Project Planning: Will the Project Create Value?

The project planning phase of the basic project management processOn the page, “The Basic Project Management Process” I introduced project planning as the second step of the basic project management process. This page expands on that information and follows on from “Project Initiation: Getting a Project Started”.

The overall goal of the project planning phase is to find out:

  • Can the project be completed?
  • Will the project create value for the organization?

Obviously, no one can be 100% sure of this until the project has completed. Surprises can happen at any time! But, a properly planned project will have fewer surprises during execution and is far more likely to complete successfully. This is the reason that most books on project management concentrate on the planning phase.

The major tasks, which project planning needs to cover, are:

  • Identify the tasks that need to be done to deliver the expected project result.
  • Create a project plan
  • Decide, based on the plan, if the project will create value


Project Planning, Step 1:

What Needs to Be Done to Deliver the Expected Project Result?

Having read the section on “clarifying the goals of the project”, you may wonder why we need to include the step “find out what needs to be done to deliver the expected project results” in the project planning phase. During initiation, the overall goal of the project will have been defined. It is now the job of the planning team to identify all the tasks that are necessary to achieve that goal.

In my opinion, the easiest way of identifying all the tasks necessary is to use a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). [I will add an additional page on the WBS later.] A WBS helps by starting with the major goals of the project and splitting each goal into smaller work packages. This is then repeated as often as necessary until the necessary level of detail has been reached.

When is a Work Package Small Enough?

My guidance for work packages is that:

  • Each work package should be able to be completed by a single person or a single operational team
  • The project manager will be reporting on the project on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) to the project sponsor. Ideally, each work package will be completed in 2-4 reporting cycles.

For each work package, you will need to know what resources (people, machinery, workspace, money, etc.) that you will need. Once you know the resources that will be required, you will need to check that they can be made available to the project team.


Project Planning, Step 2:

Create a Project Plan

A project plan is made up of several parts. Some large projects have a large number of plans to cover all sorts of details. Very small projects may only use a bare minimum of project planning. A project plan should include at least the following parts:

A delivery schedule The delivery schedule will tell you when each work package is expected to complete. By doing so, it will tell you when the project goals will be reached and the project is expected to complete.

The delivery schedule is of little value without a resource plan. (See below.)

A resource plan The resource plan tells you which resource the project will need at any one time. If a resource is not available at the scheduled time, then the work package will need to be rescheduled for a time when the resource is available.
A communication plan The communication plan will tell you:

  • Which reports need to be written when and who they will be presented to.
  • Which meetings will be held and how often they will be held. The regular meetings that you will need include:
    • The people working on the work packages will need to tell the project manager about progress.
    • The project manager will need to tell the project team which work needs to be done next.
    • The project sponsor and other important project stakeholders will need a regular update on the overall project progress.
A risk mitigation plan The risk mitigation plan tells you which risks the project team have considered and how the project team plans to deal with that risk.


Project Planning, Step 3

Based on the Plan, Will the Project Create Value?

There is no point in moving a project from the planning phase to the execution phase if the project cannot be completed or if there is no benefit to the organization in completing the project. At the end of the planning phase, it should be possible to confirm that:

  • The resources (people, machinery, workspace, funding), which are necessary to complete the project, are available.
  • The benefit to the organization in completing the project is higher than the cost of completing the project.

If the necessary resources are not available and cannot be sourced, then the project will fail. Any further investment in the project would create a loss. In this case, the project should be cancelled.

If the benefit to the organisation in completeing the project is higher the proejct costs, then the project will create value for the organization.

Based on the available information, the project sponsor will decide if the project will create value and should be completed as planned.


Read the page, “Project Execution and Monitoring: Getting the Work Done!“, for information on the next phase of the basic project management process.