Project planning


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Project planning

  1. 1. Project planning Project planning is part of project management, which relates to the use of schedules such as Gantt charts to plan and subsequently report progress within the project environment.[1] Initially, the project scope is defined and the appropriate methods for completing the project are determined. Following this step, the durations for the various tasks necessary to complete the work are listed and grouped into a work breakdown structure. Project planning is often used to organize different areas of a project, including project plans,work loads and the management of teams and individuals. [2] The logical dependencies between tasks are defined using an activity network diagram that enables identification of the critical path. Float or slack time in the schedule can be calculated using project management software.[3] Then the necessary resources can be estimated and costs for each activity can be allocated to each resource, giving the total project cost. At this stage, the project schedule may be optimized to achieve the appropriate balance betweenresource usage and project duration to comply with the project objectives. Once established and agreed, the project schedule becomes what is known as the baseline schedule. Progress will be measured against the baseline schedule throughout the life of the project. Analyzing progress compared to the baseline schedule is known asearned value management.[4] The inputs of the project planning phase include the project charter and the concept proposal. The outputs of the project planning phase include the project requirements, the project schedule, and the project management plan.[5] The Project Planning Process To help staff and delegates better understand and implement the project planning process, the Federation is setting up a standardized training package which incorporates the project cycle management methodology and well-known tools such as the Logical Framework. Once the training itself and the materials used have been tested, the training initiative may be extended to National Society personnel. The project planning methodology will be tailored to the needs of the Red Cross Red Crescent and applicable to both relief & developmentinterventions. The training aims to simplify planning methods and to provide the Red Cross Red Crescent with a common approach and terminology for the different documents and projects produced, i.e. CAS/RAS, appeals, donors’ grant proposals, etc. The Federation’s training programme will include the following three elements: Project planning process (PPP). Adaptation of existing planning methodology and development of tools that match Red Cross Red Crescent needs, with simple and standardized formats for
  2. 2. programme/project managers. This system should respond to our diverse planning, implementation and reporting needs. PPP training module (40h) development and testing. A standard training course on the use of the Red Cross Red Crescent project planning process. Interactive PPP CD-ROM. An interactive CD-ROM will be distributed to the participants of the training module, to help them put the planning methodology into practice. The idea is to develop basic software which allows the user to develop a programme/project proposal applying the PPP step by step. After drafting one master proposal, the user will be able to print it in the different Red Cross Red Crescent formats or those required by each donor (e.g., CAS/RAS, appeals, operational plans, ECHO proposals, etc.). The CD ROM also contains a detailed handbook which is designed to be used in conjunction with the CD ROM. The CD ROM exists in English, French and Spanish. The contents of the handbook are as follows: Project cycle management limitations Levels of planning Project planning process 1. Analysis of the situation Step 1. Stakeholders’ analysis Step 2. Internal analysis Step 3. Problem analysis Step 4. Analysis of objectives Step 5. Strategy analysis 2. Programming Step 6. The overall goal Step 7. The project objective Step 8. The project’s expected results Step 9. The project’s activities Step 10. Resources, sources and costs Step 11. Preconditions, assumptions and risks Step 12. Designing the evaluation system Step 13. Sustainability analysis Step 14. The project’s plan of action Step 15. The project’s budget 3. Implementation and management 4. Evaluation Summary of how the handbook presents the Project Planning Process
  3. 3. The first two chapters of the handbook present a background overview of project cycle management and levels of planning. As we have shown above, there are many different levels of planning, different approaches and methodologies, and each plan has varying levels of complexity and sophistication. However, all planning processes – at whatever level – have the same basic structure, as shown in the figure on the right: 1. Analysis of the situation This section explains why and how the planning team should identify, in the most accurate and comprehensive manner possible, the reality of the situation in the location where the planned intervention will take place: its main elements, key issues and characteristics of the community/group. It should also take into account the “internal” characteristics of the team and/or organization. An important point is that the analysis of the situation should be done in the most participatory way possible incorporating representatives from all stakeholders. 2. Programming: the logical framework planning matrix Once the situation has been analysed, identified and understood, the team should establish concrete objectives and outline the steps or actions that should be followed, and the necessary resources and organization, to achieve them in an effective and efficient manner. This requires the establishment of proper indicators for these objectives.
