Quickly, name three destinations on your bucket list. Those places you’ve been dreaming of visiting.
Maybe Machu Picchu, high in the Andes Mountains, comes to mind. Or Santorini, known for its stunning sunsets, picturesque white-washed buildings, and crystal-clear waters? How does snorkeling in the vibrant underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef sound?
Proper planning is essential to enjoy a trip fully. A travel plan helps minimize uncertainties and maximizes the overall experience.
The same can be said about business projects. We invite you to embark on a journey to explore the five steps to effective project planning.
What’s A Project Management Plan?
Your project plan is a comprehensive document that outlines the approach, processes, and strategies for successfully executing a project. The plan serves as a roadmap to guide the project team throughout its lifecycle and ensure everyone is aligned on goals and objectives. Think of your project management plan as your map; typically created during the project's planning phase and is continuously updated as the project progresses.
Think of your project management plan as your map; typically created during the project's planning phase and is continuously updated as the project progresses.
The project management plan is a crucial document that ensures all aspects of the project are well thought out and organized, enabling the project team to work cohesively toward achieving the project’s goals. It provides a basis for effective decision-making, risk management, and communication throughout the project's lifecycle.
Why Do Project Plans Matter So Much?
You want to hike to Machu Picchu, right? You’ll need a solid plan and a trusted guide who has made the trek before. Project planning lays the groundwork for a successful project and provides a structured framework to guide the entire project's journey. Think of it as your roadmap. Who uses a map anymore (mobile apps anyone)? But you get the picture.
Proper planning clearly defines project objectives so that stakeholders can align their efforts toward a common goal. A well-crafted project plan outlines the scope, deliverables, timeline, and resource requirements, enabling efficient allocation and utilization of both time and those resources.
Such a detailed plan, in turn, minimizes wastage and ensures that teams are equipped with the necessary tools and information to execute tasks effectively. Project managers can proactively address uncertainties by conducting risk assessments and developing mitigation strategies, minimizing their impact on the project's progress.
Have you ever had to convince a friend or your family to join you on an unusual vacation?The planning phase facilitates stakeholder engagement, providing opportunities for feedback, input, and buy-in opportunities. Effective communication channels established during planning ensure that all team members and clients remain informed about project progress, fostering transparency and trust throughout the project.
Ultimately, project planning sets the stage for seamless project execution, adherence to timelines and budgets, and high-quality results.
You Need a Trusted Project Guide
Hiring a travel guide has many advantages. They’ll tailor a tour to your needs and tastes. They can take you to places that you didn’t know existed. And they’ll point out things that you would never notice.
An experienced project partner can do likewise. They guide the project planning phase and help you define clear objectives, scope, and a realistic roadmap. They assist in breaking down complex tasks into manageable steps, creating a solid foundation for the project's execution.
As the project progresses, your guide can anticipate and navigate potential challenges, offering risk management strategies to mitigate obstacles that may arise along the way. Unlimited brings valuable insights, best practices, and a wealth of experience to steer your project in the right direction.
The methodology we developed at Unlimited stems from the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act), pioneered by John Boyd, a renowned military strategist and Colonel of the U.S. Air Force.
The OODA Loop is a four-step process for making effective decisions in high-stakes situations. It involves collecting relevant information, recognizing potential biases, deciding and acting, then repeating the process with new information.
We run rapid-fire experiments simultaneously to see what works and what doesn’t. If one initiative falls short, we have multiple alternatives running, allowing us to adjust without losing time or momentum. We can ensure that you’re hitting your targets every step of the way through speed, short feedback loops, continuous monitoring, and real-time adjustments.
Here’s our five-step traveler’s guide to proper project management planning.
Navigating the Project Planning Journey: A Traveler's 5-Step Guide
1. Define Your Project Destination
We’re excited to be on our way, but before our colleagues say goodbye, we must set a clear destination for your project. This destination or goal outlines what the project is and what we aim to achieve. It acts as our compass, helping us monitor our progress and ensure we're heading in the right direction. Importantly, every decision we make along the way should align with our ultimate goal.
“Before we embark on our journey, there needs to be some defined destination,” says Corné van Driel, Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder of Unlimited Tech Solutions. “This destination is ultimately the guide that shows whether we're making progress towards our destination or if we're straying off course.”
“Before we embark on our journey, there needs to be some defined destination. This destination is ultimately the guide that shows whether we're making progress towards our destination or if we're straying off course.”
Explore & Discover
We place significant emphasis on understanding your project requirements. We initiate your project with a thorough discovery phase led by our team of specialists. During this phase, we gain a comprehensive understanding of your business and your project. By asking questions, we understand your long-term ambitions and overall vision for the business and the specifics of your day-to-day operations, challenges, and critical milestones at a granular level.
Project managers work closely with you to gather comprehensive information, conduct stakeholder interviews and workshops, and review relevant documentation. We use these insights to build a data-backed model of your current state. Doing so gives us a baseline that informs our tactics and strategy as we advance.
