Wrap Up: My Way of Planning
I thought that before going on to topics such as project monitoring and controlling, let's take a brief look back at what we have covered so far. Summing up what we have learned about project planning should make it easier to "jump" into the upcoming more advanced topics.
What is the right way to plan a project? Well, most probably there is no single, right way to plan any type of project, but there are some general rules and best practices which surely help. Some of these we have covered over the last half year. So let me try to describe the work flow I personally prefer when planning an IT project and let's see how this fits with the way you guys are planning projects:
- Typically, I start with either a mind map or a work breakdown structure (WBS) - depending on how clear the project goals are already to me: If I am still in the brainstorming phase I am using the mind map in order to structure my thoughts; if I already know where I want to get to I use the WBS to break the major project goals down into more manageable pieces
- Next, I think about my core deliveries - what do I need and
when do I need it. I do not yet create a detailed schedule, but I add some key milestones to the project plan
- Then I try to get a basic understanding about the size of each work package - the order of magnitude in terms of working hours it will need until it is completed. This helps me to see where the most resources will be needed throughout the implementation of the project
- The next step is to understand the dependencies between work packages - what activities depend on the prior completeness of other activities. This is important since together with step (3) it enables me to start getting an idea what work can be done in parallel and what not. Note: I do not use a separate net plan for this, but do it in the schedule (maybe I am wrong here, but I do not see the value in a separate plan which just shows me the dependencies - might make sense though if you have very complicated dependencies?)
- Now I can start assigning resources to activities; I do this primarily on the basis of skills (who could do the job best) and secondly on who has the time to do it
- Please note that this is the first time I am now really looking on the schedule of the project when I start moving activities around while trying to find the middle course between having the resource who can do the job best and allocating the resources I have evenly throughout the project. At the same time I also have to keep my the dates of my key milestones in mind as well as monitor the resource utilization for potential conflicts across all the projects my resources are currently working on
- Finally, when resources and dates are planned I add additional cost positions to certain activities - typically servers which have to be purchased or 3rd party software licenses which have to be paid for. Personnel costs are already automatically calculated by the tool I use (guess which one ;-)
As always, your comments are much appreciated. How do you plan projects? Do you also start with a mind map or a work breakdown structure, or do you have a completely different way of planning? Please let us know!