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Making a Risk Management Plan for Your Business
It’s impossible to eliminate all business risk. Therefore, it’s essential for having a plan for its management. You’ll be developing one covering compliance, environmental, financial, operational and reputation risk management. These guidelines are for making a risk management plan for your business.
Developing Your Executive Summary
When you start the risk management plan with an executive summary, you’re breaking apart what it will be compromised of into easy to understand chunks. Even though this summary is the project’s high-level overview, the goal is describing the risk management plan’s approach and scope. In doing so, you’re informing all stakeholders regarding what to expect when they’re reviewing these plans so that they can set their expectations appropriately.
Who Are the Stakeholders and What Potential Problems Need Identifying?
During this phase of making the risk management plan, you’re going to need to have a team meeting. Every member of the team must be vocal regarding what they believe could be potential problems or risks. Stakeholders should also be involved in this meeting as well to help you collect ideas regarding what could become a potential risk. All who are participating should look at past projects, what went wrong, what is going wrong in current projects and what everyone hopes to achieve from what they learned from these experiences. During this session, you’ll be creating a sample risk management plan that begins to outline risk management standards and risk management strategies.
Evaluate the Potential Risks Identified
A myriad of internal and external sources can pose as risks including commercial, management and technical, for example. When you’re identifying what these potential risks are and have your list complete, the next step is organizing it according to importance and likelihood. Categorize each risk according to how it could impact your project. For example, does the risk threaten to throw off timelines or budgets? Using a risk breakdown structure is an effective way to help ensure all potential risks are effectively categorized and considered. Use of this risk management plan template keeps everything organized and paints a clear picture of everything you’re identifying.
Assign Ownership and Create Responses
It’s essential to ensure a team member is overseeing each potential risk. That way, they can jump into action should an issue occur. Those who are assigned a risk, as well as the project manager, should work as a team to develop responses before problems arise. That way, if there are issues, the person overseeing the risk can refer to the response that was predetermined.
Have a System for Monitoring
Having effective risk management companies plans includes having a system for monitoring. It’s not wise to develop a security risk management or compliance risk management plan, for example, without having a system for monitoring. What this means is there’s a system for monitoring in place to ensure risk doesn’t occur until the project is finished. In doing so, you’re ensuring no new risks will potentially surface. If one does, like during the IT risk management process, for example, your team will know how to react.
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Project planning: What is it and 5 steps to create a plan
- Ben Lutkevich, Technical Features Writer
What is project planning?
Project planning is a discipline addressing how to complete a project in a certain timeframe, usually with defined stages and designated resources. One view of project planning divides the activity into these steps:
- setting measurable objectives
- identifying deliverables
- planning tasks
Supporting plans may encompass human resources, communication methods and risk management .
Enterprises often have an information technology project planning guide that identifies the processes used. Tools used for the scheduling parts of a plan include Gantt charts and PERT charts .
Why is project planning important?
Project planning is important at every phase of a project. It lays out the basics of a project, including the following:
Planning enables project managers to turn an intangible idea into reality. Key purposes of planning include the following:
- facilitate communication and provide a central source of information for project personnel;
- help the project sponsor and other key stakeholders know what is required;
- identify who will perform certain tasks, and when and how those tasks will happen;
- facilitate project management and control as the project progresses;
- enable effective monitoring and control of a project;
- manage project risk; and
- generate feedback useful for the next project planning phase.
What are the components of a project plan?
The three major parts of a project plan are the scope, budget and timeline. They involve the following aspects:
- Scope. The scope determines what a project team will and will not do. It takes the team's vision, what stakeholders want and the customer's requirements and then determines what's possible. As part of defining the project scope, the project manager must set performance goals.
- Budget. Project managers look at what manpower and other resources will be required to meet the project goals to estimate the project's cost.
- Timeline. This reveals the length of time expected to complete each phase of the project and includes a schedule of milestones that will be met.
How do you create a project plan?
Project planning includes the following 10 steps:
- Define stakeholders. Stakeholders include anyone with an interest in the project. They can include the customer or end user, members of the project team, other people in the organization the project will affect and outside organizations or individuals with an interest.
- Define roles. Each stakeholder's role should be clearly defined. Some people will fill multiple roles, however.
- Introduce stakeholders. Hold a meeting to bring stakeholders together and unify the vision behind the project. The topics covered should include scope, goals, budget, schedule and roles.
- Set goals. Take what is gleaned from the meeting and refine it into a project plan. It should include goals and deliverables that define what the product or service will result in.
- Prioritize tasks. List tasks necessary to meet goals and prioritize them based on importance and interdependencies. A Gantt chart can be helpful for mapping project dependencies.
- Create a schedule. Establish a timeline that considers the resources needed for all the tasks.
- Assess risks. Identify project risks and develop strategies for mitigating them.
- Communicate. Share the plan with all stakeholders and provide communications updates in the format and frequency stakeholders expect.
- Reassess. As milestones are met, revisit the project plan and revise any areas that are not meeting expectations.
- Final evaluation. Once the project is completed, performance should be evaluated to learn from the experience and identify areas to improve.
What are the 5 phases of a project?
Projects typically pass through five phases. The project lifecycle includes the following:
- Initiation defines project goals and objectives. It also is when feasibility is considered, along with how to measure project objectives.
- Planning sets out the project scope. It establishes what tasks need to get done and who will do them.
- Execution is when the deliverables are created. This is the longest phase of a project. During execution, the plan is set into motion and augmented, if necessary.
- Monitoring and management occur during the execution phase and may be considered part of the same step. This phase ensures that the project is going according to plan.
- Closing and review is the final Contracts are closed out and the final deliverables are given to the client. Successes and failures are evaluated.
What are some project planning tools and software?
Project planning and project management software facilitate the project planning process. The best tools support collaboration among stakeholders, have intuitive user interfaces and provide built-in time tracking and invoicing.
Some project planning software tools include the following:
- Asana offers different project views to suit a team's preferences.
- ClickUp comes with several Agile -based features, including a custom automation builder that lets users create reusable task templates.
- Freedcamp lets users organize their projects using a Gantt chart or Kanban
- Hive has a template creation tool in the task management feature that speeds up task creation.
- Scoro is a combination of tools and includes customer relationship management
- Trello provides Kanban features, budget management, resource management and progress tracking features.
- Wrike integrates with tools like Jira , Slack and Dropbox.
Learn more about the various tools that help with project management .
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What Is a Project Plan?
How to create a project plan, project planning phase, what is project planning software, benefits of online project planning software, must-have project planning software features, project planning terms, project planning steps, how to create a project plan with projectmanager, what is the purpose of a project management plan, the elements of a project plan, how long does the project planning phase take, techniques for the project planning process, how to manage your project plan.
A project plan is a series of formal documents that define the execution and control stages of a project. The plan includes considerations for risk management, resource management and communications, while also addressing scope, cost and schedule baselines. Project planning software is used by project managers to ensure that their plans are thorough and robust.
ProjectManager allows you to make detailed project plans with online Gantt charts that schedule task dependencies, resource hours, labor costs, milestones and more. Plus, your team can execute the plan in any of our five project views, while you track progress along the way with dashboards. Start today for free.
The project plan, also called project management plan, answers the who, what, where, why, how and when of the project—it’s more than a Gantt chart with tasks and due dates. The purpose of a project plan is to guide the execution and control project phases.
As mentioned above, a project plan consists of the following documents:
- Project Charter : Provides a general overview of the project. It describes the project’s reasons, goals, objectives, constraints, stakeholders, among other aspects.
- Statement of Work : A statement of work (SOW) defines the project’s scope, schedule, deliverables, milestones, and tasks.
- Work Breakdown Structure : Breaks down the project scope into the project phases, subprojects, deliverables, and work packages that lead to your final deliverable.
- Project Plan : The project plan document is divided in sections to cover the following: scope management, quality management, risk assessment, resource management, stakeholder management, schedule management and the change management plan.
This guide aims to give you all the information and resources you need to create a project plan and get it approved by your customers and stakeholders. Let’s start with the basics of writing a project plan.
Related: Free Project Plan Template
Your project plan is essential to the success of any project. Without one, your project may be susceptible to common project management issues such as missed deadlines, scope creep and cost overrun. While writing a project plan is somewhat labor intensive up front, the effort will pay dividends throughout the project life cycle.
The basic outline of any project plan can be summarized in these five steps:
- Define your project’s stakeholders, scope, quality baseline, deliverables, milestones, success criteria and requirements. Create a project charter, work breakdown structure (WBS) and a statement of work (SOW) .
- Identify risks and assign deliverables to your team members, who will perform the tasks required and monitor the risks associated with them.
- Organize your project team (customers, stakeholders, teams, ad hoc members, and so on), and define their roles and responsibilities.
- List the necessary project resources , such as personnel, equipment, salaries, and materials, then estimate their cost.
- Develop change management procedures and forms.
- Create a communication plan , schedule, budget and other guiding documents for the project.
Each of the steps to write a project plan explained above correspond to the 5 project phases, which we will outline in the next section.
What Are the 5 Phases of the Project Life Cycle?
Any project , whether big or small, has the potential to be very complex. It’s much easier to break down all the necessary inclusions for a project plan by viewing your project in terms of phases. The Project Management Institute , within the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), have identified the following 5 phases of a project:
- Initiation: The start of a project, in which goals and objectives are defined through a business case and the practicality of the project is determined by a feasibility study.
