As you might imagine, the planning process during project management is extremely important – maybe the most important thing that any project manager needs to do. When you’re implementing a new technology for your organization, the first thing you’ll need to do is plan for the lifecycle of the implementation.
There are many telltale signs of why the planning process is so crucial to project management. Planning as a process group is the heaviest of all the groups. There are more sub-processes and responsibilities for the project manager within the planning area than any other area throughout the term of the project.
“You can look at the more scientific research that’s explored things like planning, especially planning with respect to project success. This is something that’s interested me and something I’ve studied as well,” says Dr. Marshall. “The consensus among researchers is that the planning process is highly correlated with project success, typically within the range of 0.5 to 0.6. So you can infer from this range that the more planning a project manager does, the more likely their project is to be successful.”
There’s also the practical aspect of importance of planning. You see it in lessons learned from other project managers. For projects that have struggled or failed, at the top of the list of reasons is lack of planning or inadequate planning.
Considerations for Project Management Planning
Here are some of the more obvious aspects of the planning process that should not be looked over:
Involve Upper Management – Getting the executive buy-in for any project is important. You don’t want to be working on a large effort without the support of your leadership.
Document the Requirements – You find often in projects that have stuggles that the project team or project manager didn’t fully understand the requirements. Taking the time to plan and document is critical to ensuring understanding.
Change Control Process – Make sure you think this through and have everything together.
Plan from the Bottom Up – Find the people who are going to do the work, get their ideas on what it will look like, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. The people that do the work are the ones that know it best. It’s good to get middle managers involved but they’re removed from it and don’t always have the true sense of what it takes. The higher you go up the chain the further removed from the work you’ll be, and the less accurate your planning will be.
Here are some less obvious aspects of the planning process to be sure to look out for:
Never Jump In – Even if you’ve done the same thing 100 times before. No two projects are ever the same. The client could be different. The client’s position, interest, priorities, and sensitivities to risk could change. While it might look the same, it won’t be identical. Before you jump in do the due diligence, work through the planning process, and if you put it through its paces you’ll be happy you did.
Pay Attention to the Intersections – It was true when our parents told us when crossing the street, and it’s true in project management. Think about intersections on roadways and highways – 50% of all serious traffic accidents happen at intersections and 20% of fatal accidents happen at intersections.
What does that have to do with project management? Imagine you have a network project with multiple areas of equipment, modules, user devices, server farms, backup power, and all the components that go into building a network. When you begin to install you will run into intersections.
For example, when your project intersects with the building power structure. How will that work? Will there be power in the room you’re going to connect your servers to? Another example is cabling. The cabling you install will intersect with pathways, ducts, and conduits that are already laid out. Is there enough room?
These intersections occur when your work touches the work that’s already been done. That’s typically where you’ll find issues. Your work alone, in a vacuum, will be done right. When your work intersects with others, issues arise. Think along those terms, and plan for those things, and you’ll be able to eliminate 80% of issues before you have to deal with them.