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Steps to a Successful Project Plan

By Emily Bonnie, July 3, 2018;

Step 1: Identify & Meet with Stakeholders

  • A stakeholder is anyone who is affected by the results of your project plan, i.e. customers and end users.

  • Make sure you identify all stakeholders and keep their interests in mind when creating your project plan.

  • Identify stakeholder's needs and expectations to determine baselines for project scope, budget, and timeline.

  • Create a Scope Statement document to finalize and record project scope details, get everyone on the same page, and reduce the chances of costly miscommunication. 

Step 2: Set & Prioritize Goals

  • Prioritize stakeholder needs and set specific goals; these will be used as the outline for your project's objectives, metrics and benefits you hope to achieve.

  • Write your goals and the stakeholder needs they address in your project plan so it's clearly communicated and easily shareable.

Step 3: Define Deliverables

  • Identify the deliverables and project planning steps required to meet the project's goals.

    • What are the specific outputs you're expected to produce?

  • Next, estimate due dates for each deliverable in your project plan. (You can finalize these dates when you sit down to define your project schedule in Step 4.)

    • Tip: Set firm milestones for essential deadlines and deliverables. Track your progress once work begins to ensure you complete tasks on time and keep stakeholders happy.

Step 4: Create the Project Schedule

  • Look at each deliverable and define the series of tasks that must be completed to accomplish each one.

  • For each task, determine the amount of time it will take, the resources necessary, and who will be responsible for execution.

  • Identify any dependencies. Do you need to complete certain tasks before others can begin? Input deliverables, dependencies, and milestones into RTD Manager.

    • Tip: Involve your team in the planning process. The people performing the work have important insights into how tasks get done, how long they'll take, and who's the best person to tackle them. You'll need them to agree with the project schedule and set expectations for work to run smoothly.

Step 5: Identify Issues and Complete a Risk Assessment

  • No project is risk-free. Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best isn’t doing you any favors. Are there any issues you know of upfront that will affect the project planning process. 

    • What unforeseen circumstances could create hiccups? (Think international holidays, back-ordered parts, purchasing processes, or busy seasons.)

  • When developing a project plan, consider the steps you should take to either prevent certain risks from happening, or limit their negative impact.

  • Conduct a risk assessment and develop a risk management strategy to make sure you're prepared.

    • Tip: Tackle high-risk items early in your project timeline, if possible. Or create a small "time buffer" around the task to help keep your project on track in the event of a delay.

Step 6: Present the Project Plan to Stakeholders

  • Explain how your plan addresses stakeholders' expectations, and present your solutions to any conflicts. Make sure your presentation isn't one-sided. Have an open discussion with stakeholders instead.

  • Determine roles: Who needs to see which reports, and how often? Which decisions will need to be approved, and by whom?

  • Make your project plan clear and accessible to all stakeholders so they don’t have to chase you down for simple updates.

  • Housing all project plan data in a single location, like a RTD Manager, makes it easy to track progress, share updates, and make edits without filling your calendar with meetings.

    • ​Tip: If your plan or schedule doesn’t align with stakeholders' original expectations, communicate that now to avoid any nasty surprises or tense conversations down the line.

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