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Project Management is defined using the processes involved in the completion of a project by organizing, planning, and managing the different resources that are used in the completion of the process. Based on the 5 process groups (PMBOK Guide), (initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control, and closing) project management deals with the tasks involved in carrying out the project, rather than the end product itself. It smoothes out the processes and helps make the tasks involved in creation of the end product clearer to the project team.
The success of the project, for the matter, is often characterized by the project being completed, on time, and within budget, all of which compares to the specified project plan that was derived at the commencement of the project's lifecycle. This thesis will look at the different types of planning as well as talk about methods to increase the chances of a project's success.
Considered to be the most time consuming phase in the project management lifecycle (Reynolds 2009), planning does not only mean deriving a schedule for the project in context of the project management world. Rather, it also considers budget forecasts, resource planning, quality planning, as well as risk management. Those are but some of the major plans depicted by the management in the project's early stages.
1. Statistics deriving to Failed Planning
Since project success is defined by being on time and within budget, then it is safe to say that when a project fails, reasons would be due to it either being late, over the budget, or simply even incomplete because of either one of the mentioned reasons. Some studies have shown reports on real life IT projects failing due to failure in attempting accurate planning.
In 1996, Bull requested for a survey to identify trends for IT projects that have failed in the finance sector in the UK. From the key findings, it was concluded that out of 203 IT companies, 75% of the failure was due to missed deadlines, 39% of which was due to lack of planning (IT Cortex).
Before that, in 1995, 365 IT managers from different companies in different sectors were involved by the Standish Group to produce a report to identify the rate in which IT projects fail. One finding in this Chaos Report summed up that 52.7% (IT Cortex) of projects cost over 189% (Marks, 2010) more than their original estimate.
Evidently, the results show that in order for a project to succeed, an accurate plan should be derived since it being on budget and on time compares to the project plan itself.
2. The Different Plans
It is believed that "planning smarter can indirectly encourage a smarter management" (Gill, 2002). However, where the term "plan" is introduced in the project management context, it is described many ways, whether it be a budget plan, risk analysis, time scheduling, or even a quality plan. Aiming to attain a successful project, the management should consider the necessary scheme of planning in order to gain access to a checklist to compare to once the project is started. In other words, knowing what to plan for is the starting point in the project "racing track".
Clearly, at the planning phase, it is already known what is expected of the project. The question "what is the goal of the project" is already answered. The next step is to answer "How will the goal be achieved". Using different planning approaches, identifying the steps necessary to be taken in order to achieve the project's goal is carried out.
One technique to take into account when planning is the SMART technique (Dawson, 2005), that is the plan should be kept Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic, and Time Related.
2.1 The Project Time Scheduling Plan
One type of project plan is the project time scheduling plan. This identifies the activities involved to complete the project, the sequences of the activities, in addition to the estimate resources used for and the duration of each activity.
The scheduling process starts off with laying out the activities to take place in the completion of the project. For example, in creating this essay, the activities involved are researching on planning techniques, writing the essay, and printing it. Involving too many activities for such a simple project would rather be a waste of resources. For instance, it could be said that an activity could be writing the essay on paper before typing it out. With that, paper resource is wasted as it was completely unnecessary. Similarly, planners should always keep in mind to make a scheduled plan as simple and as realistic as possible without having to waste resources. Using a work breakdown structure (WBS), the activities could be portrayed, showing the different tasks and subtasks that are relevant to the project.
The second step is to sequence those activities and note every activity's duration. Using the same example, it would be improper to schedule the writing before the researching, as it is also not logical to pinpoint "writing 2000 words" on duration of, say, one hour. The plan has to be laid out as appropriately and as realistically as possible, remembering the SMART technique.
Complex Projects often use critical path analysis, also called a PERT chart, in order to help sequence the tasks of the project. PERT charts help aid the planning of the tasks themselves, in terms of which task must come before another, which task could be accomplished while another is running, as well as which tasks could be delayed without overrunning the project deadline. In summary, PERT charts help identify which activities should be made quicker to complete the project before or on its allocated time (Mind Tools).