  4. 4. 3. Project implementation and management This section examines the most important moment for a planning team: when the programming really makes sense and becomes a reality. The team has to put in place the intervention that has been planned, and to manage and monitor the whole process. 4. Evaluation This section explains how the evaluation of the planning process allows the team to know if what they planned was implemented and, therefore, if the objectives were achieved and to what degree. The evaluation should cover the entire process of planning, not just come in at the end. During the programming, the team should design an evaluation system that includes different measures to appraise the planning process before implementation, to monitor the process during implementation and correct certain measures if necessary, and to evaluate the results after implementation. This “after implementation” evaluation is not a “final” evaluation. Rather, it should be considered as the initial point for a new planning process, because the results of this evaluation will allow the team to improve planning and increase the quality and effectiveness* of future interventions. The diagram below will help you to understand the concepts explained above and to see at a glance the links between the different levels of planning and the process as a cycle: As a result of this initiative, it is expected that: Programme/project managers have the knowledge and tools to apply the PPP approach; The quality of programme/project proposals and their implementation and reporting improves; Planning standards and common terminology are established; Planning training is tailored to the Federation’s, National Societies’ and donors’ needs and requirements; The Federation’s planning system is harmonized with its different partners and donors; and In the long term, and after a certain period of training and implementing the PPP, National Societies will improve their income generation and fund- raising, the quality of their programmes/projects and their reporting
  5. 5. Steps involved in project planning The life cycle of a project has five stages. Stage 1: Visualizing, Selling, Initiating the Project The only effective way to get buy–in for your idea is to link it to what’s important to the person you are approaching, and demonstrate that you are openly soliciting his or her input. It’s a rare person who will immediately accept an idea without being involved in shaping the concept. Stage 2: Planning the Project Assuming the project concept and feasibility have been determined, the “Plan-Do- Check-Act” cycle (see figure below) is directly applicable to project planning and management.
  6. 6. Using the PDCA cycle for projects Stage 3: Designing the Processes and Outputs (Deliverables) When the project is approved, the project team proceeds with the content design and with the procurements needed to implement the project. The design process includes defining: • Measurements. • The monitoring method. • Status reporting protocols. • Evaluation criteria. • Design of the ultimate processes and outputs. • Implementation schedules. Stage 4: Implementing and Tracking the Project The project design team may also implement the project, possibly with the help of additional personnel. A trial or test implementation may be used to check out the project design and outputs to determine if they meet the project objectives. Using the planned reporting methods, the implementation team monitors the project and reports on its status to appropriate interested parties at designated project milestones. Measurements of interim results may also be
  7. 7. communicated to interested parties. The implementation team makes any course corrections and trade–offs that may be necessary and are approved. Stage 5: Evaluating and Closing Out the Project The implementation team officially closes the project when the scheduled tasks have been completed. Usually evaluations are done to determine: • Objectives met versus objectives planned. • Actual tasks and events scheduled versus planned. • Resources used versus planned resource usage. • Costs versus budget. • Organizational outcomes achieved versus planned outcomes; any unplanned outcomes. • Effectiveness of project planning team (optional). • Effectiveness of implementation team (optional). • Team’s compilation of project documents, evaluations and lessons learned. The project is then officially closed out. Team participants are recognized for their contributions, and the team is disbanded. For some types of projects, many organizations find a post-implementation assessment of the outcomes achieved from implementing the project, several months after project completion, is valuable. Outputs and Outcomes Frequently the terms “outputs” and “outcomes” are used as if their meanings were interchangeable. But they aren’t. • Outputs are what the project produces. Project outputs may be an improved process, installation of a new machine, a benchmarking study, etc. Outputs of the project team process itself may be project plans and supporting documents, status reports and the like. • Outcomes are the effects that the implementation of the project has on the overall organization, and should support the strategic direction of the organization. Outcomes may consist of measurable improvements in customer satisfaction, profits or cost containment, improved market position and market penetration, etc. For ease of understanding, outcomes are usually expressed as dollar values. 12 Steps to Planning a Project
