Project steps – key stages to incorporate into your project – Part 2

Part one of the article can be found here Project steps – key stages to incorporate into your project – Part 1

4/ Build project plan

Your project Plan is a roadmap of how you will deliver your project – it contains the activities, milestones and deliverables and gate reviews that will be required.

There are various ways of producing a project plan from using software such as Microsoft Project through to simply writing it out as a list of tasks – the method you use is really upto you but the more complex the project (and the more resources you need to manage to help deliver it) the more likely you are to need suitable project management software.

You may benefit from building your plan in work packages i.e. certain activity that has a definitive deliverable – the reason for this is varied but it helps you monitor achievement and allocate owners for specific areas of the overall project – for example a package of work could be “deliver training” – this may be constructed from various stages including building training material, allocating resources such as rooms and “training staff”, obtaining test software etc.

Ultimately your plan should contain

1/ Activities
2/ Resources or activity owners
3/ Timescales
4/ Dependencies
5/ Deliverables

You should also consider including “gate reviews”. Gate reviews are stages of a project that allow you to formally review progress of a project before moving on– they allow you to review progress against costs and timescales – review your risks, issues and assumptions and appraise your steering board of any key deliverables or challenges that requires support.

5/ Implement your plan

Once you have your team and your project plan your ready to go (assuming you have the any tools you need!). As discussed above – implementation is often carried out in stages and you’ll need to have regular reviews with your project team and key stakeholders to ensure your meeting your cost and timescale objectives – breaking your project into work-packages will allow you to easily assess progress – using resource tracking software (again take a look at Microsoft Project)will allow you to produce reports of activity that needs to be done and provide your team important updates regarding their schedule.

It’s important to foster open communication during project delivery – ensure that if anything goes wrong or where timescales aren’t met the Project Manager is informed – this will allow you to remain in control and iterate plans or update risk and issue management where required. Place a close eye on any dependencies you have – this one area that can make a project turn sour fast!

6/ Complete plan and measure the benefits

Once you’ve completed the project you’ll want to ensure that your project has delivered what it set out to achieve – if you stated that by implementing your project you’d save 40% of your company’s costs – you’ll probably want to follow that up – ensuring your assumptions were right and that your project deliverable is functioning as planned!

Typically your customer will want to get involved in this and you may find that your project’s not over until your customer says it is! Best practice would be to ensure at the start of the project your deliverable is clearly delineated and benefits are accurately articulated to ensure there’s no ambiguity.

7/ Lessons learnt

The project’s over – you’ve delivered what you set out to – and your customers very please. Your final task should be to produce a lessons learnt report – this is your opportunity to critically assess what did and didn’t go well with the project – and how you could have done things differently – the reason for doing this is that this information can be invaluable as a teaching aide for other project managers in your organization – don’t overlook this step as this can really make a big difference!

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