- Planning: During the project planning phase, the scope of the project is defined by a work breakdown structure (WBS) and the project methodology to manage the project is decided on. Costs, quality and resources are estimated, and a project schedule with milestones and task dependencies is identified. The main deliverable of this phase is your project plan.
- Execution: The project deliverables are completed during this phase. Usually, this phase begins with a kick-off meeting and is followed by regular team meetings and status reports while the project is being worked on.
- Monitoring & Controlling: This phase is performed in tandem with the project execution phase. Progress and performance metrics are measured to keep progress on the project aligned with the project plan.
- Closure: The project is completed when the stakeholder receives the final deliverable. Resources are released, contracts are signed off on and, ideally, there will be an evaluation of the successes and failures.
Related: 20 Must-Have Project Management Excel Templates
Now that we’ve learned how to make a project plan, and identified the stages of the project management life cycle, we need to emphasize on the importance of the project planning phase.
The project planning process is critical for any kind of project because this is where you create all the documents that will guide how you’ll execute your project plan and how you’ll control risks and any issues that might occur. These documents, which are part of the project management plan, cover all the details of your project without exception.
There are project plan templates out there that can help you organize your tasks and begin the project planning process—but we here at ProjectManager recommend the use of project planning software. The feature set is far more robust and integrated with every project phase compared to an Excel project plan template, and is a great way to ensure your actual progress stays aligned with your planned progress.
Once you write a project plan, it’s time for implementation . Watch the video below to see how project planning software helps organize a project’s tasks, resources and costs.
Project planning tools has become an invaluable tool for project managers in recent years, as it provides them the ability to maintain and automate the components we outlined above. Project planning software is a great tool to facilitate project management processes such as schedule development, team management, cost estimation, resource allocation and risk monitoring.
Beyond that, planning software also allows managers to monitor and track their plan as it moves through the execution phase of the project. These features include dashboards, for a high-level view of the project’s progress and performance, and in-depth reports that can be used to communicate with stakeholders.
Project planning software comes in all different sizes and shapes. There are some that focus on a single aspect, and others that offer a suite of planning features that can be used in each one of the project planning steps. What’s right for your project depends on your specific needs, but in general terms, project planning software is a much more powerful tool than project planning templates .
Online project planning software is highly flexible and adaptable to your team’s style of work. It has features that are designed to assist you throughout your project planning process.
Before the rise of planning software, project managers would typically have to keep up with a disjointed collection of documents, excel spreadsheets and so on. Savvy managers, however, make use of the project management tools available to them to automate what they can, and streamline what they can’t.
Some of the time-saving benefits of project planning software include the following.
- Organize, prioritize and assign tasks
- Plan and schedule milestones and task dependencies
- Monitor progress, costs and resources
- Collaborate with team
- Share project plans with team and stakeholders
- Generate reports on plans
Gantt Charts for Superior Planning
A Gantt chart is the most essential tool for the project planning process. Organize tasks, add their duration and they automatically populate a project timeline . Set milestones to break the larger project into manageable phases, and link task dependencies to avoid bottlenecks later in the project.
Get More Than a To-Do List
When planning a project, you need more than a to-do list. Seek out a planning software with a task list feature that lets you set priority levels, filters and collaborate. It’s a big plus if you can also make personal task lists that are private to manage your own work.
Use Kanban for Workflows
Workflows ensure proper execution of your plan, and no feature does this better than kanban boards. Customize boards to match your workflow and drag and drop cards as teams get their work done. See what work needs to be done and keep the focus on productivity with this feature.
Be Able to Track Progress
A dashboard can keep your project plan on track. Try and find a dashboard that’s synced with your planning tools, so everything updates automatically. It will make reporting easier too.
Get Transparency Into Teams
For a plan to go smoothly, you have to know what your team is working on. Find a way to balance your team’s availability with the project schedule. Workload features that map out resource allocation and holidays can be a big help here.
Be Able to Manage Multiple Projects
Rarely do you need to only focus on one project at a time. Give yourself the flexibility to manage multiple projects at once in the same tool. A roadmap feature that maps all of your projects on one timeline can be a lifesaver.
Before we dive into how to create a project plan, it helps to be familiar with some of the terms that you’ll run across. Here is a list of general terms you’ll encounter in this guide.
- Deliverable: The results of a project, such as a product, service, report, etc.
- Stakeholder: Anyone with a vested interest in the project—project manager, project sponsor, team members, customers, etc.
- Tasks: Small jobs that lead to the final deliverable.
- Milestone: The end of one project phase, and the beginning of the next.
- Resources: Anything you need to complete the project, such as personnel, supplies, materials, tools, people and more.
- Budget: Estimate of total cost related to completing a project.
- Tracking & Monitoring: Collecting project data, and making sure it reflects the results you planned for.
The project planning process is critical for the success of your project, and as a project manager, you have to think about all the elements that make up your project management plan such as work, time, resources and risks.
Now, we’re going to take you through the main project planning steps :
- Outline the business case
- Meet with key stakeholders
- Define project scope
- Assemble a project team
- Determine a project budget
- Set project goals & objectives
- Outline project deliverables
- Create a project schedule
- Assign tasks to your team members
- Do a risk analysis
- Create your project plan
- Report your progress
By following these project planning steps, you’ll clarify what you need to achieve, work out the processes you need to get there and develop an action plan for how you are going to take this project plan outline forward.
1. Outline the Business Case
If you have a project, there’s a reason for it—that’s your business case . The business case outlines reasons why the project is being initiated, its benefits and the return on investment. If there’s a problem that is being solved, then that problem is outlined here. The business case will be presented to those who make decisions at your organization, explaining what has to be done, and how, along with a feasibility study to assess the practicality of the project. If approved, you have a project.
2. Meet with Key Stakeholders
Every project has stakeholders , those who have a vested interest in the project. From the ones who profit from it, to the project team members who are responsible for its success. Therefore, any project manager must identify who these key stakeholders are during the project planning process, from customers to regulators. Meeting with them is crucial to get a better picture of what the project management plan should include and what is expected from the final deliverable.
3. Define Project Scope
It refers to the work required to accomplish the project objectives and generate the required deliverables. The project scope should be defined and organized by a work breakdown structure (WBS). Therefore, the project scope includes what you must do in the project (deliverables, sub deliverables, work packages, action items ), but also what is nonessential. The latter is important for the project plan, because knowing what isn’t high priority helps to avoid scope creep ; that is, using valuable resources for something that isn’t key to your project’s success.
4. Assemble a Project Team
You’ll need a capable project team to help you create your project plan and execute it successfully. It’s advisable to gather a diverse group of experienced professionals to build a multi-disciplinary team that sees your project management plan from different perspectives.
5. Determine a Project Budget
Once you define your project scope, you’ll have a task list that must be completed to deliver your project successfully. To do so, you’ll need resources such as equipment, materials, human capital, and of course, money. Your project budget will pay for all this. The first step to create a project budget is to estimate the costs associated with each task. Once you have those estimated costs, you can establish a cost baseline , which is the base for your project budget.
6. Set Project Goals & Objectives
Goals and objectives are different things when it comes to planning a project. Goals are the results you want to achieve, and are usually broad. Objectives , on the other hand, are more specific; measurable actions that must be taken to reach your goal. When creating a project plan, the goals and objectives naturally spring from the business case, but in this stage, you go into further detail. In a sense, you’re fine-tuning the goals set forth in the business case and creating tasks that are clearly defined. These goals and objectives are collected in a project charter , which you’ll use throughout the project life cycle.
7. Outline Project Deliverables
A project can have numerous deliverables. A deliverable can be a good, service or result that is needed to complete a task, process, phase, subproject or project. For example, the final deliverable is the reason for the project, and once this deliverable is produced, the project is completed. As defined in the project scope, a project consists of subprojects, phases, work packages, activities and tasks, and each of these components can have a deliverable. The first thing to do is determine what the final deliverable is, and how you will know that the quality meets your stakeholder’s expectations. As for the other deliverables in the project, they must also be identified and someone on the team must be accountable for their successful completion.
8. Create a Project Schedule
The project schedule is what everything hangs on. From your tasks to your budget , it’s all defined by time. Schedules are made up by collecting all the tasks needed to reach your final deliverable, and setting them on a project timeline that ends at your deadline. This can make for an unruly job ahead, which is why schedules are broken into phases, indicated by milestones , which mark the end of one project phase and the beginning of the next.
9. Assign Tasks to Your Team Members
The plan is set, but it still exists in the abstract until you take the tasks on your schedule and begin assigning them out to your team members. Their roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined, so they know what to do. Then, when you assign them tasks from your plan, they should be clear, with directions and any related documentation they will need to execute the tasks.
10. Do a Risk Analysis
Every project has some level of risk . There are several types of risk such as scope risk, technical risks and schedule risk, among others. Even if your project plan is thorough, internal and external factors can impact your project’s time, cost and scope (triple constraint). Therefore, you need to regard your planning as flexible. There are many ways to prepare for risk, such as developing a change management plan, but for now, the most important thing to do is to track your progress throughout the execution phase by using project status reports and/or project planning software to monitor risk.
