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Developing a Project Plan in 5 Steps

MyMG Team
May 29, 2012

Best practices to plan development

project plan stepsPlanning is a basic management process that involves formulation of a detailed scheme or action scenario to get optimization between the needs and available resources within a project. Developing a project plan is the primary goal of that process. A project plan explains in detail what amount of work to do and how to achieve the objectives, by whom, and when. It is the most prioritized document that provides a roadmap for the project manager to follow. In this article you will find out the 5 steps to developing a winning plan for your project.

Step #1. Agree on the Baselines

A baseline is a measure that lets establish performance expectations, analyze current state of work, and forecast the outcome. Baselines are used by project managers to define work and measure ongoing performance against the expectations.

Scope, Schedule and Cost are the three constraints used to prepare the baselines of any project. Accordingly, the scope, schedule and cost baselines determine what type and amount of work to perform, within what time frame, and with what monetary resources involved.

Before a project is started, it is critical to discuss and agree on the baselines with key stakeholders. The project manager will need to prepare a documented description of the constraints and then hold a meeting with the stakeholders to describe the scope, outline the schedule and present cost estimates. This person will also briefly discuss baseline management plans that explain how any variances to the baselines will be addressed throughout the project.

Having agreed on the baselines, the project manager can proceed with outlining baseline management plans, which are subsidiary to the project plan. Those plans explain how to manage risks, quality, issues, communications, changes etc.

Tip: First, identify the constraints of your project, which are Scope, Cost, and Schedule. Then, determine how the project will be measured against those constraints, by creating performance criteria which will be the baselines. Next, outline the baseline management plans (a communications management plan, quality management plan, etc.). Finally, hold a meeting with the stakeholders to review the baselines and the management plans, make necessary corrections, and reach agreement.


Step # 2. Identify Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities

Every person or organization involved in a project is expected to perform some role and carry out certain responsibilities. All those people/organizations involved are called stakeholders. A description of stakeholders’ role and responsibilities will explain “who does what job“.

Here’s a common list of stakeholder roles and responsibilities:

  • Sponsor, a person representing a sponsoring organization that owns the project and provides necessary investments. The sponsor provides strategic guidance, oversight and control
  • Project Manager, a person who develops the project plan, controls the execution stage and reports on results
  • Team, a group of people who perform the tasks and jobs defined by the plan
  • Customer, a person or organization that specifies product expectations and receives the end product
  • Expert, who clarifies the product requirements and provides expert advice
  • User, who may participate in the planning process and who actually uses the end product

Along with these roles, there can be others such as quality engineers, business analytics, procurement staff, etc.

When the stakeholders and their roles and responsibilities are identified, the next step to developing a project plan is to present the baselines to the stakeholders. The best way to do it is to perform a meeting, for instance the kick-off meeting. Here’s an example agenda for the kick-off meeting. During such a meeting the project manager will present the project to the team and other stakeholders, explain how decisions are made, describe what implementation approach will be used, and highlight other concerns critical to the planning process.

Tip: First, identify people and organizations that take stake in your project and thus have an interest in it. Then, create a stakeholder list that specifies names of those people and organizations. Next, create an organizational chart that explains what role and related duties every stakeholder will carry out. Finally, hold a kick-off meeting to gather all stakeholders and discuss your project with them.


Step #3. State the Scope

A project plan is always based on a statement of scope that defines what outcome of the project will be. The scope statement is the major document used to communicate the project to the stakeholders and get the buy-in and agreement from the sponsor.

As a document, the scope statement highlights these topics:

  • The business need and problem to be addressed by the project
  • The objectives that relate to the problem
  • The approach that will be used to achieve the objectives and solve the problem
  • The benefits to be gained upon success
  • The deliverables (including acceptance criteria) to be produced upon project completion
  • The key milestones that explain what intermediate results to receive throughout the project life-cycle
  • Other components that define the nature and size of work
Tip: Hold a meeting with the key stakeholders to agree on the need/problem to be solved by your project. Then, state the objectives that, in case of success, contribute to solving the problem. Next, identify the deliverables and create a work breakdown structure that decomposes the deliverables into smaller measurable work pieces which can be associated with tasks and activities. Finally, develop a schedule and a cost estimate that will determine how much time and money will be required to produce the deliverables.


Step $4. Developing the Baseline Management Plans

As mentioned at the first step, the project manager outlines subsidiary plans for managing quality, issues, changes and other matters. At the forth step, the manager should develop the plans in detail and then communicate them to the team and other stakeholders.

The baseline management plans should address the following matters:

  • Time
  • Cost
  • Quality
  • Communications
  • Procurement
  • Issues
  • Changes
  • Risks
  • Human Resources
  • Scope

Read the Guidelines to learn more.


Step #5. Communicate the Plan

Finally, when the baselines are established, all the subsidiary plan are developed, the scope is stated, and the roles and responsibilities are identified, it is time to develop and communicate the general plan that leads team effort and determines the course of action throughout the project life-cycle.

The project plan is the output of the planning process, which includes all the tools, solutions and decisions identified at the previous four steps. This document determines how to manage issues, risks, changes, quality, staff, communications, procurement, cost, time. It also clarifies how to integrate all those matters and keep the project running smoothly.

Tip: Summarize all the information you obtained from your previous steps. Use the subsidiary plan to develop the project plan. Also be sure to make the plan in strict accordance with the scope statement and the major project objectives. Discuss the plan with the stakeholder to reach agreement regarding every item. Read this checklist to get more ideas about project planning.

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