Use These Four Great Planning Techniques Today

The planning process can be very complex for some projects. There are many techniques that will help. Here are four as a starting point.

“Here's the TenStep guest blog post "Use These Four Great Planning Techniques Today":

"Planning" is a very general term. When you say you are planning a project, you are really validating scope, creating a Charter, estimating, creating a schedule, and more. Here are four techniques to use when you plan your projects.

Use Multiple Estimating Techniques if Possible

An important part of building the schedule is being able to accurately estimate the work activities. Estimates of effort hours will, in turn, drive the cost and duration estimates. There are a number of techniques that can be used to estimate work - analogy, expert opinion, PERT, modeling and more. If possible, try to use two or more techniques for the estimate. If the estimates from multiple techniques are close, you will have more confidence in your numbers. If the estimates are far apart, you can look at the reasons and determine whether one technique may be more accurate than another.

Manage Quality Up-Front to Save Error Corrections Later

Doesn’t it seem that most problems that are encountered on a project tend to surface later rather than earlier? In fact, some project managers purposely hurry through planning because they think they will catch any mistakes and fix them as the project progresses.

Unfortunately, the longer it takes for errors to be caught, the more time-consuming and expensive it is to fix them. When you are building your schedule, try to spend more time on quality management. This includes circulating draft copies for approval, inspections, peer reviews, deliverable checkpoints, etc. This should end up saving time and cost in the overall project. For instance, spending more time in early planning will save time in analysis. Spending more time in analysis makes the build work go more smoothly. Of course, you don't want to over plan or over analyze; that doesn't buy you anything. But be diligent in this up-front work. Don't rush through it. Time invested up-front will more than make up for itself over the life of the project.

Create a Short-Term Schedule to Guide the Planning Processes

The process of planning the work may take a long time and may be very complicated. Therefore, the work should not be left unorganized - for the same reasons that you are building the schedule for the project to begin with. Immediately after being assigned, the project manager should create a short-term schedule to cover the initial planning activities. For example, if the planning work is expected to take four weeks, you need a preliminary schedule that covers at least four, if not five or six weeks. This preliminary schedule covers all of the organizing and up-front planning activities until the formal project schedule is completed to guide the remainder of the project.

Establish the Triple Constraint when the Planning is Completed

At the end of the planning process you should have an agreement with your sponsor on the work that will be completed (Charter), the cost (budget) and duration (schedule) that are needed to complete the work. These three items form a concept called the “triple constraint”. The key aspect of the triple constraint is that if one of the three items change, at least one, if not both, of the other items need to change as well. For example, if the scope changes, normally budget and schedule change as well. If the timeline is reduced, it may require a decrease in scope and/or an increase in cost.

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