11. Create your Project Plan
As discussed above, a project management plan is a document that’s made of several elements. Before we get into a detailed explanation of each of them, it’s important to understand that you should include them all to have a solid project plan. The components that you’ll need might vary depending on your project, but in general terms, you’ll need these main documents to create your project management plan:
- Project charter
- Project schedule
- Project budget
- Project scope statement
- Risk management plan
- Change management plan
- Cost management plan
- Resource management plan
- Stakeholder management plan
12. Report Your Progress
Your ultimate goal is to ensure a successful project for your stakeholders. They’re invested, and will not be satisfied twiddling their thumbs without looking at project status reports to track progress. By constructing a work breakdown structure (WBS) during the project planning phase you can break down the project for them so that they understand how your project plan will be executed. Keeping stakeholders informed is important to manage their expectations and ensure that they’re satisfied. Having regular planning meetings where you present progress reports are a great way to show them that everything is moving forward as planned and to field any questions or concerns they might have. Your stakeholder management plan will specify how you’ll engage stakeholders in the project.
Project planning software is a tool that helps to plan, organize and manage the schedule and resources needed to complete a project. ProjectManager is an award-winning project management software that organizes projects from planning to completion. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and follow along to build a thorough project plan that covers every detail.
1. List Your Tasks for the Plan
Tasks are the building blocks of any project and the start of any plan is identifying all the tasks that lead to your final deliverable.
Open the tool to add your tasks on the Gantt chart or one of the other multiple project views. You can import a task list from any spreadsheet or use one of our templates to get started.
2. Add Duration and Costs to Tasks
Every task has an estimated duration, which is the time it will take to complete it. They will also require a certain amount of funding, which needs to be collected to formulate your plan.
Add the start and end dates for each task in the Gantt and they populate a project timeline, so you can see the whole project laid out in one place. There’s also a column for task costs.
3. Link Dependent Tasks
Tasks are not always separate from one another. Often one cannot start or stop until another has started or stopped. That’s called a task dependency and needs to be noted in your plan.
Link dependent tasks by dragging one to the other. A dotted line indicates that they’re linked, so you stay aware of the fact and can avoid bottlenecks later in the project.
4. Set Milestones & Baseline
A milestone indicates the end of one phase and the beginning of another, which helps with tracking and morale. The baseline sets your plan so you can compare it to actual progress.
There is a filter on the Gantt that automatically sets the baseline, so you can use it to track your actual progress against the plan. The baseline can also be locked with a click.
5. Onboard Team & Assign
Getting the team and the tool together is how a project plan becomes actualized. The easier and seamless this transition, the faster you’ll get to work on the project.
Invite your team from the software and it generates an email with a link. Once they follow that link, they’re in and have access to the tools they need to manage their tasks.
6. Monitor Progress & Report to Stakeholders
Keeping track of your progress and then updating stakeholders is both how you stay on track and manage your stakeholders’ expectations.
See progress as it happens on our real-time dashboard, which calculates data and displays it over six project metrics. Reports can be filtered and shared for a deep dive into those numbers.
7. Adjust Plan As Needed
No plan remains the same throughout a project. Things happen and changes are demanded. Therefore, being able to edit your plan easily is key to the project planning process.
Edit your plan on the Gantt by a simple drag and drop. Move the old date to the new date and not only is that task fixed, but any impacted tasks are also updated automatically.
ProjectManager is an award-winning software that helps managers plan and helps teams get organized. Gantt charts control all aspects of your project plan from scheduling to assigning tasks and even monitoring progress. Multiple project views provide transparency into workflow and give everyone the tools they need to be at their best.
Ready to make your plan? Try ProjectManager today with this free 30-day trial.
The project manager is responsible for producing the project plan, and while you can’t make up all the content yourself, you’ll be the one banging the keys to type it all out. Use templates where you can to save time. Download our free project plan template and write your plan in double-quick time!
The purpose of a project management plan is to serve as a guide for the execution and control phases. The project plan provides all the information necessary for the execution phase such as the project’s goals, objectives, scope of work, milestones, risks and resources. Then, this information helps project managers monitor and control the progress of the project.
We plan at the beginning to save time later. A good project plan means that you don’t have to worry about whether the project participants are going to be available on the right dates—because you’ve planned for them to be. You don’t have to worry about how to pay those invoices—you’ve planned your financial process. You don’t have to worry about whether everyone agrees on what a quality outcome looks like—you’ve already planned what quality measures you are going to use.
A good project plan sets out the processes that everyone is expected to follow, so it avoids a lot of headaches later. For example, if you specify that estimates are going to be worked out by subject matter experts based on their judgement, and that’s approved, later no one can complain that they wanted you to use a different estimating technique. They’ve known the deal since the start.
Project plans are also really helpful for monitoring progress. You can go back to them and check what you said you were going to do and how, comparing it to what you are actually doing. This gives you a good reality check and enables you to change course if you need to, bringing the project back on track.
Tools like dashboards can help you make sure that your project is proceeding according to plan. ProjectManager has a real-time dashboard that updates automatically whenever tasks are updated.
The project planning process already discussed only scratches the surface of what is a deep well of practices created to control your project. They start with dialogue — speaking to stakeholders, teams, et al.
The deliverable for your planning phase is a document called the project plan. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) – Fifth Edition says that the project plan is made up of lots of subsidiary plans. These include:
- A project scope statement to define all the tasks and deliverables that are needed to complete the project
- A risk management plan for dealing with project risk including the processes for logging and tracking risks
- A change management plan to manage any changes that will be made to the project plan
- A cost management plan for managing costs and the budgeting elements of the project including any procurements or supplier engagements you might have
- A resource management plan for managing the material resources such as equipment and the human resources on the team both in terms of availability and skills
- A stakeholder management plan setting out who is going to receive messages about the project, when and in what format
- A quality plan that specifies the quality targets for the project
That’s a lot of documentation.
In reality, it’s rare that you’ll produce these as individual documents. What you need is a project plan that talks about the important elements of each of these. There’s no point creating a big document that sets out exactly how your business works anyway. If you already have a structured risk management process , then don’t waste time writing it all down again in your project plan.
Your project management plan needs to include enough information to make sure that you know exactly what processes and procedures need to be followed and who needs to be involved. Get your project plan approved by your stakeholders, your project sponsor and your team so there are no surprises later. As explained above, project planning charts and techniques such as Gantt charts, CPM, WBS or PERT can help you create your project plan.
This is hard to answer. It’s going to take longer to plan the moon landing than a new dating app.
The best way to estimate how long your project planning phase will take is to look at similar projects that have happened before, and see how long it took them to plan. Talk to the project manager as well, if you can, because they’ll have a view on whether that length of time was enough or not!
It’s easy to see how long other projects took if you have a project management tool that archives your old project schedules and makes the data available to everyone who needs it. You can then search for similar projects and study their schedules in detail.
A project plan is all about working out what to do and how to do it, so you need to get a lot of people involved. There are several good tools and project planning techniques for getting information from other people including:
- One-to-one meetings or interviews
- Surveys or customer focus groups to gather and validate requirements.
You should also arm yourself with a task management tool , like a list or a kanban board. They are incredibly useful for noting down important things that should be in your project plan. Kanban board software can help structure your plan by writing down the key headings and then moving them around as required until you have a flow that looks right.
Finally, you’ll need an online project management system to store your project management plan in. Make sure that everyone in the team can access the latest version of the project plan.
Your project plan is not a document written in stone. You should be referring back to it and making changes to it as often as you need to. Parts of it, like your project schedule, will change almost daily. Other parts, like your procurement plans and cost management processes, won’t change at all during the life of your project.
The important thing to remember is that if your project management plan isn’t working for you, think about what you can do to change it. It’s there to guide your project management, not restrict you from doing the right thing. If you need to review how you manage work and project resources, then go back and review it. Make the changes you need, get the plan approved again and share it with the team.
How To Make a Project Plan When You Don’t Have All the Answers
Yes, this happens–most of the time! It’s rare to have all the information at the beginning of a project. Most managers want you to dive in and get started, but you might not have the luxury of knowing all the details.
That’s OK; we have techniques to help deal with uncertainty.
First is the project assumption. You use these to put caveats on your plan and to document the things that you assume to be true at this point in time. For example:
- We assume that the resources will be available.
- We assume that the required funding is available.
- We assume that the colors requested will be in line with the company brand and that Marketing sign off is not required.
You get the picture. Then, if the design team comes back and says that they want the product to be a totally new palette of colors and that Marketing has to approve that, you are justified in saying that you’ll have to change the timescales on the schedule to make that possible.
You planned based on an assumption (that everyone agreed to, because you got the document approved) and that assumption turned out not to be true.
Next Steps for Project Planning
The most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t rush the project planning process. Done properly, project planning takes time. And it’s worth doing it properly because if you don’t, we guarantee that you will hit problems later on as people won’t understand what they are supposed to do and why.
Great planning sets you up for success. It gives you the confidence of knowing that you’ve got all your processes, tools and systems in place to deliver the perfect result.
Now that you’ve learned all about project planning, it’s time to take action. Sign up for a free 30-day trial of ProjectManager and start planning your project today!
