Planning a project is the first phase after the project charter is signed. According to the PMI methodology, this phase begins with an initial team meeting.
In the project planning phase, the following should be worked out:
- Complex structure of work;
- Scope document;
- Table of responsibilities;
- Sequence diagram (most often the end result is a Gantt chart).
It is a common misconception that an over-execution of the plan (for example on its financial side) is something positive. In the literature (including PMI methodology), particular attention is paid to refuting this fallacy. One of the most trivial arguments is that the resources planned for the project, but not used, could have been used for other purposes, thus missing out on benefits.
Approaches to planning
When a project needs to be planned in detail, different project planning approaches can be used:
Top-Down project planning – This approach is appropriate, for example, when the project has precisely fixed goals, time or resources. In it, the project manager allocates available goals or resources among team members or subcontractors. The same technique is then applied to the subprojects;
Bottom-Up – Recommended when the team is made up of experienced or self-employed participants who set aside the resources needed to complete each task. The parts are then accumulated in the overall plan.
In practice, a mixed approach is very often used, with some plans being made top-down and others bottom-up. For high-risk and uncertain projects, wave-based planning or flexible planning methodology is often applied.
- Previous similar projects;
- Expert assessments;
- Average environment and market statistics.
Planning techniques and tools
A number of their tools and tools are used in the project planning process to support the achievement of its objectives. The most famous of them are:
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This is a tree chart that represents a breakdown of work into smaller tasks that can be more easily analyzed, planned, and managed. It is widely used in analyzing the scope of the project – the root of the structure is the project itself, the peaks are more specific assignments, and the leaves are specific tasks that are precisely analyzed and evaluated. There is usually an additional document to the structure that provides additional information about the tasks – for what period of time they will be completed, who is responsible for them, additional specifications, etc.;
A composite work structure or task tree is a breakdown of tasks within a project. It is most often depicted in the form of a tree diagram, in which the project is rooted, and each peak has for children the tasks that make it a component.
The development of the composite structure has the advantage that the project is fragmented into smaller and easier to plan and manage parts.
In order to provide the additional information required, a document, called a glossary of the structure or job description, is attached to the tree diagram. It is advisable for each job to have a short description (describing the scope), an expected duration and cost (in money or resources), and the name of the project manager.
Critical Path Method (CPM)
Critical Path Method (CPM) is an algorithm that allows efficient planning and prioritization of a set of activities (in a common schedule), taking into account their lead times and their dependencies. In this sense, this algorithm can be applied: a list of all activities, their time frames and their dependencies.
Based on these, the longest and shortest path for the implementation of all planned activities (and the project itself) is calculated, as well as when the work on a specific planned activity should start sooner or later.
An activity is critical if any delay in its implementation leads to a delay in the whole project (shifting the project deadline). A critical path in this sense is a continuous sequence of critical activities that connect the beginning and end of a project. It is clear from the definition that it defines the shortest path for project implementation (least time for implementation).
Critical paths can be more than one and run in parallel. Initially, the CPM considered only logical dependencies between activities. Subsequently, it is widely used in resource critical paths planning;
The Critical Path Method (CPM) is a very important
The Critical Path Method (CPM) is a very important and commonly used technique in project management. It uses a tip activity type designation. Typically, activities in this type of chart are drawn as rectangles that describe important details for the particular activity. These include:
- Name of the activity
- Early start
- Early end
- Late start
- Late end
In order to calculate the values of these details, two wavy crawls are made. A crawl is first made to calculate the early values. Then, a backward crawl is made to calculate the late values, and finally the difference between the two is to calculate the clearance. The critical path is those activities that have no backlash (their backlash is 0).
The critical path method has become necessary and as a result is embedded in most project management software where its algorithm can be applied automatically. Waterfall project management practices need such careful analytics and planning activities.
Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)
Technique for effective planning of a set of activities (in a general schedule) based on events and probabilities. It is appropriate when the leading factor in the project is time and the sequence of events is subject to certain conditions. In order for a certain event to occur, certain actions (the existence of certain conditions) are required.
Three estimates are given for each action – optimistic, pessimistic and most likely. On this basis, they determine the time and cost of each activity, and then use the CPM, for example, to evaluate the occurrence of the events and the implementation of the project (the specific way in which this is estimated determines the type of PERT used);
Program Review and Evaluation Technique, or PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique), is a scheduling technique in project management. PERT was imposed by technology projects in the US military in the mid-20th century. Its diagrams are of the type of arrow activity. In a more generalized version of the PERT for each assignment, the required time and cost are determined by probability distributions.
Different tasks can have their own specific distributions, according to the specifics of the job. The different allocations are then accumulated, depending on the constraints, in order to better calculate the project time and cost. A coarser estimate may be a triangular distribution or even a trapezoidal distribution, giving accurate values is also a particular case of PERT. The technique is especially useful when facilitating software is available.
One of the most used diagrams for displaying and tracking the project schedule. With it, each task has a start and end date and all tasks are arranged in a horizontal timeline.