Planning Phase strategies for Project Management

Planning phase covers about 50% of the whole process. Planning phase determines the scope of the project as well as the objective of the project. It begins with the outputs of initiation phase (charter, preliminary scope statement, and project manager). The output of the planning phase serves as the input for the execution phase.

The important aspects of planning process are

  • Planning phase should not be executed before your initial planning is finished
  • Until the execution process does not start, you should not stop revising plans

In this section, we going to see various stages in the planning phase, each phase is inter-dependable on each other.

Create WBS

For any successful project WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) is important. Following steps are to create WBS.

  • Conduct a brainstorm to list all the tasks
  • Involve your whole team for brainstorming
  • Write down the structure tree of the task also known as WBS (work breakdown structure)
  • Further breakdown your top WBS into a hierarchical set of activities, for instance, categories, sub-categories, etc. For example hardware, software, trainee, management teams, etc.
  • Define how to record the items into your WBS
  • Ask other people - it can be an expert, experienced personnel, etc.
  • Granularity- how detailed your task should you have? Estimating cost and time for higher granularity is hard while for lower granularity it will be bogged down with too detailed information
  • Granularity should be of right level not too high or not too low

Planning Schedule Management

Plan Scheduling is the process of establishing the procedure, policies and documentation for planning, managing, executing and controlling the project schedule. The inputs in these activities include

  • Project management plan
  • Project Charter
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets

The output of the Planning Schedule Management includes

  • Schedule management plan

Defining Activities

Defining Activities is the procedure for documenting and identifying specific actions to be performed to produce the project deliverables.

Planning Phase strategies for Project Management

In define activities, each work packages is broken down into individual work schedule activities. The inputs of the defining activities include

  • Schedule management plan
  • Scope baseline
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets

While the outputs of these activities are

  • Activity list
  • Activity attributes
  • Milestone list

Sequence Activities

Sequence activities is nothing but logically organizing the output of "define activities". It determines the order in which the activities needs to be performed.

Planning Phase strategies for Project Management

The main output from the sequence activity process is "Network Diagram".

Network diagram is nothing but posting the task on a board in a logical order.

For example, you want to start a business in foreign country what will be your list of activities and what will be the order it should be done?

You will perform activities in these order

  1. Choose a country
  2. Get business permit
  3. Hiring a manager
  4. Buying a property
  5. Buying the furniture etc.
  6. Opening the business

Estimating Activity Resources

This stage describes the process of estimating the work effort and resources required to complete the task. The other factor that has to be considered at this stage is the availability of the resources.

While estimating resources, the focus should be on the longest path of the plan (Critical Path), which going to consume more time and money.

You have to estimate resources for two tasks

  • Critical tasks
  • Floating tasks

Make sure that your critical tasks are accurately estimated (completion time).

There are five inputs used to estimate activity resources

  • Schedule Management Plan
  • Activity list
  • Resource Calendar
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets

The output of this stage is

  • Activity resource requirements
  • Resource breakdown structure
  • Project documents updates

NOTE: All the activity that is done so far (define activities + sequence activities + Estimate activity resources) is going to help in "Develop Schedule."

Estimating Activity Durations

Estimating Activity Duration is the process of estimating the number of work periods (weeks/months) required to complete the individual task with estimated resources. This step defines how much time an individual task will take to complete.

You cannot calculate activity duration without calculating the work effort and resources required to complete the task. Estimating process should be done in this order

  • Estimate work effort first
  • Followed by estimating the resources
  • Followed by Estimating the duration of task

To estimate activity durations, you need inputs

  • Activity list
  • Activity attributes
  • Resource calendars
  • Project scope statement
  • Organizational process assets
  • Enterprise environmental factors

While there are two main outputs

  • Estimate activity durations
  • Estimate activity durations-project document updates

This technique is also referred as PERT (Project Evaluation and Review Techniques) estimates.

Develop Schedule

Develop Schedule is the process of analyzing activity sequences, resource requirements, durations and schedule constraints to create the project schedule model. For scheduling each task, three main factors are taken into consideration

  • Duration
  • Task dependencies
  • Constraints

Using these factors project calculates the start date and finish date for each task.

A scheduling tool can be used to create a schedule. It generates a schedule model with planned dates for completing project activities.

The input of this tool includes

  • Schedule management plan
  • Activity list
  • Activity attributes
  • Project schedule –network diagrams
  • Activity resource requirements
  • Resource calendars
  • Activity duration estimates
  • Project scope statement
  • Risk register
  • Project staff assignments
  • Resource breakdown structure
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets

The output from this would be

  • Project Schedule
  • Project network diagram
  • Gantt charts or Bar charts
  • Milestone chart
  • Schedule baseline
  • Scheduled data
  • Project document updates

Control Schedule

The last stage of the planning phase is Control Schedule. It is the process of monitoring the status of project activities to update project process and manage changes to the schedule baseline.

If changes are required to the schedule, they must go through the change control process. The schedule should be managed or controlled by manager proactively.

There are four main outputs of control schedule process

  • Project management plan
  • Schedule baseline
  • Schedule management plan
  • Project schedule
  • Work performance information
  • Organizational process assets

There are five outputs of control schedule

  • Work performance management
  • Organizational process assets updates
  • Change request
  • Project management plan updates
  • Project document updates

Summary:

Planning phase determines the scope as well as the objective of the project. It involves creating a set of plans that guides you through the execution and closure phases of the project.

In next tutorial, we will explore the important aspect of planning phase- cost management, determining project budjet and human resource management.