Project Management For Dummies
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Answer these ten questions to make sure you’ve completely identified all the work your project will require. When you begin a project, you always feel the pressure to jump in and start working immediately to meet the aggressive time schedules. Although you’re not exactly sure where to start, you know you have the greatest chance of success if you plan out your project before you begin the actual work.

What’s the purpose of your project?

An accurate appreciation of your project’s purpose can lead to better plans, a greater sense of team member commitment, and improved performance. As soon as you’re assigned to your project, get a clear and complete picture of its significance. You can do so by determining the following:

  • What situation(s) led to your project?

  • Who had the original idea?

  • Who else hopes to benefit from it?

  • What would happen if your project weren’t done?

Whom do you need to involve?

Knowing early whom you need to involve allows you to plan for their participation at the appropriate stages in your project. Involving these people in a timely manner ensures that their input will be available when it’s needed and lets them know you value and respect their contributions.

As you determine who may play a role in your project’s success, categorize them as follows:

  • Drivers: People looking for your project’s results

  • *Supporters: People who can help your project succeed

  • Observers: People interested in your project

After you have this comprehensive list, decide whom you need to involve and when and how you want to involve them.

What results will you produce?

Specify all the results you expect your project to achieve. Clearly describe each product, service, or impact and include measurable outcomes and performance targets. Confirm that your project’s drivers believe these outcomes meet their needs and expectations.

What constraints must you satisfy?

Identify all information, processes, and guidelines that may restrict your project activities and your performance. When you know your constraints, you can plan to minimize their effects on your project. Distinguish between the following:

  • Limitations: Restrictions that people outside your project team set

  • Needs: Restrictions that you and your project’s team members establish

What assumptions are you making?

As soon as you begin thinking about your project, document all assumptions you make about it — after all, each of those assumptions can lead to one or more project risks that you may choose to plan for in advance. Continue adding to your list of assumptions as you develop the different parts of your project plan. Update your plans whenever an assumption changes or you find out its actual value.

What work has to be done?

Identify all the activities required to produce your project’s deliverables so that you can assign responsibilities for them, develop schedules, estimate resource needs, give specific tasks to team members, and monitor your project’s performance. For each activity, specify the following:

  • The work to be done: The processes and steps that each activity entails

  • *Inputs: All people, facilities, equipment, supplies, raw materials, funds, and information necessary to perform each activity

  • Results you expect: Products, services, situations, or other deliverables that you expect each activity to produce

  • Interdependencies and relationships: Activities that you must complete before you can start the next one; activities you can start after you’ve completed the current one

  • Duration: The number of work periods required to perform each activity

When does each activity start and end?

Develop a detailed schedule with clearly defined activities and frequent intermediate milestones. Having this information on hand allows you to give team members precise guidance on when to perform their assignments. This information also supports your ongoing monitoring and control of work in progress. Take the following into account when you create your schedule:

  • Duration: The number of work periods required to perform each activity

  • *Interdependencies: What you must finish before you can begin your activity

  • Resource availability: When you need particular resources and when they’re available

Who will perform the project work?

Knowing who will perform each task and how much effort they’ll have to devote allows you to plan for their availability and more accurately estimate the overall project budget. Specify the following information for all people who need to work on your project:

  • Their names, position descriptions or titles, and the skills and knowledge they need to do the assignment

  • The specific roles each person will have on an activity when more than one person will work on the same activity, as well as an explanation of how they can coordinate their efforts

  • The level of effort each person has to invest

  • The exact time when people will do their work if they will work less than full time on an activity

Consult with the people who’ll perform the project tasks to develop this information.

What other resources do you need?

Identify all equipment, facilities, services, supplies, and funds that you need to perform your project work. Specify how much of each resource you need and when.

What can go wrong?

Identify those parts of your project that may not go according to plan. Decide which risks pose the greatest dangers to your project’s success, and develop plans to minimize their negative effects.

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