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T hursday, 17 May 2012 07:00

10 Steps to Creating a Project Plan


Written by Elizabeth and Richard Larson
One of the critical factors for project success is having a welldeveloped project plan. This article provides a 10-step approach to creating the project plan, not only showing how it provides a roadmap for project managers to follow, but also exploring why it is the project manager's premier communications and control tool throughout the project. Step 1: Explain the project plan to key stakeholders and discuss its key components. One of the most misunderstood terms in project management, the project plan is a set of living documents that can be expected to change over the life of the project. Like a roadmap, it provides the direction for the project. And like the traveler, the project manager needs to set the course for the project, which in project management terms means creating the project plan. Just as a driver may encounter road construction or new routes to the final destination, the project manager may need to correct the project course as well.

A common misconception is that the plan equates to the project timeline, which is only one of the many components of the plan. The project plan is the major work product from the entire planning process, so it contains all the planning documents for the project. Typically many of the project's key stakeholders, that is those affected by both the project and the project's end result, do not fully understand the nature of the project plan. Since one of the most important and difficult aspects of project management is getting commitment and buying, the first step is to explain the planning process and the project plan to all key stakeholders. It is essential for them to understand the importance of this set of documents and to be familiar with its content, since they will be asked to review and approve the documents that pertain to them. Components of the Project Plan Include: Baselines. Baselines are sometimes called performance measures, because the performance of the entire project is measured against them. They are the project's three approved starting points and include the scope, schedule, and cost baselines. These provide the 'stakes in the ground.' That is, they are used to determine whether or not the project is on track, during the execution of the project. Baseline management plans. These plans include documentation on how variances to the baselines will be handled throughout the project. Each project baseline will need to be reviewed and managed. A result of this process may include the need to do additional planning, with the possibility that the baseline(s) will change. Project management plans document what the project team will do when variances to the baselines occur, including what process will be followed, who will be notified, how the changes will be funded, etc. Other work products from the planning process. These include a risk management plan, a quality plan, a
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procurement plan, a staffing plan, and a communications plan. Step 2: Define roles and responsibilities. Not all key stakeholders will review all documents, so it is necessary to determine who on the project needs to approve which parts of the plan. Some of the key players are: Project sponsor, who owns and funds the entire project. Sponsors need to review and approve all aspects of the plan. Designated business experts, who will define their requirements for the end product. They need to help develop the scope baseline and approve the documents relating to scope. They will be quite interested in the timeline as well. Project manager, who creates, executes, and controls the project plan. Since project managers build the plan, they do not need to approve it. Project team, who build the end product. The team needs to participate in the development of many aspects of the plan, such as identifying risks, quality, and design issues, but the team does not usually approve it. End users, who use the end product. They too, need to participate in the development of the plan, and review the plan, but rarely do they actually need to sign off. Others, such as auditors, quality and risk analysts, procurement specialists, and so on may also participate on the project. They may need to approve the parts that pertain to them, such as the Quality or Procurement plan. Step 3: Hold a kickoff meeting. The kickoff meeting is an effective way to bring stakeholders together to discuss the project. It is an effective way to initiate the planning process. It can be used to start building trust among the team members and ensure that everyone's idea are taken into account. Kickoff meetings also demonstrate commitment from the sponsor for the project. Here are some of the topics that might be included in a kickoff meeting: Business vision and strategy (from sponsor) Project vision (from sponsor) Roles and responsibilities Team building Team commitments How team makes decisions Ground rules How large the group should be and whether sub-groups are necessary Step 4: Develop a Scope Statement. The Scope Statement is arguably the most important document in the project plan. It's the foundation for the rest of the project. It describes the project and is used to get common agreement among the stakeholders about the scope. The Scope Statement clearly describes what the outcome of the project will be. It is the basis for getting the buy-in and agreement from the sponsor and other stakeholders and decreases the chances of miscommunication. This document will most likely grow and change with the life of the project. The Scope Statement should include: Business need and business problem Project objectives, stating what will occur within the project to solve the business problem Benefits of completing the project, as well as the project justification