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Project Planning Resources
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- How to Create a Project Roadmap (Example Included)
- What Is Aggregate Planning? Strategies & Tips
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- How to Create a Project Execution Plan (PEP) – Free Template Included
- Sample Project Plan For Your Next Project
- Operational Planning: How to Make an Operations Plan
- Project Planning Software
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- Work Breakdown Structure Software
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Seven Steps to Successful Project Planning
Why do projects managed by talented people end up being delayed or not completed? Why do project teams sometimes feel that they are shooting at a moving target? I find that the lack of proper planning or failure to create a systematic approach can be fatal to projects.
What is project planning?
Project planning is the process of defining your objectives and scope, your goals and milestones (deliverables), and assigning tasks and budgetary resources for each step. A good plan is easily shareable with everyone involved, and it’s most useful when it’s revisited regularly. Simply outlining a plan and never discussing it with your team again is a good recipe for wasted time and effort.
You can do your project planning in a simple Google doc, or you can use project management software. The benefit of using project management software is that you’re usually able to store all of your documents and deliverables in one place, and you can avoid losing important discussions and decisions to the email or Slack void. With a tool like Basecamp, for example, it’s easy to track progress and keep track of conversations and items that require collaboration with a few different people.
If you’re thinking about project management as an entrepreneur or within a fast-paced startup, it might seem like it all takes too much time at the outset. But, you’ll actually save a lot of time and resources if you document your project plan right from the start and use it as a roadmap to keep you and your team on track.
Here are seven keys to successful project planning to help you get started.
1. Think of your plan as a roadmap for stakeholders
Every project needs a roadmap with clearly defined goals that should not change after the first phase of the project has been completed. All stakeholders benefiting from the outcome or involved in executing the project should be named and their needs stated during the initial project planning process.
These stakeholders might include:
- The project manager or the person ultimately responsible for completion
- The “customer” who receives the deliverables—this can be someone on your team (internal) or an actual paying customer.
- The team, or the people responsible for any tactic that’s part of the plan.
Don’t assume that you automatically understand each stakeholder’s needs and goals. Before you get too far into documenting your project plan, talk to them to make sure you really understand the project and abilities and resources of everyone on the team.
2. Break the project into a list of deliverables
Develop a list of all deliverables. This list should break down the larger project into smaller tasks that can be assigned to specific team members, and you should include estimated deadlines associated with each deliverable or task.
Make sure that you understand and document the approval process for each deliverable. If your project is for an external customer, make sure you are clear on their internal approval process, so that you’re not surprised by delays or slowed down with wading through competing opinions.
3. Talk to your team
Identify by name all individuals and/or organizations involved in each deliverable or task, and describe their responsibilities in detail. Otherwise, miscommunication can lead to delays and situations where team members may have to redo their work.
Hold a kickoff meeting to talk to your team about your intended plan of attack. Ask them to help you think about the best way to get the work done. Not only will this help you be more efficient, it will help you get their buy-in because they’ll feel more ownership over the process. Using a project management tool like Basecamp can be helpful keeping everyone on track and storing documents and conversations all in one place.
If you use email to communicate about projects, consider using a team inbox email solution that will allow you to assign emails that need project-related attention to team members as appropriate, rather than endlessly forwarding huge conversation threads back and forth.
4. Identify risks
Determine the risks involved in your project. Think through what you’ll do if something takes much longer than expected, or if costs end up being much more than you initially anticipated.
You don’t have to have a specific course of action identified for every possible negative outcome, but you should spend some time with your team, thinking through what could go wrong. Then, you can do as much as you can to mitigate those risks from the outset, rather than being caught off guard later. Risk factors can also have some influence on how you budget.
5. Create a budget
Attached to your list of milestones and deliverables should be information about the project cost and estimated budget. Resist the urge to assign large dollar amounts to big projects without identifying exactly how the money is intended to be spent. This will help your team understand the resources they have to work with to get the job done. When you’re setting your initial budget, these numbers might be ranges rather than absolutes.
For certain items, you might need to get quotes from a few different vendors. It can be helpful to document the agreed upon project scope briefly in your budget documentation, in case you end up needing to make changes to the larger project based on budgetary constraints, or if your vendor doesn’t deliver exactly what you expected.
6. Add milestones
Use your list of deliverables as a framework for adding milestones and tasks that will need to be completed to accomplish the larger goal. Establish reasonable deadlines, taking into account project team members’ productivity, availability, and efficiency.
Think about your milestones within the SMART framework . Your goals should be:
- Specific: Clear, concise, and written in language anyone could understand.
- Measurable: Use numbers or quantitative language when appropriate. Avoid vague descriptions that leave success up to personal, subjective interpretation.
- Acceptable: Get buy-in from stakeholders on your goals, milestones, and deliverables.
- Realistic: Stretch goals are one thing, but don’t set goals that are impossible to achieve. It’s frustrating for your team and for your stakeholders, and might ultimately delay your project because accomplishing the impossible usually costs more and takes longer.
- Time-based: Set concrete deadlines. If you have to alter deadlines associated with your milestones, document when and why you made the change. Avoid stealth changes—or editing deadlines without notifying your team and relevant stakeholders.
7. Set progress reporting guidelines
These can be monthly, weekly, or daily reports. Ideally, a collaborative workspace should be set up for your project online or offline where all parties can monitor the progress. Make sure you have a communication plan—document how often you’ll update stakeholders on progress and how you’ll share information—like at a weekly meeting or daily email.
Use the framework you set up when you identified your milestones to guide your reports. Try not to recreate any wheels or waste time with generating new reports each time you need to communicate progress. Keep in mind that using a project management software like Basecamp can keep stakeholders in the loop without cluttering up your inbox, or losing conversations in long Slack chats.
The secret to effective project planning and management is staying organized and communicating well with your team and stakeholders. Whether you decide to use project management software or not, think about where and how you store all the materials and resources that relate to your project—keep everything in one place if you can. Good luck!
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Project Planning Phase
The project planning phase of the project management life cycle defines the scope and objective of a project. Proper project planning is one of the most important steps in ensuring everything is delivered on-time and on-budget.
It can help smooth out the planning phase, helping bring together complex workstreams. Whether your project is still an idea or you’re managing an ongoing project, use this guide to the planning phase in project management to get familiar with key concepts.
Table of Contents
What is project planning?
Purpose of project planning., what is a project plan, what is included in a project plan, pre-planning: meeting with stakeholders., how to create a project plan., what happens after a project plan is approved, project planning techniques., how to maintain an ongoing project., successful project planning., frequently asked questions..
The project planning phase of project management is where a project manager builds the project roadmap, including the project plan, project scope, project schedule, project constraints, work breakdown structure, and risk analysis.
It doesn’t matter if the project is a new website or a new building, the project planning phase serves as a roadmap and acts as a control tool throughout the project. Project planning provides guidance by answering questions like:
- What product(s) or service(s) will we deliver?
- How much will the project cost?
- How can we meet the needs of our stakeholders?
- How will progress be measured?
Before we jump into the step-by-step of how to plan a project, let’s consider why the planning phase is such a critical piece of the project life cycle .
Project planning communicates deliverables , timing and schedules, along with team roles and responsibilities. During the planning phase of a project, the project manager is forced to think through potential risks and hang-ups that could occur during the project.
These early considerations can prevent future issues from affecting the overall success of the project, or at times, cause a project to fail. Too little planning causes chaos and frustration and too much planning causes a lot of administrative tasks, not allowing enough time for creative work.
Ultimately, the planning phase of project management determines how smoothly your projects move through the life cycle. That’s why it’s so important to spend ample time at the beginning of a project and get your planning right.
A project plan is a set of documents that can change over the course of a project. The plan provides an overall direction for the project, so drafting this is a key aspect of the project planning phase. If unexpected issues arise, such as delivery delays, the plan can be adjusted by the project manager.
Project plans are coordinated by the project manager, with input from stakeholders and team members. Plan components cover the “what” and “how” of a project.
Plans include details related to:
- Timelines and stages
They also cover practical aspects such as:
- Risk management
While resource-related considerations are also included, like:
Learn how to write a project plan in more detail .
In project management, planning is a multifaceted process. A full project plan might include the following documents:
This is a short, formal summary of your project’s aims, methods and stakeholders. You’ll likely refer back to this document later in the project lifecycle and may find it a useful frame of reference when measuring success.
Schedules list what needs to be done and when, including details of any tools, bookings or people you might need to utilize at each stage. This is sometimes paired with a work breakdown structure (WBS). Depending on the nature of your project, you might list activities, costs and allocated hours beneath each deliverable.
Cost management plan.
This is essentially a detailed budget. Using the project planning phase to identify procurements, suppliers and resources can help you to map your project’s price tag. A project manager might use this document to think about human resource costs and consider figures that might grow if elements of your project plan change.
Statement of work (SoW).
A statement of work can help you keep an eye on scope, by listing a breakdown of the project’s aims and tasks. It’s often more detailed and less formal than a project charter and you might include practical details, such as the location of meetings, quality standards and software requirements here.
Risk management plan.
This allows you to identify the project’s main hazards for your organization and their potential impact. Analyzing the likelihood of each risk, high, medium or low, can give you sight of where to focus your efforts right from the project planning phase.
Stakeholder management plan.
In project management, each department comes to the table with distinct priorities, so drafting a stakeholder management plan can help. This document can ensure you identify all stakeholders, assign roles and prioritize interests accordingly.
