You are a child of the 80ties? Then you certainly remember the classic television series The A-TEAM with „Hannibal“ Smith (the leader), „B. A.“ Baracus (the muscleman), „Face“ Peck (the pretty boy) and H. M. Murdock (the madman). The following quote comes from this series:
„I love it when a plan comes together.”
“Hannibal” and his gang repeatedly must perform dangerous missions in the series. And as the head of the gang, “Hannibal” always works out the plans of the missions. However, the television viewer never gets an insight into the planning details. As a viewer, you are completely excluded from this. But not of individual scenes for the procurement of material, the welding of things and the completion of “great” machines that should make the plan work. “Face” and B.A. Baracus simply are the “makers” and “Hannibal” the leader. No member of the A-TEAM’s ever uses a project management software – always everything just works out fine.
But we all know that there is no successful project without a good plan.
So, let’s look behind the scenes and what the classic series has not shown to us!
Project planning is more than important
If you want to successfully complete a project, you must plan very well. Otherwise it would be like having the idea to drive to Italy, sit in the car and drive into the direction the vehicle is pointing to, without a map and navigation system – just so.
In such cases, scope creeps are, exploding budgets and missed deadlines are inevitable.
To ensure success, good project planning is always important!
5 steps leading to a successful project plan
Step 1: Define the project
This step may sound rather banal. It is not only the most important, but it is one of the most difficult points in the project process. It is not enough to say: “I want to create an online shop”. This “definition” lacks much more information.
There are generally six key elements to define a project:
What would you like to achieve with the project? External goals (such as more profit, market shares, customer satisfaction) as well as internal goals (process optimization, employee loyalty, and the like) are possible. All goals should be defined using the SMART formula. This stands for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-related.
It is important always to keep in mind that something will always change in the project’s progress. Therefore, despite careful planning, you will not be able to consider all eventualities. In order to determine the scope of a project, it is sometimes better to define what does not belong in the project. Also, you should specify at this point who can or may make changes to the project. And finally, it is necessary to decide who is authorized to approve changes. This already defines certain decision levels.
- SUCCESS CRITERIA
In order to measure the success or failure of projects, it is important to define criteria to measure success already at the start of the project. The best way to do this is to use the goals described in element 1. In this context, the most frequently mentioned criteria are compliance with the time, budget and quality.
In this element, you list all the important deliverables of the project. This can be e.g. a working app, a new compensation system, the running of business processes or the like. It is important that the list should be as detailed as possible.
This element is also very important for your planning. Here you decide about the budgets and resources of your project. In this case, the resources not only mean spaces and materials, but of course also staff. With this element, make sure that you didn’t forget anything by coordinating with all responsibles.
By creating the first work breakdown structure, you decide when the results are to be “delivered”. You should plan a basic schedule including milestones and deadlines for this element.
Step 2: Identify risks, guesses and restrictions
For your project it is important to recognize possible throwbacks and risks before they occur and to search for respective solutions.
As soon as a problem arises, you should assign a responsible team member to solve this obstacle. This team member has the primary responsibility for the according risk management.
Depending on the size of the project, this can be the project manager him/herself or another executive. The person responsible for risk management should keep an eye on all risks, such as missed deadlines and budget overruns. With appropriate management software such as KLUSA®, this risk management is an easy thing to do.
For the planning phase itself, it is important to determine which guesses and restrictions predominate the project. Respective information should be documented in the project and be accessible to everyone.
This is important to keep all project members well informed.
Step 3: Identifying persons and (group of) people
When planning a project, you need to know the persons and group of people involved. It is therefore important to define:
- Who is a customer: who should receive the product or result of your project? These “customers” can be in or outside your company.
- Who is stakeholder: This person or group of people has a personal interest in successfully completing your project. The identification of the stakeholders is important as they must always be included in the communication about the progress of the project.
- Who has which roles and responsibilities: In classic project management there is a hierarchy that is defined at the start of the project. Responsibilities and powers are also assigned at this time.
Step 4: Creating the project resource list
In the first step of the project, you have already worked out some of the important preconditions for your project. Also, certain resources have already been allocated.
The last thing you did was to settle the responsibilities.
All that is missing now are the paraphernalia to successfully complete the project.
Some examples of project resources are:
- Technical aids (computers, software and the like)
- Other materials (including e.g. required spaces)
If you don’t know the costs, they must first be estimated. This provides a working basis for your budget and resource manager. Here too, project management software such as KLUSA® supports resource management.
Should you stop planning now?
You have defined your project; you have created schedules with milestones and deadlines. Also, you analyzed risks and clarified and assigned responsibilities. But what would a project be without communication? Therefore:
Step 5: Creating a communication plan
Plan communication within your team. Communication is by no means a matter of course. One of the main reasons for project failure is poor or even lack of communication among team members.
Everything, really everything from meeting the deadlines to the budgets depends on how well the communication works within the project members and with other responsible persons.
For this reason, you should also think about a communication plan for every project:
- What is the goal of your communication: In project communication, the goals should always be clear and understandable for everyone. Before you press “Send” the communication, you should be sure that your goal has been clearly described. If you would like to know if a team needs more human resources, you shouldn’t ask e.g. as a project manager if “everything is going well”. To get correct answers, ask questions clearly and unambiguously.
- Target audience for communication: Pay attention to whom you write to. You shouldn’t inform the management about the execution of routine tasks in the project. Rather, give a status update in certain intervals and inform this group of people immediately about important issues. Important issues here are e.g. budget overruns or missed deadlines.
- When planning a project, decide about key content that is relevant for communication. KLUSA® already offers many options for forwarding information from and within a project.
- The kind and frequency of communication is also an often underestimated item in projects. The first question to be answered here is which routine communication should take place. You should also decide in which cases relevant information should be forwarded: Is it necessary to send all project updates on a Monday morning? Clearly specify for your project what sort of communication channels should be used. It may be enough to send a status report by email – or should this be done in a personal meeting? Perhaps a special cycle is also possible (weekly update by email / once a month in a personal report).
Always set clear and explicitly defined goals for your project. Identify risks and opportunities for your project at an early stage. Put your project teams together very carefully and find out the required resources as precisely as possible. Finally, create a communication plan.
We are sure that you will always get better results at the end of every project using these steps.