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Project scope, stated as which deliverables will be included and excluded from the project. Key milestones, the approach, and other components as dictated by the size and nature of the project. It can be treated like a contract between the project manager and sponsor, one that can only be changed with sponsor approval. Step 5: Develop scope baseline. Once the deliverables are confirmed in the Scope Statement, they need to be developed into a work breakdown structure (WBS), which is a decomposition of all the deliverables in the project. This deliverable WBS forms the scope baseline and has these elements: Identifies all the deliverables produced on the project, and therefore, identifies all the work to be done. Takes large deliverables and breaks them into a hierarchy of smaller deliverables. That is, each deliverable starts at a high level and is broken into subsequently lower and lower levels of detail. The lowest level is called a "work package" and can be numbered to correspond to activities and tasks. The WBS is often thought of as a task breakdown, but activities and tasks are a separate breakdown, identified in the next step. Step 6: Develop the schedule and cost baselines. Here are the steps involved in developing the schedule and cost baselines. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Identify activities and tasks needed to produce each of the work packages, creating a WBS of tasks. Identify resources for each task, if known. Estimate how long it will take to complete each task. Estimate cost of each task, using an average hourly rate for each resource. Consider resource constraints, or how much time each resource can realistically devoted to this project. 6. Determine which tasks are dependent on other tasks, and develop critical path. 7. Develop schedule, which is a calendarization of all the tasks and estimates. It shows by chosen time period (week, month, quarter, or year) which resource is doing which tasks, how much time they are expected to spend on each task, and when each task is scheduled to begin and end. 8. Develop the cost baseline, which is a time-phased budget, or cost by time period. This process is not a one-time effort. Throughout the project you will most likely be adding to repeating some or all of these steps. Step 7: Create baseline management plans. Once the scope, schedule, and cost baselines have been established, you can create the steps the team will take to manage variances to these plans. All these management plans usually include a review and approval process for modifying the baselines. Different approval levels are usually needed for different types of changes. In addition, not all new requests will result in changes to the scope, schedule, or budget, but a process is needed to study all new requests to determine their impact to the project. Step 8: Develop the staffing plan. The staffing plan is a chart that shows the time periods, usually month,
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quarter, year, that each resource will come onto and leave the project. It is similar to other project management charts, like a Gantt chart, but does not show tasks, estimates, begin and end dates, or the critical path. It shows only the time period and resource and the length of time that resource is expected to remain on the project. Step 9: Analyze project quality and risks. Project Quality: Project quality consists of ensuring that the end product not only meets the customer specifications, but is one that the sponsor and key business experts actually want to use. The emphasis on project quality is on preventing errors, rather than inspecting the product at the end of the project and then eliminating errors. Project quality also recognizes that quality is a management responsibility and needs to be performed throughout the project. Creating the Quality Plan involves setting the standards, acceptance criteria, and metrics that will be used throughout the project. The plan, then, becomes the foundation for all the quality reviews and inspections performed during the project and is used throughout project execution. Project Risks: A risk is an event that may or may not happen, but could have a significant effect on the outcome of a project, if it were to occur. For example, there may be a 50% chance of a significant change in sponsorship in the next few months. Analyzing risks includes making a determination of both the probability that a specific event may occur and if it does, assessing its impact. The quantification of both the probability and impact will lead to determining which are the highest risks that need attention. Risk management includes not just assessing the risk, but developing risk management plans to understand and communicate how the team will respond to the high-risk events. Step 10: Communicate! One important aspect of the project plan is the Communications Plan. This document states such things as: Who on the project wants which reports, how often, in what format, and using what media. How issues will be escalated and when. Where project information will be stored and who can access it. For complex projects, a formal communications matrix is a tool that can help determine some of the above criteria. It helps document the project team's agreed-on method for communicating various aspects of the project, such as routine status, problem resolution, decisions, etc. Once the project plan is complete, it is important not just to communicate the importance of the project plan to the sponsor, but also to communicate its contents once it's created. This communication should include such things as: Review and approval of the project plan. Process for changing the contents of the plan. Next stepsexecuting and controlling the project plan and key stakeholder roles/responsibilities in the upcoming phases. Don't forget to leave you comments below. Elizabeth and Richard Larson are Co-Principals of Watermark Learning, a project management and