This aspect of the planning phase sets quality standards and acceptance criteria for deliverables.
Good project planning software can streamline the document drafting process in project management. It might allow you to combine these elements of analyze them side-by-side, for instance.
Prior to developing a project plan, the project manager should explain the purpose of the plan to key stakeholders. These are the organizations and individuals who are affected by the project and they need to understand what goes into planning their project – a key component of good stakeholder management .
Examples of stakeholders include:
- Project sponsors
- Business experts
- Project team
Gaining buy-in from all stakeholders can be one of the most challenging components of project planning, yet it’s central to the project’s success. Projects fail when management isn’t supportive, or there is limited stakeholder engagement.
The project manager should host a project kick-off meeting for stakeholders. The meeting may be used to discuss the vision statement from the project sponsor, roles and responsibilities, team dynamics, decision-making, and other ground rules.
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It’s simple to create a project plan for your next stream of work. Simply follow these seven steps.
1. Create a scope statement.
A scope statement documents what the project will produce and what it will not. Once a project manager understands the stakeholder requirements, they need to define the scope. This is a crucial step because the scope will serve as the foundation of the project plan.
By outlining project scope boundaries during the planning phase, a project manager can minimize the chance of unauthorized tasks popping up. A clear and accurate scope statement helps gain buy-in from stakeholders, while also minimizing risk.
Formalizing these decisions in a project charter document may help to cement the business case for the project. When project managers take the time to meet with key stakeholders from the very beginning, they can feed cross-department insights into the scope statement.
2. Create a statement of work.
A statement of work contains project details including project timelines , requirements, and components. It’s an essential document that projects both the client and agency as it is a legally binding document that details the amount a client will pay for certain deliverables.
A SoW can also help prevent scope creep and shifting project requirements, which can individually, and combined, derail the progress of a project.
3. Conduct research.
From stakeholder interviews to project risks, conducting research is an essential step. Project research is based on the scope of the project and stakeholder requirements.
During the research phase, the project manager is encouraged to attend stakeholder interviews, or at least suggest questions to be included in the interviews.
At this stage of the planning process, it’s important to understand:
- Project ownership
- Decision making
- Times when the stakeholders are away
- Preferred communication methods
The project manager should also dig into team dynamics in order to assign responsibilities appropriately. At this stage, the team should discuss expertise, interests, and collaboration. The goal here is to define ownership of individual tasks.
4. Identify risks.
Including a risk analysis as part of your project’s planning phase helps you to keep an eye on potential problems. You can also use risk analysis to plan how to mitigate risks to a project should they arise.
Focus areas might include scope risk, the possibility that a project could drift beyond its original aims due to internal or client demands. Technical risks can arise if mission-critical software or hardware breaks down, and this can impact your schedule, budget and goals.
The right software can make the process of ongoing risk management easier. If delay is a key risk to your project, the ability to view progress quickly can be invaluable.
5. Create a project plan.
The next step in the planning phase is to draft the individual components of the project plan. The first draft should provide a rough sketch of the general process, outlining:
- Project deliverables
- Stakeholder feedback
Once the project manager has a general idea of how the project could go, they should share the draft with their team. Sharing the plan and asking for feedback from key team members ensures the plan is collaborative.
The project manager should adapt and change the path of the project to ensure the process works for everyone involved. As you draft project plan documents, think about:
- Project deliverables. Even in the planning phase of a project, it’s wise to pinpoint exactly what needs to be produced.
- Project stakeholders. This is the who’s who of your project, from start to finish.
- Tasks and milestones. Consider the multiple milestones and project streams you’ll need to manage simultaneously.
- Resources. Will you need investment, materials or extra staff?
- Budget. When this is defined, it can be easier to make a business case and track return on investment (ROI).
- Analytics. In project management, planning also means thinking about how you’ll report on progress and measure success.
6. Create a project schedule.
After the plan is drafted, the project manager needs to break the tasks into sections and map tasks to deliverables. This detailed step involves assigning tasks to organizations and individual responsibilities to people. This assignment of duties creates an important sense of accountability.
A project schedule includes specific start and end dates, along with notes that describe tasks. The schedule also notes dependencies. For instance, Task B cannot be completed until materials, as outlined in Task A, are delivered.
Spelling out dependencies illustrates how individual responsibilities will impact potential changes.
7. Review and approve the plan.
Before the project plan is finalized, the project manager needs to receive approval from stakeholders. To do this, they should build and maintain rapport with stakeholders to gain their trust.
If the project manager can prove that the project risks have been assessed and managed, and the project plan has been built to satisfy the overall vision of the sponsor, they can increase their chances of receiving approval.
When your plan is in the books, you’re ready to start executing those strategies and proposals that have been put together. Here’s what you need to do once your project plan has been given the green light.
Assign team roles and ongoing responsibilities.
Over the course of a project, a project manager should continually analyze project quality, monitor risk, and communicate effectively. The plan may have been mapped out, but your project’s wheels start turning only when tasks are assigned.
Define responsibilities clearly, either by individual, group or department, depending on project scale. Ensure systems are in place for each task and line of communication to flow smoothly from the last.
Monitor project quality.
The project manager is responsible for monitoring project quality to ensure the end result meets expectations. Project quality is proactive and it involves error prevention and risk management.
A quality plan aids in this ongoing responsibility by outlining standards, acceptance criteria, and project metrics . It is used to guide reviews and inspections during the project.
Effective communication is central to the success of a project. Project communications can be guided with a communications plan . This document clarifies:
- Who receives which reports
- How issues will be handled
- Where project information is stored
- Who has access to it
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After the project management planning phase, you want your groundwork to set things out in a way that works for everyone. Some useful techniques could make this more likely, including:
Ask open-ended questions and feed input into the content of your plan as well as its structure. Some project plans take a list form and other, large-scale projects need multiple branches to segment each — this may be displayed as a tree diagram. The answers you receive may help to guide the fundamentals of how you lay out your project plan.
In fact, charts, sheets and software can help you to visualize plans more broadly — think color coding and intuitive tabs. If it’s easy to digest, various team players will likely find it easier to plug in.
Practical techniques for project planning include PERT, which stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. This helps with timing estimates by using statistics to manage probabilities, so it’s easier to predict how hypothetical scenarios could impact your timelines.
Naturally, the planning phase is just the beginning. Once your project is underway, managing the way things change can become a side project in its own right.
Set up pathways to deal with change and feed information into each branch of your current plan. If a cog in the chain alters, the best project plans are able to absorb this information quickly and direct it through all channels.
Your project might go through each of these life cycle stages :
- Planning phase
- Executing phase
- Monitoring and controlling phase
- Closing phase
Prioritization can help set the tone for success through each part of the journey.
The project planning phase is a roadmap for project managers. From pre-planning and meeting with stakeholders, to research, drafting, scheduling, and receiving final approval. All of these steps and subtasks help contribute to a successful project that aligns with the sponsor’s vision and overall objectives.
What is the definition of project planning?
Project planning outlines the purpose and scope of a project. It also addresses how you will approach and deliver it within a specific timeframe. We define project planning as a distinct phase within the project lifecycle .
In this phase, you’ll set out a roadmap for success, incorporating everything from the scope and projections of the project to its risks and constraints.
How can project planning help minimize risks?
Project planning can minimize risks in several ways. It can help you:
- Analyze risks to consider their likelihood and impact.
- Consider alternative courses of action, should a pitfall occur.
- Prevent risks from occurring in the first place.
- Manage stakeholder expectations for snags and delays in the project.
Risk analysis is therefore an integral part of the project planning process. Without it, you will be poorly prepared for the execution phase.
Why is project planning so important?
Project planning takes a lot of time and effort, but it is essential to delivering the finished product.
A solid plan can guide your team, stakeholders, managers and other parties through your project from start to finish. It allows you to set clear goals and objectives, allowing you to work out how best to achieve them.
Without adequate planning, projects can stray way off track and this can affect your bottom line. For example, in 2017, the Project Management Institute estimated that organizations lost an average $97 million on every $1 billion invested due to poor project management.
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What Is Planning in Project Management?
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You may have a great idea for a project, but without planning, your project will remain just that — an idea. Planning is the critical step to take a project from an intangible theory to a tangible result.
What does project planning entail?
To bring a project to fruition, the project manager will need to assemble a project plan . The project plan describes the cost, scope, and schedule for the project. It lays out exactly what activities and tasks will be required, as well as the resources needed, from personnel to equipment to financing, and where they can be acquired. Good project planning also factors in risk and how to manage it, including contingency plans, and details a communication strategy to keep all stakeholders up to date and on board.
Project planning and management
Planning the project typically involves the following steps :
- Initiation: This step typically occurs before the project is greenlit. It usually involves putting together a business case document that explains the need for the project, followed by a feasibility study to determine the viability of the project in terms of its cost and projected benefits.
- Stakeholder involvement : Identify your project sponsors and key stakeholders. To ensure the success of the project, meet with them to discuss their needs and expectations. Map out the project scope, budget, and timeline with them, and make sure to get their complete buy-in.
- Prioritizing goals : A project — and a team — can only do so much. Prioritize your goals to make fulfilling them clearer and easier.
- Identifying deliverables : What are the specific deliverables that you and your team are expected to produce? You’ll need to know exactly what is expected of you, as well as when (i.e., the deadlines for each output). You’ll also want to define what success looks like for each deliverable and develop metrics to track and rank each one.
