Individuals and organisations regularly start a project believing that it can be easily controlled and does not require formal planning to be completed successfully. Such projects are likely to be time-consuming and expensive so failure to plan them properly is a waste of time and money because lack of planning will increase the risk of the project failing.
Planning a project is not difficult and should not take too much time, although this is obviously proportional to the complexity of the individual project. Yet many projects fail to put a detailed plan in place before works starts. In many ways it is understandable that everyone is keen to get going on an exciting new project but without a plan none of the team will know what the aims of the project are and how long it is likely to take. This can lead to projects that are never completed satisfactorily.
It’s important to remember that project success is not just about meeting the deadline within budget – these are important factors, of course but it is just as important (some would argue it’s more important) to deliver what the client actually wanted.
So next time you are embarking on a new project consider these basic project management and project planning steps – the benefits to following them could be a truly successful project:
DOCUMENTING THE CLIENT REQUIREMENTS
You should always document clearly and in detail what it is the client actually wants as the end result of the project. You should be equally diligent about writing down what is NOT included as part of the project as unspoken assumptions can be the cause of many problems in all types of project.
An essential factor for any project to succeed is good communication, both written (in the form of documentation, reports and emails) and also face-to-face communication wherever possible. All communication should be clear and detailed and leave no room for mis-interpretation. Whilst emails are a very useful form of regular communication, verbal communication is necessary from time-to-time to establish trust and clarify details.
All tasks involved in completing the project must be assigned to a particular person or team. Avoid allocating a single task to more than one group or team to avoid conflicts of interest, unclear allocation of responsibilities and mismatched skill sets. If necessary break the work down into more distinct parts and allocate them separately to different teams. When teams are working on tasks there should always be a single person in the team who has clear responsibility for ensuring the task is completed.
Ensuring that people are fully committed to their allocated tasks is a contributing factor in the quality of the work they do and the ultimate project success. Commitment can be established by agreeing on the work that is required and how long it will take to realistically complete it.
As projects progress, future tasks and expectations become clearer and will often change so it is important to have a plan and a project schedule but it is also important to appreciate that these are not set in stone. By allowing the plan to be flexible and, particularly, by incorporating a time and cost contingency at the outset, you are more likely to achieve a satisfactory end result.
Problems will inevitably arise during every project but it is the way in which risks are monitored and managed that will determine how they affect the project. Some risks occur unexpectedly but some can be anticipated so a project team should always discuss potential risks at various stages throughout the project so that they can determine in advance how to deal with certain risks.
These are the most basic aspects of a well planned project and there are many more tools and methods that can be used on complex projects, but whatever type of project you might be embarking on some planning is always better than none.