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business analysis training company. They have over 30 years of industry experience each, and have helped thousands of PM and BA practitioners develop new skills. They have published numerous articles and papers and have co-written two books together on Requirements Management and CBAP Preparation. Both Rich and Elizabeth are CBAP and PMP certified through IIBA and PMI, and are contributors to the BABOK Guide, Version 2.0 and the PMBOK Guide 4th edition. Read 82547 times
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Comments -2 # Finnsven 2009-01-28 22:53 I like the structural approach but didn't find a step for development and approvement of scenarios for different mix of ressources, finish-date and economy. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -1 # Dagwood 2009-02-04 11:13 I liked a lot of what the article had to offer, but I think it missed one critical ingredient. If one followed the 10 steps, one would be courting disaster, I think! Not because of the steps themselves, but because the idea of the project plan seems to be conceived as a 'top down' bit of authoritarianism imposed on the sponsor, the team and the stakeholders. In my project environment we plan our projects through team and stakeholder workshops to develop as fully as possible the 'shape' of the project, identify the value it will need to produce and the constraints, dependencies and risks it will be circumscribed by, from as many informed perspectives as possible. This informs the project, gets the whole project community contributing, 'owning' and supporting the project, and takes advantage of a wide spread of experience, interest and capability. It also embeds project commitments into a productive community that gives it firm ground in the corporation's life. If a PM wants to plan a project in isolation, they'd better be able to run it in isolation as well. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # dfurlong 2009-02-25 10:42 There is some value in this article, but it was not well thought out. The article is entitled: "10 Steps to Creating a Project Plan", yet the first step is to explain the project plan to key stakeholders and to discuss its key components. How can you explain a project plan that you haven't gone thru the 10 steps to create? Maybe that first step should be #10? Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # Richard_Larson 2009-03-06 09:50 @Dagwood - Thanks for your comments. I think you missed the point, though. Our long-standing philosophy on planning is to involve all relevant stakeholders, and what you describe fits into the theme of the article just fine. We have never advocated a PM planning a project in isolation. A PM is the custodian of the project plan, but that doesn't mean a plan is developed in isolation as you mention.
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Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # Richard_Larson 2009-03-06 09:58 @dfurlong - even though the article is called "steps" we didn't say to follow them in the order presented. To your point about explaining the plan: you are correct: you can't explain a plan before you create it. But, you can certainly explain the planning process and components of a plan to stakeholders up front. Thanks for letting me clarify. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # wowwow12 2009-04-12 00:30 Is good to experience this success in the light of project procurement, But nevertheless. The structure needs nostalgic references quotation. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # Samer HAMO 2011-06-24 19:24 i'm not with your comments "we didn't say to follow them in the order presented" that means the 10 steps could be in any order ! the purpose of PM planning is to create the work schedule systematicly in order to avoid any future mistakes which could cost to much. if you we want to plan we most use organize steps and us them orderly with possibility of some modification during the execution process. as well you didn't mentioned any software to execute the steps properly. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote # chirag purohit 2011-07-08 18:00 I am very very thank full for helping me in making my project easy -2 Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # muhammedashfaq 2011-07-23 18:00 I liked a lot of what the article had to offer, but I think it missed one critical ingredient. If one followed the 10 steps, one would be courting disaster, I think! Not because of the steps themselves, but because the idea of the project plan seems to be conceived as a 'top down' bit of authoritarianism imposed on the sponsor, the team and the stakeholders. In my project environment we plan our projects through team and stakeholder workshops to develop as fully as possible the 'shape' of the project, identify the value it will need to produce and the constraints, dependencies and risks it will be circumscribed by, from as many informed perspectives as possible. This informs the project, gets the whole project community contributing, 'owning' and supporting the project, and takes advantage of a wide spread of experience, interest and capability. It also embeds project commitments into a productive community that gives it firm ground in the corporation's life. If a PM wants to plan a project in isolation, they'd better be able to run it in isolation as well from mian ashfaq gulf constructors pvt Ltd Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # muhammedashfaq 2011-07-23 18:04 I like the structural approach but didn't find a step for development and approvement of scenarios for different mix of ressources, finish-date and economy. from Gulf construcrors pvt ltd mian ashfaq Reply | Reply with quote | Quote # sallynam
2011-10-10 20:19