- Scheduling : Using the information in the previous step, you’ll need to map out the project's timeline.
- Developing a project plan : As previously described, a project plan lays out the steps needed to bring the project to fruition. It includes all the activities and tasks required in the appropriate order and workflow. The project plan will draw from all the previous steps.
- Bake in contingency plans : No project is without hiccups. Make sure you plan for any bumps in the road by assessing the risks associated with your project and putting plans in place to address them.
Once the project has been mapped out, it will need to be presented to the stakeholders, edited if necessary, and then managed. Project plan management includes troubleshooting when issues arise, keeping the project on schedule, and moderating the budget.
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Basic Project Management
- Project Charter
- Project Management Stakeholders
- What is a Project?
- Work Breakdown Structure
- Project Objectives
- Project Baseline
- Project Management Scheduling
- Project Management Work Packages
- Project Management Scope
- Scope Creep
Advanced Project Management
- What is PERT?
- Network Diagram
- Risk Management
- Cost Estimation
- Feasibility Study
- Monte Carlo Analysis
- Project Integration
- Cost Management
- PMI Project Management
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- Budget Tracking
- Request Forms
- Work Assignments
- Version Control
- Dependency Managements
- Project management Milestones
- Project Management Software
- Project Management Tools
- Project Management System
- Gantt Charts
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8. Overview of Project Planning
Adrienne Watt; Merrie Barron; and Andrew Barron
Click play on the following audio player to listen along as you read this section.
After the project has been defined and the project team has been appointed, you are ready to enter the second phase in the project management life cycle: the detailed project planning phase.
Project planning is at the heart of the project life cycle, and tells everyone involved where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. The planning phase is when the project plans are documented, the project deliverables and requirements are defined, and the project schedule is created. It involves creating a set of plans to help guide your team through the implementation and closure phases of the project. The plans created during this phase will help you manage time, cost, quality, changes, risk, and related issues. They will also help you control staff and external suppliers to ensure that you deliver the project on time, within budget, and within schedule.
The project planning phase is often the most challenging phase for a project manager, as you need to make an educated guess about the staff, resources, and equipment needed to complete your project. You may also need to plan your communications and procurement activities, as well as contract any third-party suppliers.
The purpose of the project planning phase is to:
- Establish business requirements
- Establish cost, schedule, list of deliverables, and delivery dates
- Establish resources plans
- Obtain management approval and proceed to the next phase
The basic processes of project planning are:
- Scope planning – specifying the in-scope requirements for the project to facilitate creating the work breakdown structure
- Preparation of the work breakdown structure – spelling out the breakdown of the project into tasks and sub-tasks
- Project schedule development – listing the entire schedule of the activities and detailing their sequence of implementation
- Resource planning – indicating who will do what work, at which time, and if any special skills are needed to accomplish the project tasks
- Budget planning – specifying the budgeted cost to be incurred at the completion of the project
- Procurement planning – focusing on vendors outside your company and subcontracting
- Risk management – planning for possible risks and considering optional contingency plans and mitigation strategies
- Quality planning – assessing quality criteria to be used for the project
- Communication planning – designing the communication strategy with all project stakeholders
The planning phase refines the project’s objectives, which were gathered during the initiation phase. It includes planning the steps necessary to meet those objectives by further identifying the specific activities and resources required to complete the project. Now that these objectives have been recognized, they must be clearly articulated, detailing an in-depth scrutiny of each recognized objective. With such scrutiny, our understanding of the objective may change. Often the very act of trying to describe something precisely gives us a better understanding of what we are looking at. This articulation serves as the basis for the development of requirements. What this means is that after an objective has been clearly articulated, we can describe it in concrete (measurable) terms and identify what we have to do to achieve it. Obviously, if we do a poor job of articulating the objective, our requirements will be misdirected and the resulting project will not represent the true need.
Users will often begin describing their objectives in qualitative language. The project manager must work with the user to provide quantifiable definitions to those qualitative terms. These quantifiable criteria include schedule, cost, and quality measures. In the case of project objectives, these elements are used as measurements to determine project satisfaction and successful completion. Subjective evaluations are replaced by actual numeric attributes.
A web user may ask for a fast system. The quantitative requirement should be all screens must load in under three seconds. Describing the time limit during which the screen must load is specific and tangible. For that reason, you’ll know that the requirement has been successfully completed when the objective has been met.
Let’s say that your company is going to produce a holiday batch of eggnog. Your objective statement might be stated this way: Christmas Cheer, Inc. will produce two million cases of holiday eggnog, to be shipped to our distributors by October 30, at a total cost of $1.5 million or less. The objective criteria in this statement are clearly stated and successful fulfillment can easily be measured. Stakeholders will know that the objectives are met when the two million cases are produced and shipped by the due date within the budget stated.
When articulating the project objectives you should follow the SMART rule:
- Specific – get into the details. Objectives should be specific and written in clear, concise, and understandable terms.
- Measurable – use quantitative language. You need to know when you have successfully completed the task.
- Acceptable – agreed with the stakeholders.
- Realistic – in terms of achievement. Objectives that are impossible to accomplish are not realistic and not attainable. Objectives must be centred in reality.
- Time based – deadlines not durations. Objectives should have a time frame with an end date assigned to them.
If you follow these principles, you’ll be certain that your objectives meet the quantifiable criteria needed to measure success.
This chapter adapted by Adrienne Watts from the following source:
- Text under “Overview of Project Planning” adapted from “ Project Planning ” in Project Management by Merrie Barron and Andrew Barron. Licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence
8. Overview of Project Planning by Adrienne Watt; Merrie Barron; and Andrew Barron is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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How to Create a Project Management Plan Online – 9 Simple Steps
You’re in charge of a project. That’s great! Before you actually begin your project, you’re going to need a project plan.
While it may be tempting to jump right into your project and figure things out as you go along, you’ll have much better results if you create a project plan first. Without a basic project plan, you may find your team directionless, or worse heading in multiple directions.
In project management , proceeding without a project plan leaves you in danger of overrunning available resources and failing to achieve the client’s goals. A project plan ensures all stakeholders share the same vision, sets measurable goals for your project, establishes solid communication among team members and stakeholders, and serves as the foundation for project transparency .
Without it, you’re setting yourself and your team up for project failure.
Maybe you’ve been doing this for a while or maybe this is your first big project and you just googled “how to write a project plan.” Either way, we’re here to help.
What is a project plan?
A project plan, also known as the project management plan, is the document that describes how the project will be executed, monitored, and controlled, and closed. This outlines the objectives and scope of the project and serves as an official point of reference for the project team, larger company, and stakeholders.
It’s created during the project planning phase and is a compilation of several other documents. It is more than just a schedule or a task list, though it does include those things. The project management plan is formally approved at the beginning of the project and then progressively updated throughout the course of the project.
Why is project planning important?
Project planning is a crucial stage that comes right after initiation in project management phases . Through proper planning, you streamline the entire project into a series of steps and ensure the availability of all the resources on time.
Project constraints such as time, scope, and costs are discussed in the project planning process, and mitigation plans are developed after the identification of potential risks. By comparing the actual progress with the project plan, you can also monitor the performance of your team and take the necessary steps to improve it.
Check out the 7 areas where project planning is important for successful projects.
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How to create a project plan online.
If you’re thinking, “well, that sounds really formal and serious, don’t be intimidated.
Follow these nine project management steps, and you’re well on your way not just on how to plan a project online but to execute your project successfully.
Step 1: Identify all stakeholders
Your project has several stakeholders, and not all of them will be involved in every detail of the project. Project stakeholders include
- your customer,
- the end-users of the product,
- the company and its leaders,
- and the team working directly on the project.
Depending on the nature of the project, stakeholders may also include outside organizations or individual community members that will be affected by the project.
Step 2: Define roles and responsibilities
Once you’ve identified your stakeholders, you need to determine the core project management skills and competencies required for the project. When you have that list, you can define roles and assign responsibilities to individual stakeholders.
Remember that a role is not the same as a person.
- In some cases, one person can fill multiple roles, such as having a designated emergency contact, a role that adds few additional work hours to a person’s schedule.
- In other cases, multiple people may hold identical roles, as when your project requires multiple software engineers.
Typical roles include
- project sponsor,
- project manager ,
- and project team members .
The different project team member roles will vary depending on your project, but be sure to include a vendor relations role and a customer relations role.
Learn how to create a Project Plan with Kissflow Project.
Step 3: hold a kickoff meeting.
The kickoff meeting is a
- chance to bring all stakeholders together,
- cast a vision for the project that everyone can get behind,
- and an opportunity to make introductions and establish good working relationships.
At this stage, the specific details of the project haven’t been determined, so you should include a discussion on the project scope, budget, timeline, and goals in your meeting agenda. This is also when roles are announced and a communication plan is explained. The kickoff meeting sets the tone for the working relationship among stakeholders for the duration of the project.
Step 4: Define project scope, budget, and timeline
After the official kickoff, it’s time to define three important concepts:
- the project scope,
- and timeline of your project.
Each of these items is worthy of its own in-depth explanation, so we’ll just define them briefly here.
Project scope tells you what are we going to do (and not do)? Given the requests of the customer and the vision discussed by the team, what are the objectives of this project?
