original project charter as required. It’s a good idea to ask your project sponsor and team to check the plan to ensure it’s realistic and nothing is overlooked.
At this point, you may need to make some compromises to deal with the conflicting constraints of time, quality, and cost.
Finally, assign tasks to relevant team members and notify individuals of their responsibilities on the project.
Project Planning with SharePoint
There are a few simple steps for project planning with SharePoint.
In the Project Initiation Phase, a project statement was added to your SharePoint site.
With a more solid plan in place, update the statement as needed with key information on:
The ‘Tasks List’ is located on the ‘Getting Started Tiles’ on the homepage and in the Quick Launch menu on the left-hand side of your site.
Use the ‘Tasks List’ to create the WBS with tasks and subtasks. Add a start and end date before assigning to the relevant team member.
The team will receive an email notification about their new tasks.
BrightWork customers can also use the customizable ‘Boards’ web part to plan and track project tasks in a visual way.
Having added dates to your tasks, you can use the BrightWork in-browser scheduler to calculate the project schedule. As the team works on the project, it’s very easy to update the schedule using this feature!
More complex schedules can be managed using the sync between MS Project Professional and SharePoint.
Using a SharePoint document library to store all project information eliminates silos and ensures everyone is working with the correct information!
Simply upload documents to the library and use them as needed.
Useful documents to add include your communication plan, quality definitions, and a process of managing new change requests.
Read more: The Five Phases of Project Management
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2018 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
In her free time, she enjoys a challenging session at the gym, tucking into a good book, and walking the beautiful Galway coastline with her dog.