+1
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the artical is good but its not very clear- i think there's a missing link Reply | Reply with quote | Quote # sharif moses shelton the article is well analyzed
2011-10-13 23:16

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-2 # val 2011-11-07 16:21 Great idea of how to do project plan., with all comments and suggestions. Based on the above thread of postings, few people knows that the trend now, specially in large and complex, multidisciplne projects, is the approach and the use of total project management software. (one of them is the Primavera P6). By using this type of software, the planning engineer don't need a step by step procedure, because while developing the project master plan, the planning engineer is doing as well, in simultaneous, scope of work with it's work breakdown structure, organizational breakdown structure which defines key personnel and stakeholders, detailed task with corresponding logic which defines sequencing, resource and cost integration that will show budget and manpower needs, develop reports that will track and monitor the project progress. The software provides a very liberal procedure and functionalities for the engineer to do it his "way", risk analysis may be part of it. The engineer, as mentioned, may do all the project plan components at the same time or he may do it in an overlapping start to start lag. The result is one functional "Baseline Master Plan" that defines all project plan components needed to commence a project. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote +1 # Elizabeth Larson 2011-11-08 00:57 @allWe appreciate all your comments. We wrote this article some time ago, but were glad that you still find it useful. I want to emphasize that these are not sequential steps. They are completed iteratively throughout the project. Adding tasks might well uncover new deliverables. Adding estimates might well uncover new tasks and deliverables, and so forth. Although we have initial discussions with our sponsors and other key stakeholders to understand the business need and benefits, we certainly have many discussions with many stakeholders throughout the project. in my role as a PM Ive never completed these steps sequentially and only once. Not sure who could. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # Elizabeth Larson 2011-11-08 01:08 @Val, Thanks for your comment. Our philosophy is and has always been that tools support processes, in this case the project planning process. I have never found any tool that has eliminated the hardest parts of planning: getting sponsor ownership, agreement on the scope, enough resources, a handle on dependencies, communications and buy-in on the plan, a way to easily change dependenciesI could go on and on. @all, This article does not specifically address planning using Agile methods. I think the nature of these methods, like the Scrum framework, inherently lessens the planning complexity and the use for complex, cumbersome automated tools. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote # thirunavukkarasu project creates
2011-12-25 21:14

-2 Reply | Reply with quote | Quote

# Soumya

2012-02-29 08:37

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Thanks for sharing. Nice analysis. I should say. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote # Gautam 2012-03-04 04:20 Nice analysis on creating a project. Quite useful. Thanks. -2 Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # Dodou Njie 2012-04-02 10:51 I am an engineer who wants to apply for job as project manager but no idea or little knowledge on project management and planning. What is your advise ? Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # Dennis 2012-05-17 09:49 I believe this is a great article. When reading articles such as yours I always look at it as refresher and confirm what I know. I work in an IT domain where PM methodology although accepted is mostly followed because it is mandated rather than believed in getting stakeholders involved early and educating them is an important step. I suspect that individuals can take what they need from the article. I believe it is good and thought-out. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote 0 # Max Wideman 2012-05-17 11:36 I have searched the entire text of both Elizabeth's article and all of the comments to date and there is not one single mention of (developing) the project's Business Case not by anyone. Does no one do any serious project management any more? Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -1 # Elizabeth Larson 2012-05-17 12:16 @Max. Thanks for your comment. The business case is input to the Project Charter (PMBOK section 4.1.2), and therefore is developed prior to the initiation of a-project. The business case is developed by the requesting organization (4.1.2), not the project manager for a very good reason. Those requesting the project need to define the business need and benefit and take ownership of them. The business analyst (BA) plays a significant role in advising the requesting organization. Although the BABOK suggests that BAs develop the business case (BABOK section 5.5), the ownership is always (and needs to be) with the business. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote # Dennis 2012-05-17 12:29 Sounds about right. -2 Reply | Reply with quote | Quote # Max Wideman Dear Elizabeth,
2012-05-18 01:05

