Project Life Cycle Phase 2: Planning

The Project Life Cycle is broken down into 5 phases:

  1. Project Initiation
  2. Project Planning
  3. Project Execution
  4. Project Monitoring & Controlling
  5. Project Closeout

Let’s look at the 2nd phase, Project Planning, in detail.

Desired Outcome

The second phase in the Project Life Cycle is Project Planning.

The desired outcome of this phase is the development of a Detailed Project Plan to direct and guide the project team’s efforts throughout the creation of the product, service or business result. Your goal as a project manager is to dive in enough detail that the project objectives have been sufficiently broken down into achievable milestones, the project schedule has been drafted, the resources required to deliver the project have been estimated, and any potential risks to the execution of the project have been identified and mitigated. 

Inputs & Outputs

Each phase of the project life cycle transforms inputs from the previous phase into outputs for the next phase.

In this case, the ‘trigger’ that initiates the planning process is the project charter. Throughout a rigorous planning and design process, both the customer and the project team develop a detailed project plan that outlines the work that will be done to achieve the project objectives.

The following inputs/output diagram showcases a high-level view of the inputs and outputs. Inside the ‘black box’ is where the transformation of inputs into outputs occurs.

Planning I:O

Project Planning: Systems (Inputs/Output) Diagram

Key Activities

Now that we understand the required inputs and desired outputs of this phase, it’s time to look at the key activities that must be undertaken.

The detailed project plan is a formal document that describes how the project will be executed, monitored, and controlled. It integrates a series of project plans into a cohesive plan.

Key Activity Critical Question
1. Define the Project Scope What will be done?
2. Develop a Project Schedule How and when will it be done?
3. Determine the Project Resources What resources are required for the project?
4. Develop a Staffing Plan What labor is required for the project?
5. Determine the Project Budget How much will the project cost?
6. Define Quality Measures To what standards should each deliverable conform?
7. Identify Project Risks What risks need to be anticipated and managed?
8. Develop a Communications Plan How will we inform the customer throughout the project?
9. Develop a Procurement Plan What resources will we need from external vendors?

Key Activities in detail..

  1. Define the Project Scope
    • Activities: Develop a detailed description of the project scope. Include major project deliverables, scope exclusion, assumptions and constraints, and customer acceptance criteria.
    • Output: Decompose and visualize the project deliverables using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) that showcases the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team.
  2. Develop a Project Schedule
    • Activities: Outline the activities and tasks that need to be performed in order to create the project deliverables. Identify dependencies between multiple tasks and sequence them either linearly or in parallel accordingly. Estimate the duration in terms of time required to complete each tasks and develop an initial baseline of the project duration
    • Output: Capture the project activities, along with their planned start and end dates into a Project Schedule.
  3. Determine the Project Resources
    • Activities: Identify the equipment and any materials required to complete the project. Identify the quantity, quality, cost and specifications of each resource that is required.
    • Output: Capture the resources required to complete the project activities directly into the Project Schedule.
  4. Develop a Staffing Plan
    • Activities: Identify the human labor required to complete the project. Define the roles, responsibilities, and competencies required of each team member.
    • Output: Capture the human resources required to complete the project activities directly into the Project Schedule.
  5. Determine the Project Budget
    • Activities: Aggregate the estimated costs of each of the project activities and estimate the total amount of financial resources required for each stage of the project. This budget will serve as a cost baseline, on which to evaluate the delivery of the project later on.
    • Output: Capture the estimated costs into the Project Budget.
  6. Define Quality Measures
    • Activities: Determine quality targets, quality assurance activities, and control measures for each of the project deliverables in order to ensure they meet the expectation of the customer.
    • Output: Capture this into a Quality Management Plan.
  7. Identify Project Risks
    • Activities: Identify and analyze (both qualitative and quantitive) all of the potential risks that may affect the successful execution of the project. For each risk, develop appropriate risk response plans and processes to continuously evaluate existing risk within a project.
    • Output: Capture this into a Risk Management Plan.
  8. Develop a Communications Plan
    • Activities: Identify the various information sources required by the project stakeholders throughout the project life cycle and define the process by which stakeholders will be continuously informed of the project’s progress. Make sure to include the types of information, communication channels and documents, and communication frequency.
    • Output: Capture this into a Communications Plan.
  9. Develop a Procurement Plan
    • Activities: Identify the products, services and resources to be acquired from external suppliers. Create and schedule the purchase orders necessary to procure these resources. If necessary, define service-level agreements with your vendors to ensure their inputs conform to the quality required by your customer.
    • Output: Capture this information into a Procurement Plan and Procurement Contracts.

The project plan should include, but is not limited to the key activities described in the table earlier. These are just some of the building blocks required to create a comprehensive and well-thought project plan. Feel free to ensure any additional or supporting information that will help ensure the project is managed well and according to the customer needs.

Main Takeaway

The most important thing to takeaway is planning a project is really about learning to ask the right questions.

  • What is the customer trying to achieve? (Objectives)
  • How are we going to achieve it? (Scope, Deliverables, Schedule, Resources, etc.)
  • What obstacles must we anticipate and address? (Risks)

Identify the important details early on in the project life cycle in order to maximize your chance of project success.

From Planning –> to Execution

The goal of this stage is to produce a plan that will serve as the project compass. The Project Plan:

  • Informs the Project Execution of what needs to be done.
  • Provides a baseline on which the work will be monitored and controlled against.
  • Ensures that the final product or service created for the customer delivers against initial business needs and stakeholder expectations.

In the next post, I’ll cover Phase 3 of the Project Life Cycle, Project Execution.

Cheers till next time!


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