Once we have established a path toward your end goal, we can begin flexing that path to incorporate the significant waypoints we wish to tackle along your journey. These waypoints serve as guiding markers that inform our decision-making regarding when and how to tackle each leg of the journey. They enable us to effectively plan and allocate the necessary resources, tools, and supplies for the trip.
2. Choose Your Supplies, Plan for Contingencies
Should we rent a car, book a first-class plane ticket, or hike part of the journey? The best route depends on the end goal, and every step of the process bares in mind that goal.
As our team maps a solution, we identify milestones based on our in-depth discovery process. We create the blueprint for your project and how we envision completing it.
With milestones identified, we can now start planning the journey in more detail. We consider options around the following particulars:
- What mode of transportation we’ll take
- What supplies we need to pack
- Identify potential risks and plan around them
By determining the risks involved in your project, we can think through what could go wrong and pinpoint different routes to the milestone. Or we might swap the milestone with another that works towards the end goal. We might adjust the steps along the way to the milestone.
As part of the solution design, we’ll work together to set communication protocols and document how often we’ll update you on the progress of your project and how we’ll share that information–like at biweekly meetings or weekly emails.
3. Document the Project Scope and Deliverables
While formulating the roadmap, we make decisions about budget, acceptable risk, and the order of importance of the milestones. Together, we firm up the details before embarking.
With your goals and objectives clearly defined, we’ll document the work to be sure you arrive at your final destination, including the following:
- Project parameters and any constraints, plus contingency options that could be required along the way
- Outline deliverables in glandular detail to keep the project moving forward
- Metrics to track progress and how we’ll provide updates in line with the communication plan
- Capacity planning and resource availability to set teams and stakeholders up for success
Timeline based on organizational capacity (like start and end dates)
- Budgets both planned vs. actuals so teams can take necessary corrective measures ahead of time
“At this point the options for our journey have been established along with safety protocols and alternative routes and rest points,” says van Driel. “Once negotiation has taken place, options narrowed, budget range firmed up, scope reduced to what is acceptable, and any no-go options eliminated, we now pay our tickets, pack our bags, and set off with our plan drawn on the map.”
4. Execute the Project Plan
At this stage of the project, everything we’ve planned is put into action. Project execution means our teams are rolling up their sleeves and working on what we have outlined in your project plan. Put simply; we’re executing those strategies to get the project across the finish line.
In addition to implementing the project plan, we’re conducting detailed task management, maintaining frequent communication, recording updates, and tracking resources. We also continually search for more efficient solutions while maintaining an open-minded and clear-sighted approach to anticipate potential hazards.
The execution stage is where a lot of teams struggle. We take a proactive approach to address and eliminate any execution gaps. We set goals and timelines that are both realistic and achievable. From the onset, we clarify the vision and purpose of the project and ensure we have buy-in from key players. Through speed, short feedback loops, continuous monitoring, and real-time adjustments, we can ensure that you’re hitting your targets every step of the way.
“We can enjoy the journey with all its ups and downs, turns, curves, and speed bumps."
5. Project Handover
As we near the end of our journey, there’s one significant milestone: Project Handover. However, this phase is not just about passing off the project to the owner. Instead, the handover marks the completion of delivery and the start of the closure stage of your project.
A Process, Not a Single Event
This phase, often called project closure or project evaluation, begins once all project objectives have been met and all deliverables completed. We ensure you feel ready before we hand over any assets, processes, or resources. To gain live experience, you may shadow our project team members or participate in testing. Others can gain practical knowledge through training.
We participate in a series of activities to evaluate the project as a whole.
Accuracy of Steps Taken: Our evaluation examines whether the activities and processes aligned with the project plan. We review whether the project adhered to the predetermined schedule, if resource allocation was optimal, and if risk management procedures were effective.
Re-evaluation of Goals: It's crucial to reassess the project's initial goals and objectives. We determine whether these goals have been satisfactorily met and whether the project's output aligns with what was initially defined in the project's scope.
Planning for Future Adventures: Lastly, the end of a project is an opportunity to apply new knowledge to future projects. We document lessons learned, best practices, and any areas that need improvement. A well-conducted project evaluation can improve efficiency and success in future "adventures" or projects.
This phase can also include a formal project closure report, recognition for the project team, and a final project review. These activities help ensure the project is officially closed and all stakeholders understand the project's conclusion, achievements, challenges, and next steps.
Ready to Partner with an Experienced Project Management Team?
While some trips are less complex, key planning still needs to happen. The steps aren’t optional; they apply to every project. The degree to which the steps are implemented changes based on the project size, timelines, uncertainties, risks, budgets, and timelines for a particular initiative. However, taking the step allows the required checks and balances to function as intended. It ultimately creates a better experience for everyone concerned.
Personalized project plans are the cornerstone of our process. We utilize creative solution design and data-informed strategies to facilitate substantial innovation through HubSpot.
Wondering what HubSpot and the Unlimited team can do for your business? Read how we’ve helped others harness the power of HubSpot. Then, when you're ready, start the conversation.