-1

Thank you for your quick response. Yes, I know what the PMBoK says, but just because it says such and such does not mean that it is right. The Business Case is a justification for the project. Exactly when it is prepared, by whom, or even by whom it is owned is not the issue. The issue is that
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if the project does not have a clear Business Case that justifies its existence, then you don't know whether it is worth doing in the first place. And if you don't know that, you cannot judge whether the outcome will be successful. And if you don't know the measures of success then I can guarantee that it will not be. Therefore, it is incumbent on the project manager as the first order of business, to ensure that there is a viable Business Case and that he or she knows what is in it. That is the beginning of the project, aka "Initiation". Fobbing off the Business Case as "someone else's responsibility" and not taking ownership is the cause of many project failures, especially in IT. Cheers, Max Wideman Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # Elizabeth Larson 2012-05-18 10:29 @Max. What a fun discussion! Thanks for your thoughts. The intent of the article is to provide guidance and focus on the project management plan, not the project charter. Having said that, feel free to add another step, #1: Review project charter to ensure business case and business need have been defined. As someone who spent over 20 years in IT, and as BA and PM having had too many systems called Elizabeths system, I learned that they who define project benefits end up owning the end product. I have too many battle scars to advise others that developing the business case is a PM function. It takes more courage, I would say, to ensure that the business has developed a strong business case, than to do that work ourselves. But thats another discussion for another day. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote # Max Wideman Dear Elizabeth,
2012-05-18 12:09

-1

Good! Let us consider that a new Step #1 has now been added. And now that I have your attention, I can also reveal my "hidden agenda". I understand that you are currently being instrumental in developing the next PMBOK update? If that is the case, then perhaps you can fix it along the lines we've been discussing? Of course there are other things I'd like to fix but they are too heady for this exchange. Cheers, Max Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -1 # Elizabeth Larson 2012-05-18 12:55 @Max. On the PMBOK there were lots of things we wanted to change--even fought for tooth & nail. I only worked on Scope Management concentrating on Collect Requirements. The draft has been through public comment and adjudication and I have no idea which comments were accepted. Even if I don't agree with everything that's in the BOK (and I don't) it does seem to me a very excellent, even exceptional framework that works really well. I wish it had been around for most of the 15 years I was a PM. Cheers to you, too, and maybe we'll meet in person sometime. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # Max Wideman 2012-05-21 01:45 Elizabeth. Now its getting really interesting. Are you allowed to tell me the "lots of things we wanted to change--even fought for tooth & nail"? (Either publicly or privately?)
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Yes, it is a very good framework, but the "new and improved" brigade have over reached themselves. The 2008 Section II - Chapter 3 is a disastrous attempt to diagram a very complex subject. I wouldn't mind so much if it was not claimed to be "The Standard for Management of a Project" (My emphasis) One day, some lawyer will sue an unsuspecting project manager on a failed project for failing to follow Chapter 3 to the letter! If you happen to attend the PMI Congress in Vancouver this year then, yes, we might just meet. :-) Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # Dmitry 2012-05-29 09:10 It seems, the steps are messed up. The first step explains the rest of the steps... I think the author should re-write this post and make necessary corrections. Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # jemberu 2012-06-07 08:03 even if the idea of ten steps to create a project plan is somewhat important as a beginner it is not easily understandable.... Reply | Reply with quote | Quote -2 # R. Max Wideman 2012-06-07 11:21 jemberu, you said [the] ten steps to . . . create a project plan . . . is not easily understandable . . . May I suggest that's because for "a beginner" there is a better way. Use my "Scope-Pak" approach, tried and true for the past 25 years. You will find it here: http://www.maxwideman.com/papers/scopepak/intro.htm and there are only eight steps! R. Max Wideman Reply | Reply with quote | Quote # suniel 2012-06-09 07:05 very2 fantastic ans -2 Reply | Reply with quote | Quote # okelo good work
2012-06-22 07:08

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0 # mrafique 2012-08-04 17:13 I like the article. To everyone please keep in mind when you are involved in multimillion dollar projects ....you should follow and perform multiple tasks ....its an article and take it as an article ....otherwise i suggest take detail courses on Project Management...Thanks to Larsons ! Reply | Reply with quote | Quote # Mangesh Jadhav Hi,
2012-08-07 06:54

These are very clear and structured way of managing the project. Even PMI PMP also tells us the
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same approach. I liked the way it is put with precise langauage. Can you please also provide information on how to manage a project in agile model? Thanks, Mangesh Jadhav Reply | Reply with quote | Quote Refresh comments list Add comment Name (required) E-mail

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