  8. 8. June 13, 2012 Who doesn’t love a checklist? We use them every day from a simple list of groceries that we check off at the store to a comprehensive flight readiness checklist that is done before a pilot takes off. But, there are few people that love checklists as much as project managers. After all, aren’t your project plans just one big checklist of things that need to be marked off in order to complete the project? Whatever doesn’t fit on the project plan checklist is then stored on our daily to-do checklist that we keep by our side at all times. Use this Checklist to Avoid Missing Critical Planning Steps The following checklist of 12 activities for planning a project can serve as a reference for new project managers and a reminder for those that may be more experienced. It’s good to run down this list from time to time to make sure you haven’t missed a critical step when it comes to planning a project. 1. Define the Scope This is an important first step in planning a project because it answers the question of what it is that needs to be completed. This scope needs to clearly articulate and define what this project looks like, why it’s important, what it needs to accomplish, and roughly when it needs to be complete. 2. Identify Your Project Supporters The project that is defined from above must have sponsors or stakeholders that the completion of this project is important to. Find out who these people are. They may be funding the project, or have the influence necessary to keep the project moving forward when the going gets tough. Establish a relationship with this group of people and communicate with them on a regular basis about the good, the bad, and the ugly that is happening with your project. Their vested interest will help you get more done with less aggravation. 3. Determine Resources that Are Available
  9. 9. Based upon the scope defined in Step 1, you should have a pretty good idea of what type of resources will be needed to complete the project. Are they technical in nature? Do they need a special skill set or training? Are they already on-site and available or will they need to be hired or contracted in order to complete the project? This will give you a good sense of what you will need to do fill in any major gaps when it comes to resources planning. 4. Check the Timeline A big part of planning a project is to understand the timeline that has been associated with a project. In a perfect world, the scope and resources available should determine how long the project will take. But, we all know that many times this is not the case. Market pressures will accelerate how fast a project needs to be finished in order to compete with new technology. Or, perhaps a salesperson committed a date to a client in order to get the deal without really knowing what it takes. Get a sense of what you are dealing with so you can determine if it will be feasible with what you have in place already or if creative project planning will be necessary. 5. List the Big Steps This is a simple way of saying to start putting together your Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). However you breakdown your WBS (deliverable, service, hybrid, etc.) you need to start thinking about those activities and deliverables that are big and discrete enough to go along the top level of this hierarchy. This will help you determine whether you have captured “the big picture” of what needs to be done to complete this project. 6. Break Down the Smaller Steps
  10. 10. Once you’ve determined what the big steps are, now break them down into smaller chunks of bite-size work that can be doled out to the team. For example, one of the Big Steps from Step 5 above may be Documentation Complete. The smaller steps would then consist of deliverables along the lines of Technical Manual, Release Notes, and Training Manual. This could be broken down even further into Write Manual, Design Manual, and Print Manual. This process helps ensure each deliverable is seen to its completion. 7. Develop a Draft Plan When it comes to planning a project, at this point you know what the project is, how long you have to do it, the resources that are available, and roughly what needs to be done. This is when you put together a DRAFT plan. This is your first stab at combining the dates, deliverables, and resources together. It’s the time to identify dependencies and include them in the plan At this point you are working on the plan in a vacuum. That’s why it’s called a draft plan. Because, the moment it sees the light of day and your team gets their eyes on it, they will identify all the things you missed or got wrong. That’s what Step #8 is for. 8. Create your Baseline Project Plan Now that you have the draft complete, you want the feedback from your team. Review it with them. Let them know your thought process when it comes to planning a project of this type. Let them think about it and then listen to their feedback. They will recognize areas that you may have missed, are technically impossible, or may conflict (or benefit from) some other initiative that is already in progress. Take it all in, weigh each suggestion against your experience and discretion, and then develop version 1.0 of the project plan. 9. Refine the Plan Based upon Reality
  11. 11. Now that the plan is moving forward, reflect and refine based upon the reality of what is actually happening on the project. Are things going well or running behind? Make adjustments accordingly. This can be either to the plan or to how the plan is being executed, for example, bringing on more resources to complete it on time or reducing the scope and moving some deliverable to a future phase. 10. Monitor Progress Progress will need to be something that is constantly monitored on a daily basis. Is the plan staying on track? Are issues being addressed and resolved in a timely manner? It’s your job as a project manager in planning a project to include how progress and success will be monitored throughout the duration of the project, one of the best methods will be project planning online to monitor progress against plans. 11. Document Everything Planning a project has to do as much with understanding that things will change as it does putting the original plan together. Make sure you keep up with these changes in writing and update documentation to reflect reality frequently. There’s nothing worse than someone realizing way into the project that they were working off the wrong version of the specification document or project schedule and find themselves separated from where the rest of the team was heading. 12. Keep Everyone Up-to-Date Finally, you need to include mechanisms in your project plan that will keep everyone up-to-date. It may be a simple “everything is just fine” message that is blasted out to anyone and everyone interested in the progress of the project to an emergency conference call in order to address a problem that just arose. Don’t leave the communication plan to chance. If you do, people that need to know and that can help with the success of the project may not have the information they need to assist.