Taking into account the scope and the resources required to meet the project objectives , what is the expected financial cost of the project?
The project timeline itemizes the phases of your project and the length of time you can reasonably expect them to be completed.
Step 5: Set and prioritize goals
Once your team understands the objectives of the project and you’ve identified the phases to meeting those objectives,
- break down the big picture objectives of your project into individual goals and tasks,
- prioritize tasks according to importance and dependencies,
- and put a system in place to ensure corrective actions when goals aren’t met on time.
You may need to adjust your timeline in light of your goals.
Prioritize your project tasks with Kissflow Project.
Step 6: define deliverables.
A deliverable, as defined by the Project Management Institute, is “any unique and verifiable product, result, or capability to perform a service that is produced to complete a process, phase, or project”. In other words, a deliverable could be,
- or capability.
Project deliverables are determined by the project objectives and are an essential part of the project plan. If the customer’s objective is for end-users to manage their own content, for example, the deliverables might be a piece of software that enables users to manage content as well as training materials for employees and end-users on how to use the newly created software.
Step 7: Create a project schedule
A project schedule is a document that details
- the project timeline,
- the organizational resources required to complete each task,
- and any other information critical to the team management.
Needless to say, it must be comprehensive and easy to understand.
To create a project schedule ,
- further, divide the phases of your project into individual tasks and activities,
- determine dependencies,
- sequence the activities,
- and estimate the required resources and duration of each task.
The information you compile in this process may reveal necessary adjustments in your roles, timeline, and/or budget. This is an important step in writing a simple project plan and a beneficial part of the process. It’s much better to make these adjustments before the project has begun than weeks or months later.
Want to learn project management but put off by jargon?
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Step 8: Do a risk assessment
A risk is a problem that may or may not arise over the course of your project. It’s important to identify risks in project management and mitigate them at the project planning phase rather than be caught off guard later. Hold a meeting or ask for insight from all team members about the risks you should consider.
Areas of risk include:
- Project Scope
- Resources (personnel, financial, and physical)
- Project delays
- and Failures of Technology or Communication
There’s no way to control for all potential risks, but thinking through them ahead of time can save you from project failure .
Step 9: Communicate the project plan
Once you’ve compiled your project plan, make sure to communicate it clearly to the team and all other stakeholders. You may have created a project communication plan when you put together your project schedule. If not, do it now!
Establishing solid communications channels and expectations for project communication is crucial. As a project manager, be sure to model the kind of communication you expect from all stakeholders.
Main components of the project management plan
At its basic level, an example of a project plan consists of three components. Creating a list of all these components to help inform your project management plan.
What are the things your team will need to do in order to get the project done? Activities in your project plan include things like
- measuring progress
- delegating tasks
- allocating resources
- time tracking spent on project tasks
- communicating effectively.
For any task management , the project is broken down into tasks. These are smaller jobs that make up the bigger picture of your project. Having incremental goals makes measuring success and addressing bottlenecks easier, and identifying these tasks is essential to crafting your project management plan.
What are you working with? Your resources include your budget, of course. It’s also important to understand your human and material resource requirements. How many people will need to work on this project and will you need to hire temporary workers or subcontractors? What physical or digital materials are required and where will those things come from?
How project planning software can help plan projects
A successful project management plan involves effectively organizing all the activities, tasks, and resources that make up your project. Trying to do all this with a collection of spreadsheets that are terrible for project management and shared documents or worse with notebooks, pens, and sticky notes is overwhelming and inefficient.
Project planning software can simplify your project planning from start to finish, giving you the project management features and transparency in the project you need to not only create an excellent project management plan but to actually manage your project well. Good project management software allows you to perform administrative tasks more quickly and efficiently, freeing up time to focus on the actual project.
Project management software can also facilitate effective communication within and among teams, help you track key performance factors, store all project data in a central location, and allow you to generate reports on your project along the way. Many of your project management challenges , particularly with planning, can be overcome with a capable and efficient project management tool.
Kissflow Project can be the solution for you!
- is simple and intuitive to use,
- frees you from constantly tracking teammates,
- offers multiple views to visualize projects
- provides “Done”, “In-Progress”, and “On Hold” states for clarity on status,
- gives you access to powerful reports to make data-driven decisions, and
- reminds you when tasks near their deadlines.
There’s a whole lot more to Kissflow Project. Sign up for free today to get acquainted with its simple yet powerful capabilities!
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What is Project Planning: A Step by Step Guide!
Every thought, process, or product, starts from something! For instance, building a car, began with an idea, then there was discussion, assembly operations, designer’s work, etc. It’s an insignificant example that perfectly clarifies the situation – every pursuit has a great beginning !
Project management is no exception! Being a complex chain of processes and tasks, it also has a first step, where everything begins. This step is the project planning phase of project management!
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” ― Alan Lakein
Project planning is the most critical stage in any project. It guides teams, stakeholders, and project managers on how to go about other project stages. It helps identify the objectives , avoid missing deadlines, reduce risks, prioritize essential tasks, and deliver expected results.
However, it’s not easy to plan and manage a project with perfection in this fast-moving digital world, things are bound to slip through the cracks, which can eventually lead to ravaging outcomes!
Well, don’t fret! We have created a step by step guide that will teach you everything about project planning, why it’s important, and the important elements that will make project management a piece of cake!
What is Project Planning?
Project planning is a process of describing the scope, objective, milestones (deliverables), tasks, and resources of a project within a specific timeline. Good project planning entails risk management, includes contingency plans , and details a communication strategy to keep all stakeholders onboard.
Project planning should provide a roadmap for every aspect of the project. Amongst other things, it:
- Describes the tasks that need to be completed, when, and how?
- Defines various communication channels
- Presents who is responsible for each task
- Defines a contingency plan against all eventualities and risks
- Provides a mechanism to track and monitor progress
- Holds commitment from stakeholders
Read more: Everything You Need To Know About Project Management
Benefits of Project Planning in Project Management!
A study made by the Project Management Institute states that a lack of clear goals and objectives accounts for 37% of project failures. So, to overcome any such failures, project managers are asked to clearly define the deliverables, project timelines , and other details for the precise execution of a project. One easy and efficient way of doing that is through effective project planning.
Project planning is really important to stay on top of the various actions and steps that are needed to coordinate across team members. Deadlines, time tables, task owners, results of steps as they are taken, etc. are some of the key elements that are often planned. All in all, project planning:
1. Provides Direction
One challenge that most project team members face is the lack of knowing how to proceed. During the project planning process, managers determine what tasks need to be completed by whom and how. The planning process provides direction for everyone in project management.
2. Offers Accountability
During the planning phase in project management, all project managers and teams are assigned responsibility for the completion of different tasks. It’s a benefit because each employee is given responsibility for one specific task and can be held accountable in case of success or failure. This makes managing a project a lot easier!
3. Considers Adequate Resources
Many projects run out of resources before the completion timeline. According to KPMG , 50% of managers indicate that their project failed to consistently achieve what they set out to achieve. This means wastage of resources, both financial and labor, by organizations.
4. Anticipates Problems
Most projects experience difficulties at different levels before the project is even completed. These problems include missing deadlines, losing employees, running out of funds, etc. But, with the help of project planning, teams can proactively address such situations, eventually, reduce their impact on the project.
5. Provides Project Completion
Some projects are started but never finished. Without proper planning, team members tend to pursue their ideas and forget about the ultimate goal of project completion. Project planning ensures that the managers or members know their roles, responsibilities, and goals!
Read more: How to Create an Effective Operational Plan for Your Business?
Things You Must Know Before Planning a Project!
Before you dive into planning out your project, here are the 4 things you need to ensure you’ve identified:
1. The baseline for your project
Before you begin with planning your project, make sure you have the basics cleared out. Start by identifying the baseline for your project’s scope, cost, and schedule, as the rest of your project planning will need to fit in around those restrictions.
2. Your project dependencies
Ask yourself: what needs to be done before processing happens? Identifying your project dependencies at the outset of your project signifies that you can plan your timelines more efficiently, ensure that you avoid unnecessary delays, and spot potential blockers!
3. Identify project milestones
Milestones are the key markers of your project’s progress! They are often set by the project managers to help their teamwork at peak productivity. These can be a deliverable, design, communication, and more.
4. Identify who’s responsible for what
Once you get the vision of how to begin the process and the resources you have to complete, it’s time to start deciding who should do what. Providing each task an owner is essential to getting things done accurately on time. Once you identify who’s responsible for what, you can ensure transparency and accountability.
Read more: Waterfall Project Management: What, Why, and How?
Project Planning Phase: 8 Steps to Successfully Plan a Project
The project planning phase is the most important part of project management. Successful execution of a project depends largely on the process of planning done before its initiation. The best way to do it is by presenting all the data through documentation. Some of the most important elements of a project plan document include:
1. Add a project description
The project description should describe the problem intended to be solved and the opportunity for capitalization. It should also mention what the main goal is, what needs to be achieved, how achievements will be gauged, and what signifies the end of the project.
2. Break down the project into specific tasks
Make sure that there is a progressive transition from each task to the next. If some tasks need to be done at the same time, specify what they are and mention their details.
3. Estimate the resources required for the project
If needed, create a separate resource plan to ensure the right resources are being gathered effectively. This will also enable you to control and estimate the required resources.
