Project planning is one of the most important activities in the project cycle, if not the most important. Many underestimate the importance of this stage and the return it will yield if done appropriately.
This stage contains a roadmap which guides the project team to the right direction and prevents missing important points on the way to completion. It starts with a brain storming of the activities required to accomplish and complete the project, which then could be easily and logically grouped and put in order. The set of activities listed and grouped could be further classified into tiers depending on the depth of the activities and required information about each activates. The aim is to get clear and well-defined stages and milestones, which will allow the project team to define progress and have tangible deliverables moving forward.
Part of the planning stage as well, is to define the stakeholders and interfaces throughout the project. This activity is very important as it lays out who is going to be effected as a result of the project and what should stakeholders and interfaces know beforehand. Not going through this activity will lead to future obstacles and potential delays if not a big shift in the project’s direction and end results.
A simple example showing the benefits and importance of the planning activities is one of the first projects I have worked on. The project was to structure a live performance dashboard for several projects, which also functions as a portal to navigate through detailed information about each project. The reason I choose this project is because it made me realize how important planning is.
The planning stage started with brainstorming the activities required to accomplish the intended results. After that, they were put in a logical order and milestones were extracted to form a project plan. I was satisfied with the plan until I met with the IT department which had a different route to accomplish the project. This is when I come to realize that the IT department should have been involved in the project planning from the beginning and taken into consideration while putting the list in order since they will be the ones responsible for implementing the dashboard. The project plan and scope of work were agreed on with the IT department and we went forward. A milestone of presenting the dashboard to senior management was reached, and unfortunately shifted the direction of the project. The proposal was not introduced to the management team before implementation as a result of not being considered in the project plan in the first stages.
This experience shows how important planning stage is in the project cycle. For me now, it is the basis of any project, and therefore it should be well thought of and invested in. more time planning will save a lot of time in implementation and give a clear direction.