Planning - Planning
STEPS OF THE PLANNING PHASE
Planning is thinking and deciding how to do something and only then doing it, instead of doing it directly. It is the process of analyzing, evaluating, deciding and organizing activities in advance.
Planning is often underestimated: it is often thought that the PM’s effort should be during execution, but good planning often saves time, resources, effort, and quality.
Many things must be recognized in planning for our project to be successful:
As time passes, the cost of change increases significantly, an example of this was the construction of the Opera House in Sydney, when initially a construction time of 6 years would have been budgeted with a $7 million AUD. After 16 years the project cost $102 Million AUD. The above is an example that is frequently used in project management to illustrate the costs that changes can generate. The later you decide to make changes, the more expensive it can be to carry out the project.
Planning the planning
- What knowledge do I have about the work required? Is it enough to build a comprehensive plan?
- What specific knowledge or experience do I lack to make a good estimate of the work?
- Who can support the planning of this zone?
- Have I or any of my colleagues worked on a similar project?
- Are all expectations for the end result clearly understood by everyone?
- How much time do I need to put all the pieces together and complete the project plan?
It is not a direct process
¿How to “extract” the necessary information from a stakeholder, expert, etc.? This can be a difficult process since the information the PM is looking for cannot be understood directly (in some cases).
We can call this a non-direct process.
Tips: When organizing a meeting/interview/workshop to start planning, make sure you create a good agenda, including the purpose of the meeting and listing all the topics that need to be covered and questions to be answered. Then follow the list during the meeting to make sure you leave the room with all the information you need.
Although the PM does not need to be a true “expert” in all fields, he or she must be able to understand how things work. operate in each field in order to properly manage project work. Coupled with the fact that in every project there are many parts to be planned and executed, it is the core responsibility of the PM to perform Integration management.
Having a crystal clear scope can save the PM, team, and stakeholders headaches. Everyone must recognize how far the project goes. The scope is a serious contract between you as PM, the project itself, and all stakeholders. Make the scope clear!!!
- Analyze the information available on the scope of the project.
- Gather detailed requirements and set expectations for everyone on the project.
- Document and have the people involved in the scope sign and commit.
Once the scope is defined, the project times are established.
The project goal needs to be broken down into more detail, so that the project manager and the project team can plan and execute. if the goal is to “increase sales by creating a showroom”, this information is too high-level and vague, therefore not useful for planning purposes. The project manager has to transform this information into smaller pieces. A very useful exercise is to design the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
Watch out for planning errors:
• Optimism bias: focusing on the “positive” future scenarios and not considering the “not so good” ones. If negative scenarios are forgotten during planning, this will come as a surprise during Execution. Planning is done for future events, so we need to limit our own biases.
• Illusion of control: having too much confidence that future events can be controlled. Keep in mind the climate, global economy, seasons of the year, politics, etc. It can be useful to limit the bias.
Estimate for Negative, positive and most probable scenarios !!!
• Avoid large gaps in individual tasks (Parkinson’s law).
• Avoid putting all the buffer in one place: at the end of the project.
• Try to use buffers after groups of tasks and avoid labeling them as “buffers”. You can use “Validation” or “Checkpoint”.
Methodology to plan times
- Based on the information available (Tasks, Durations, Dependencies), create a network diagram with boxes and arrows. Also called PERT chart (Critical Path) it will be of great help to plan around the most important path of activities.
- Based on the general tasks and chosen critical path, build a Gantt chart.
- Finally build the Project Plan.
- Identify the project’s cost-generating activities. Be guided by the WBS or the list of activities created.
- Estimate the cost of each task/deliverable. Add “Buffers” and consider uncertainties.
- Schedule expenses, and expected dates (Look at the Gantt chart). It is important to identify the financial resources required and to keep in mind the time value of money and task approval processes.
- Determine the project budget. Consolidate the estimates and calculations made. Ask for a second and third opinion!!!
- Collect information (Price available; Alternatives; Information collection through quotations (RFQ, RFP)
- Calculations (time and materials, units, predictions).
- Buffers: Usually larger than time buffers, because it’s easier to allocate additional time and harder to get more money.
If the project has more workflows and more cost types to incur, it is recommended to have a dedicated budget for each separate workflow or cost type.
Consolidate budgets, showing totals by month. This will be the total budget per month. (or quarter or week, depending on the needs).
