Planning a project can be a big undertaking depending on the scope. Working for a company that is still figuring out its processes, I have learned a lot about starting new projects and how to present those ideas to others. Here are the 6 steps that guide me through this process.
1. Who’s involved?
This defines everyone this project has the opportunity of touching. The stakeholders, the team members, the end users, everyone. By figuring out exactly who these people are, you can tailor the rest of the plan to them and their needs. It also helps to figure out who is affected, involved, or in charge. By knowing each person’s role you can figure out what to present to them to get them on board. The people in charge are going to want to voice their requirements and ideas. The involved people can help determine what is possible and how long it might take. The affected people help determine how successful the project will be. Figure out the needs and expectations and work to establish a baseline for the project scope, budget, and timeline.
Tip: Make sure to look for the underlying desires. If they give you a need or requirement, try to figure out the benefit they are actually looking for. There might be a better solution you can present to them.
2. What are the goals?
This is where you take all the needs, requirements, benefits, expectations and define what needs to happen with them. Create the objectives for the projects and try to attach them to the needs they meet. By attaching them now, you can remember who/how many they serve and can determine their priority. After creating the goals you want to make sure you prioritize them, this can help when your scope/timeline/budget get cut and you have to make some choices about what to keep and what to move to the next project.
Tip: If everything is important and you are struggling too prioritize, chart the goals out based on urgency. The more urgent = the sooner it needs to happen.
3. What’s the outcome?
Take the time to write out the deliverables you hope to produce. Be sure to attach estimated due dates to them. The stakeholders will want to know these details so it helps to come to them prepared.
Tip: Try to set firm deadlines for important milestones and deliverables. Then once you start the project, you can make sure that you complete these on time.
4. What’s the schedule?
This is the time to task out everything you will need to accomplish. For each task, try to list out the requirements, the time it will take, the resources it will need, and who will be responsible for it. Once you have everything tasked out, look to see if there are any tasks that are dependent on others. Which ones have to be done before others can start? Be sure to create a project schedule to be fully prepared for the next step.
Tip: Involve the team. Be sure to collaborate with the people who will be doing the work. They will be able to give you more information on what is needed for each task and who is best suited to do it. By including them now, you also have a chance to get them involved in the project schedule. This will ensure that the deadlines and targets are actually plausible.
5. What are the issues?
Every project is going to have issues. It’s best to think about these now. What issues can you identify that might affect the project timeline or goal? Are people going to be out of the office? What are the possibilities of technical issues or backordered parts? Think about the steps you can do to limit the negative impact or even eliminate some of these issues. If possible do a risk assessment, make sure you create a risk management strategy that will help you be more prepared for these things.
Tip: If you have tasks that involve a high level of risk, move them to earlier in the project schedule. Or, create a time buffer to give to the task in case something goes wrong. This way you can stay on target and meet your goals even if you do have some issues.
6. What’s next?
The last step is handing this off. Gather all the stakeholders and present your plans. Make sure this isn’t one-sided though, have a discussion about your work. Be sure to explain how you addressed their expectations, and how you plan to solve any conflicts that come up. Be sure to determine the roles of the stakeholders. Who needs to see what, and how often? Which decisions will need approval, and by whom? Give them all a clear list of their expectations and the actions they will be responsible for.
Tip: This is a good time to explain any changes/conflicts you have with their original expectations. It’s better to give them a head’s up now, rather than surprise them later on. If their expectations are unrealistic, tell them what is required to make it happen. Do you need more people, time, and/or budget? Let them decide if it is worth adding the extra resources rather than just dismissing it.
I hope this helps you plan your next project or all your future projects. If you have any other ideas I would love to hear them in the comments or send me a message. Thanks for reading!