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Developing the Project Plan

By Talibah Adenouga
Project planning document being annotated

Whether you call it a project plan or a project timeline, it is absolutely imperative that you develop and maintain a document that clearly outlines the project milestones and major activities required to implement your project.

This document needs to include the date each milestone or major activity is to be completed, and the owner of each. Your project plan also needs to be created at the beginning of the project, and a baseline version approved by the team as soon as possible.

Although you will probably not know all of the major activities required to implement your project in the beginning, it is important that you create a draft of the activities you think may need to be tracked via a formal document.

Take some time and really think through what you know about the objective of your project. Look at some historical data from similar projects. You can even have a few informal meetings with knowledgeable individuals you can use as a sounding board to make sure you aren't completely off base. You'll be surprised how good a draft you can develop if you put in a little effort.

With this draft you will be able to speak with subject matter experts (SMEs) and stakeholders to flesh out the project plan. If you don't make some level of effort to develop a rough draft, you may give a bad impression which will make it harder for you to obtain the support of the persons you need to implement the project.

After you have fleshed out your draft with your core team, and some other SMEs that may not be a part of your team, you should give the document a baseline status. Your timeline / project plan should not undergo many edits, if any, after it achieves baseline status.

You should document the actual date your project activities are completed. If the actual completion date differs from your baseline date at anytime, you'll still have documented the date it was supposed to be completed for historical purposes.

It is also a good idea to notate where things are deleted or added, and why. That way you aren't standing there looking crazy, trying to go through the crevices of your memory, when someone asks you why something you deleted isn't in the document...and trust me, someone will ask.

A few key items to include in your timeline are:

  • A unique ID that your team can reference when giving an update.
  • The name of the task.
  • When the task should start.
  • When the task should finish.
  • The actual date the task was completed.
  • Any tasks that need to happen before other tasks can begin.
  • The owner of the task.
  • Percent complete of each task.

You or the Project Sponsor you represent may decide to track or maintain more than what has been outlined above in your project plan. This is absolutely fine. These are just the items I have found to be vital, and a good foundation to build upon.

It is completely possible to run a project without a project plan or timeline; it's just not very smart. So, do yourself and your project team a favor... document milestones and important tasks, keep up with the status, and you'll be that much closer to a well managed project.

Remember, it doesn't matter what you call it, it just matters that you develop it.

Talibah Adenouga is a master communicator with an incredible ability to make content relevant. Talibah has implemented countless high complexity and high visibility projects and programs for the largest Telecommunications company in existence and has been praised as a project manager and educator.

Talibah is the founder of JANOP http://www.janop.com External Link which is a company dedicated to building successful businesses one project at a time, and is the author of "SECRETS REVEALED: Success Guide for Project Managers".

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