It often happens that an organization will not have the necessary resources that a project needs. Therefore, the PM here has the responsibility to request what is needed externally. At this point, the project stakeholders must be familiar with the details of the contract to properly assess the costs and risks of any transaction. They need to know the deadlines, due dates, and quality levels of all the resources they use.
There are 3 main types of contract that we will analyze now. It is up to the PM to find the best contract because it is his main tool to keep track of the work and behavior of the suppliers.
The first is called a fixed price and is the simplest type of contract. The seller agrees to do the work for a specified amount within a specified period of time.
The advantage of this is that the provider will bear any additional costs, at no risk to you. However, if the costs are higher than expected, then the supplier will incur a loss. So there is a chance that they will put a big cushion on the asking price.
It may also happen that the provider discovers that the costs are too high, they may try to lower the scope or quality to compensate. Therefore, know that this is beneficial when the scope is clear to all parties, but a good analysis is important before making agreements.
The second type is called Cost Plus – this is where the buyer agrees to pay any costs incurred by the vendor performing the work. This can be a fixed additional fee, a variable fee, or a combination of the two. Either way, it gives the buyer the flexibility to tailor the expense according to the job being done.
But with that comes the risk of covering all the extra costs, along with the possibility that the vendor may keep the job longer than necessary or add additional items to the “to-do list.”
This contract makes more sense if the scope is not easy to define. But proper controls need to be put in place to ensure that the money has only been spent on things essential to the project.
The third type of contract is called time and materials and is a mixture of fixed price and additional cost. It is where the seller charges the buyer an hourly or daily rate. For example, when consultants or technicians charge per day for their services. is another good
contract to jump when the scope is unclear, and the work is more labor-based than material-based. You run a similar risk to the additional cost contract, but that just means the same countermeasures can be taken.
- Define the necessary resources: Engineers, developers, business analysts, etc.
- Estimate the effort required: Number of team members.
- Validate availability of resources: Time that can be dedicated, Vacations, holidays.
- Define roles and responsibilities.
- Define quality requirements. Review all the information available about the project:
• Project documents
• Meetings and workshops with stakeholders
• Note: Always involve the project customer
• Learned lessons
- Set quality goals. For each of the criteria identified, specify the goals to be met.
• Process design to ensure they are “fit for purpose”
• Define KPIs
• Train the project team on how to meet the standards
- Quality plan. Plan the control mechanisms to be used:
• Plan how/when/whom to measure.
- Finalize the Quality plan and Perform Quality Control (Monitoring and Control Phase):
• Take action, troubleshoot, and get parameters back on track
The process of getting everyone on the same page is done primarily when defining the scope, during workshops, and when meeting with stakeholders. The PM must be able to clearly communicate their expectations and conduct sessions in a way that encourages stakeholders to share their expectations to identify any gaps.
Some examples of questions the PM might ask are: “How do you think the end product of the project will be useful to the organization? Do you think anything can be added to significantly improve the result? described in the project documents – plus many others because the more complete the better.
The PM’s job will be to level everyone’s expectations.
The project manager must not only keep all stakeholders updated during the various meetings held throughout the scope phase, but must also keep in constant communication throughout the project as changes occur.
An assumption is when something is believed to be true when there is no definitive proof. While the planning process aims to clarify all areas of a project, we must assume that there are areas where we cannot be 100% sure. For example, we cannot be 100% sure that all team members will be as productive as they usually are.
PLANNING THE RISK
- Identify project risks.
- Analyze the risks.
- Develop strategies to mitigate those risks.
Review all available information about the project, to identify risks:
• Project documents (Project Charter, Business Case, WBS, List of activities, specifications and quality requirements).
• Learned lessons
Consult relevant stakeholders and experts. To carry out:
• Meetings (1 to 1, Interviews)
• Workshops (brainstorming sessions)
In a project, frequent changes will incur excessive costs, by budget, scope, quality or time. And the PM tries to eliminate as much of this cost as possible with a detailed plan. But a good PM is also not stubborn and will adapt to change.
Basically, the PM’s job is to limit the need for changes on the one hand, and to efficiently manage changes in ways the project could benefit from on the other.
PM should implement a change control process. Before moving to execution, you need to agree how to manage change and, as with most parts of planning, you need to establish a process.
What will start the process is that a change request is made and that request needs to be looked at. What are the benefits of the change? What is needed to implement the change and what is its impact on the project?