Another step in time planning is allocating the resources. This stage works also as a starting point of budget planning, as it plans the resources that would be used in performing each activity (PMBOK). Resources can include the type and quantity of people, material, equipment and supplies.
Finalizing the schedule to show all the tasks, the subtasks and the duration should be considered as a summary to look at and compare to while the project is running. This could be done using a Gantt chart which is similar to a network diagram but in the form of a calendar, and graphically shows the duration of each task. This in turn will help aid the control process and any revisions that should be made to the schedule.
2.2 The Budget Plan
Budget planning can seem to be tricky. Often budget planning is confused with the project cost; however they mean two different things. When planning a budget, the first step is to identify the project costs. These do not only have to be "defined solely in monetary amounts" (Doll, 2002). They include the hours that are spent in performing the tasks of the project, meaning the number of hours a project team member would spend in the project. A number percentage is planned for the budget as well to give way to any likelihood of an increase or decrease in the budget amount set, which could be used for risk assessment, which would be later discussed further.
Other details to be considered are any expenses that would be likely to surface when going through with the project. These can include any licenses to be purchased, any additional software, hardware, and materials to be used. Budget planning has to be precise and accurate in order not to be astounded if any new costs that were not thought of emerge.
Part of the project budget should also be allocated to the "launching" of the end product. Often this part is left neglected until the closure of the project. However, these are also costs that would eventually be used so keeping it within the plan will help the project in remaining "within budget".
Once the costs are allocated, a budget is thought through. This budget determination process, in the PMBOK Guide, is defined as "aggregating the estimated costs of individual activities or work packages to establish an authorized cost baseline," meaning to add up all individual costs together to estimate the total project budget.
The PERT analysis from time scheduling helps analyzing the budget plan as it covers the best case and worst case scenarios. From there, an estimate could be deduced on the average between the cost of the most likely estimate, the worst case estimate, and the best case scenario estimate (PMBOK Guide).
2.3 Risk Analysis
Budget and Time Plans configures what would make a project. Risk Planning identifies what could break it. Risk identification is basically recognizing which parts of the project could go wrong. A risk is a problem that is forecasted and could threaten a project's success, if it happened. Risk Management deals with a problem before it becomes a crisis (Wiegers). Planning and analyzing the risks does not prevent the problem from happening, rather just reduces the consequences of the problem and shows ways to deal with the problem if it appeared.
When it comes to analyzing the risks, all other plans are looked at. From the previous example of writing this essay, after a time schedule has been allocated, a risk from preventing the completion of the essay on time could be the computer technical issues while it is being typed out. This way this risk is identified. Now it is established that at any point of writing this essay, the computer "freezing" would waste time and would risk the essay of being finished after the specified deadline assigned to it in the time plan. The case is similarly with projects. Looking at the scheduled plan and the budget plan and deriving ways in which the project would be threatened is the first step to risk management.
Secondly is to assess the impact of the risk (Dawson, 2005). That is to determine whether the identified risks have a high, low, or medium impact in the fulfillment of the project, as well as to identify the likelihood of each risk. In an IT project, for example, the likelihood of a developer not attending to his project duties is high for reasons such as the developer being sick suddenly during the time of the project. Now, the impact of such scenario would be high, as it would probably delay the project from completion within time since no action was previously considered if the risk was bound to happen.
After assessing the risks, one should consider alternative actions to take if the risk occurs. For the IT project, an action would be having an alternative developer allocated in the team, for instance.
Once all risks have been identified and properly assessed, the management must derive ways to keep most threatening risks at minimal. That is to plan ways in which the risk is minimized from occurrence. If a child coughs, his mother would automatically supplement him with vitamins in order to try and prevent him from catching a cold. Of course, the chance of him catching the cold is still there, however, it is best to try and prevent it. The case is similar with risk analysis. It is best to identify and plan ahead to what can come along the project's road.
The Quality Plan
3. Planning Success
It is best to plan to reach the goal, rather than start a project without a plan. As Sun Tzu once stated, "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win," in Chinese of course!