Project Plan, Project Planning, Project Planners and Project Planning Tools

Project Plan

To some, the term Project Plan means just about all the documentation associated with a project. Here we use the term Project Plan to mean the thing that shows who will do what work and when.

Project Planning is one of the topics covered in this Project Management Course.

Project Planners

In IT projects the project planner - the person who constructs the task-by-task work plan - could be the project manager, the project team leader(s) or the Project Office.

The Project Office probably should not build the work plans as this can lead to a lack of ownership of and belief in the project plan: the team and even the team leaders view the plan as a bureaucratic irrelevance.

In a small project the project manager can personally do the project planning - deciding who will do which work tasks and when. But with large project teams it becomes well nigh impossible for the project manager either to know in detail all the work tasks that will need to be done or to have the time to construct the plan even if he did. Although he remains the global owner of the project plan he will delegate the building of sections of the project plan to his team leaders.

Project Planning

A team leader might lead a team of anything between one and a dozen other people - let's say typically 8 people. The team leader will know precisely what his team must produce - their work products - and he is responsible for deciding who will do what work tasks and when.

He is thus able to tell the project manager what his team will deliver and when. Of course, he will need to work with other team leaders in the project to ensure his plan fits coherently with theirs and then, ideally, the team leaders can present the project manager with a beautifully interlocked set of plans. In practice this takes a lot of time, horse trading and the intercession of the project manager. But after all of that the project manager has an overall project calendar that shows what commitments he is able to make. Though, if he is smart, he will add a certain amount of contingency and externally commit dates a little later than those shown on the team leaders' work plans.

Project Planning

Project Planning is one of the topics covered in this Project Management Course. Many aspects of project plans, project planning and the job of the project planners are described in the course including:

Using Project Planning Tools

Do project planning tools help or hinder project planners? Some novice planners get lost in tools like Microsoft Project and project planning becomes an exercise in graphic design - the prettier the project plan the better. And the plan is so difficult to understand that the team don't refer to it. Tracking progress against it is a nightmare - so nobody does. And updating it takes so much effort the project plan never gets updated.

If the project plan is to be a useful tool for the team leader and the team it has to be produced in a medium that is easy to understand.

A very large piece of paper which looks like a giant diary divided into columns where each column represents one week is a nice simple starting point most of us can understand at a glance. Then, a task that will take a week to do is represented by a green bar that is a week long with a word or two explaining what the task is. Tracking against the project plan can be as simple as drawing a red bar showing when the task was actually started and when it was actually completed.

Some project planners favour whiteboards: easier to update. But buy a digital camera lest an enthusiastic cleaner wipes the board one evening. The whole team can see the whiteboard, it can be the focus of team discussions.

Are Project Planning Tools a Bad Thing?

No! Project Planning Tools are extremely valuable. But they are just that - tools - and like any tool they are only as good as the person using it. In the hands of someone who knows both how to build project plans AND how to use the tool effectively (two totally unrelated skills, by the way) project planning tools are tremendous assets.

They can provide plan ve actual status data that would be impractical to compile by hand. They can show trends - underspend or overspend on a certain type of task, for example - that would not be apparent from manual tracking. And for large projects they become just about essential (though the Egyptians did seem to manage to plan and build the pyramids without them...)

Project Management Training Course

Project Planning is covered in this Project Management Course. The course takes us from the very beginning - when the project is just a gleam in the eye, through project definition and the assignment of project roles. The course then addresses the thorny topic of estimating. Risk management and estimating both feed into a session on the mechanics of constructing the project plan - if you're a project planner and you're asked to go and plan your first ever project, where do you start? What do you do next? How do you transform that blank piece of paper into a project plan. The course then looks at planning tools - their pros and cons, when to use them and when not to.

Subsequent sessions cover how to record hours worked and tasks completed and match these against the project plan, and how to use this plan vs actual data to control the project and report upon its status. Issue and change management, quality management and several other topics that a project planner must understand are also addressed in the course. For details of what the course covers please visit Project Management Course.


Risk Management

Quality Management in Software Development Projects

The Tale of Three Project Managers

Towards a Project-Centric World

Project Management in the Public Sector

Project Management Proverbs, Saying, Laws and Jokes

So You Want To Be A Project Manager?

IT Project Management Book

Project Plan Planning Planner

Copyright M Harding Roberts

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