4. Develop a communication plan
Specify how and when communication should flow between management, teams, and a client. Proper communication channels help with smooh processing and workflow.
5. Specify standards and procedures
This document is drafted to list down all the what, why, and how of a project! That is- how is the work done, when to process the deliverables, and what is the expected outcome once the project is completed.
6. Identify and assess risks
List down any potential risks in the project and their consequences. This will help you forecast constraints and will give you a sharper edge against them!
7. Draft a budget
This step summarizes the expenses and costs you anticipate for the project, in comparison to the revenue generated.
8. Project plan summary
A project summary includes project tasks, resources, and expected results after the project is finished. It’s like a framework of everything you have planned to achieve for a successful project.
Now that you know the importance and key elements to include in planning a project, it’s time to introduce you to an awesome project management software that will make project planning, a breeze!
Read more: Project Management Schedule: What, Why, And How!
Plan and Manage Projects the Right Way with Bit
Did you know, a staggering 44% of project managers do not use any kind of project management software at all even when research has found project management software increase project performance by 77% .
Well, if you don’t want to be part of that statistic, we would advise you to pick a project management software. One such software that is used by organizations and professionals in over 100+ countries is Bit.ai . Bit is a robust platform that serves as a central hub where collaborators, content, and knowledge can be accessed in one all-inclusive document.
Still, not sure how Bit can help you plan the perfect project? Let’s see some more of Bit’s awesome capabilities:
Create interactive documents : You can add content from over 100+ various applications that will live inside of your Bit documents. Add Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, Google forms, Gantt charts, maps, YouTube videos- anything on the internet with a link and Bit will automatically convert that into live content living inside your document!
Collaborate in real-time: Multiple people can simultaneously collaborate on a Bit smart document in real-time. It’s a great way for employees to discuss project details, work on spreadsheets, brainstorm ideas, collaborate on documents, manage to-dos, share assets, and more. Bit’s sleek, minimal, and distraction-free editor makes a great tool for documentation.
Structured organization: Bit brings all your project documents in one place by allowing you to organize information in workspaces and folders. Workspaces can be created around projects, operations, departments, and fields. Everyone added to a workspace can access and collaborate on its content. Inside each workspace, you can create an unlimited number of wikis and access your content library.
Permission & sharing access: Bit supports features like document tracking, cloud-upload, templates, document locking, document expiration, password protection, etc. that help keep your important information safe. Also, Bit docs can be shared in 3 different ways- trackable links, live embeds, and live state!
Project planning has helped organizations manage the cost, time, and resources associated with a project, putting project managers in the driver’s seat! You really cannot go wrong with a properly planned project, especially with the help of project management software.
If you need any help in planning and managing your project or want to know how Bit can help your business, let us know by tweeting us @bit_docs. Cheers!
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Bit.ai is the essential next-gen workplace and document collaboration platform. that helps teams share knowledge by connecting any type of digital content. With this intuitive, cloud-based solution, anyone can work visually and collaborate in real-time while creating internal notes, team projects, knowledge bases, client-facing content, and more.
The smartest online Google Docs and Word alternative, Bit.ai is used in over 100 countries by professionals everywhere, from IT teams creating internal documentation and knowledge bases, to sales and marketing teams sharing client materials and client portals.
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Project Planning : Definition, Techniques and Tools
Whether you’re leading a team or planning your own projects, project planning is essential in order to be efficient. Project planning helps you organise your time according to the work that needs to be carried out, to ensure you remain efficient for the long-term. Project planning does however require a certain attention to detail, in advance of and during the works being carried out. Time management , minimizing delays , in this article we will explore all the advantages of project planning , and how to plan a project using our advice and techniques.
- What is project planning ?
- How to plan a project ?
- Different types of project planning
- Best practice for project planning and Project management
- Using project management software
1- What Is Project Planning?
Project planning also clarifies the role of each person in the division of tasks and work to be done. Project planning fosters collaboration and cohesion within the team. Putting the tasks to be done in order encourages individual team members to carry out their part of the work efficiently . Each member of the team must bear in mind that a delay in their work will cause delays for their team-mates.
Once the tasks have been correctly ordered and assigned, this framework will enable you to monitor your work and progress more closely. Understanding the bigger picture is crucial, how the tasks are connected and their timeline within the project . This allows you to anticipate any potential problems and their impact early on.
The more organized you are upstream, the more efficient you will become.
2- How To Plan a Project ?
- The planned work schedule (a minimum and a maximum)
- The latest possible date for completion
- The skills required (when working as a team)
- Who is in charge of the project
You must also keep any external limitations in mind (communicating with the client, supplier delays, purchasing materials, etc.), so that reality doesn’t get the better of you. Don’t hesitate to be generous with your estimations, giving yourself some room to manoeuvre. It’s always better to finish ahead of schedule, rather than missing the deadline !
From this list of tasks, you will get all of the milestones you can mark on the calendar. Prioritizing tasks, in other words scheduling tasks in relation to each other, is an important step in the project planning process not to be missed.
Think about clearly identifying the tasks that will prevent other work from being carried out. This will avoid ending up at a standstill while waiting for another colleague or supplier to complete their part. Of course, if you do end up with this type of clash, use the time to accomplish other tasks and refine your timetable.
3- Different Types Of Project Planning
Also known as daily planning , vertical planning is a detailed, hour-by-hour plan of the tasks making up your days. This type of planning consists of detailing the order of your activities and the exact moment each one of them will take place. This project planning method gives you a clear view of your days and how they will unfold. With this methodology, you can be sure that you won’t miss anything , and that you’ll be able to carry out each task while staying on track.
Horizontal planning isn’t based on each hour individually, but on the working day as a whole. This type of project planning can also be done weekly or monthly (depending on how far in advance you’re planning). This style of project planning allows you to share your workload and highlight your priorities. In any case, this isn’t the most rigid form of planning . In fact, over the course of the weeks the unexpected can arise and new tasks can end up being added to your plan. Leave space for these occurrences, as this will help you avoid becoming overloaded further down the line.
Joint planning is a mix between horizontal planning and vertical planning . You plan your tasks in the medium/long-term day by day, and do this for several weeks. At the same time, you assign a duration to each task. You therefore benefit from a bird’s eye view, as well as a detailed plan at the same time. This might seem like wishful thinking, but this model is completely achievable if your project has been well-thought out upstream. All you need to do is carefully consider the order of the tasks and their duration .
4- Best Practice for Project Planning and Project Management
Knowing what needs to be done and distributing the workload properly isn’t enough. You must also :
Work As a Team
As a team leader , it’s up to you to define the objectives to meet and the means available. You are potentially the only point of contact for the client, so communication all comes down to you. Despite this, you need to be aware of your environment and the importance of your collaborators. Your project team is potentially made up of experts with varied skill sets. They could have a different vision and interesting ideas for the project and its organization. Don’t hesitate to get them involved with doing the inventory of tasks they’ll be carrying out and consider their limitations too. Getting your team more involved will allow you to create an atmosphere of trust and good working conditions.
Allow a Margin
When we carry out project planning , we often have a tendency to underestimate the time it takes to complete a task. Be generous with your estimates so you can be sure to meet your deadlines. Everyone knows it’s better to have too much time rather than not enough !
Know When To Stop
If you need to allow a margin, you also need to know when to stop. When we see that a stage of the project is completely blocked and slowing down the whole team, you mustn’t hesitate to reassess the work to be carried out and the means available, to prevent the project from getting stuck.
Make Sure Information Is Easily Accessible
Transmitting information is an essential dimension of project management. Guaranteeing access to key information and work documents creates an environment that fosters teamwork and avoids wasting time sending information back and forth. A shared folder on Google Drive, a whiteboard in the office listing all the tasks by person, find what works best for your team.
5- Using Project Management Software
Project management software offers numerous advantages. Primarily, it can provide a framework for collaborative work and automate recurring processes. For example, calculating profitability, updating project monitoring dashboards or creating to-do lists. By centralizing all this information, you’ll have saved time for tracking and analyzing your project with your team.
Kiwili is the perfect solution for your project planning. Our project management software Kiwili allows you to plan, structure and track your projects in an intuitive and agile manner:
- Outline all of the steps required with time allocated and deadlines
- Assign each task and notify team members directly by email
- Add in the costs incurred
- Attach documents and follow-up notes
- Generate project reports
Kiwili’ s strength lies in connecting project management with the real work your company does. Once a client has accepted your quote , you can start working directly below, converting it into a project. All of the elements that you’ve charged for in your quote will be automatically converted into project stages , and all you’ll need to do is define the project duration if it isn’t already detailed in your quote.
Project planning is a core element of your work that shouldn’t be left on the sidelines. The time spent organizing will be highly profitable if you stick to the plan you’ve outlined right the way through the project, and remember to leave some room to manoeuvre.
When it comes to organizing your project, project management software can help in so many ways, starting with providing clear, up-to-date information (duration of work by employee, project status reports, profitability, etc.).
Try Kiwili today with our 14 day free trial ! It’s the ideal solution for entrepreneurs, as it combines the advantages of an online project management software with a powerful project management tool.
Kiwili is an all-in-one business management software. It is at the same time an easy invoicing software, an accounting software, a CRM, a convenient project management tool and a time tracking software. Everything you need to manage your business like a pro!
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