The Project Management Institute (PMI) encourages its members to advance the profession. One of the ways to do this is by helping others increase their project management skills. The target audiences for this blog are professional PM’s early in their careers as well as those who manage projects but are not PM’s by title or trade. I will be posting every week or so, offering practical tips and tools on the full range of project management topics. I hope you will find this useful and help you advance your career.
There are two main types of high level planning for a project: (1) The Project Management Plan; (2) The Project Activity Plan (aka The Project Plan). The Project Management Plan describes the approach and processes for managing the project. The Project Activity Plan describes the work to be done to achieve the project objectives. This series of posts address the Project Management Plan.
The Project Management Plan defines how the project is executed, monitored, controlled and closed. It addresses the management of scope, schedule, cost, quality, staffing, communications, risk, and procurement. Whenever matters of project procedure are in question, this document shall be the first source consulted.
This is a dynamic document and reflects the current thinking regarding the project approach based on what is known at this time. It is expected to be updated with new information as the project unfolds. Original and revised versions should be distributed to the entire project team.
The components of the Project Management Plan are:
- Scope Management
- Schedule Management
- Budget Management
- Staff Management
- Communications Management
- Risk Management
- Procurement Management
- Project Close Definition
- Post-Project Audit Plan
In subsequent posts I will elaborate on each of these sections.
For large projects I highly recommend creating a Project Management Plan and sharing it with your sponsor and key stakeholders. This plan describes the “rules of engagement” for the project and will minimize assumptions and misunderstandings regarding project process. I have also found this to be very helpful if you are new to an organization. It is a way to document your understanding of the project management practices of that organization.
There is a good reason the Project Management Institute (PMI) includes these plans in their best practices. Once I obtained my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, I included a formal Project Management Plan on all of my large projects.
The Project Charter can be looked at as a contract between you and your project sponsor or you and your manager. It documents your understanding of the expectations of the sponsor and what you are expected to deliver and when. Like any contract, it should be concluded with a signature indicating agreement.
Why get a real signature? It is amazing how people will pay close attention to what is in a document when they have to sign their name to it! I have seen cases on my own projects as well as those I consulted on where misunderstandings are cleared up prior to charter sign off. This has and will save many hours of effort avoiding taking a project down the wrong path. For these reasons I highly recommend getting a real signature and posting a PDF image of the Project Charter in the project repository.
Once you have a signed-off charter, you now have one of the deliverables subject to formal Change Management. Any request that would change any component of the charter should have a formal change benefit/impact statement signed off and the Project Charter should be changed to a new version and signed off again.
In my next post we will move to the Planning Phase and begin a multi-part discussion on the Project Management Plan.
Constraints are any limitations to solution options that have been imposed on a project. It is important to know these early on so time is not wasted pursuing these options. Here are some examples:
- The solution must work with Microsoft Edge as that is the company standard
- The solution must be an Oracle product for seamless integration with our other Enterprise systems
- The new department we are adding as a result of this project must fit into this 30′ x 50′ area
When project constraints are uncovered, be sure to understand the reason why. It is possible some constraints could be removed. I was involved with a project where the service provider was already selected but without looking at the competition. I convinced my business partners to conduct formal “Request for Proposal’s” with the leading competition and the result was a different provider was selected.
Constraints are included in the Project Charter so that the Sponsor and Core Project Team understand and agree.
Issues are any event or known problem that will negatively impact your project’s schedule, scope, budget or quality. Issues differ from Risks in that Issues are 100% will or has happened whereas Risks may or may not happen with a probability less than 100% and greater than 0%. Risks that are not actively managed are more likely to become Issues.
At Project Charter time, you want to highlight the most severe impacting issues. Look specifically for the impacts in the following areas:
- Schedule – issues that will delay your project start, or impact key milestones and the target completion date.
- Scope – Issues that can prevent you from delivering the defined project scope
- Budget – Issues that can cause the project to go over the allowed budget
- Quality – Issues that will affect the quality of the delivered solution
In a future post I will address Issue Management in detail.
In upcoming posts I will discuss Risk Identification and Management in detail. For now, you just need to know that a risk is an uncertain future event that can have a negative impact on your project’s schedule, scope, budget or quality. The event has a probability of occurring less than 100% and greater than 0%. If the probability is 100%, then you have an issue, not a risk. Some risks can have a positive impact but we will not discuss that here.
You state the risk as follows:
- If <risk event> occurs, then <state the outcome that affects your project> causing the project to be impacted in the following specific ways <scope, schedule, budget, quality>.
At the Project Charter level, you are interested in identifying only the highest impact risks so that your risk management strategies can be accounted for in the scope and schedule.
Some Project Charters will list “Assumptions” in its own section. I have eliminated assumptions from my own charter template as I feel if you have assumptions that can impact your project, then that is just another form of risk. I now include any assumptions in my risk section.
Project Stakeholders are the people and entities affected or impacted in any way by the project. Defining this list is critical in communication planning. It will also help you in defining the project scope. Stakeholders are identified by reviewing the Project Scope and consulting with Subject Matter Experts for the domain of the project.
There are two classifications of Stakeholders:
- Those that will be needed to perform project tasks.
- Those that will interact with or receive the product, service or result of the project.
The Stakeholders in classification 1 are the members of your project team. Some of these will constitute your core team and will be needed full-time or near full-time for the duration of the project. Others will be needed only for specific tasks over limited periods of time. When you have this list I recommend creating a spreadsheet with these names along with their roles, responsibilities, manager, and contact information.
The Stakeholders in classification 2 are your project’s “customers”. These are the people who will be the target of a formal Change Management strategy (more on that in upcoming posts). The success of your project will often depend on how you manage communication and change with this group of Stakeholders. The five key areas for managing this group of Stakeholders are:
- Awareness – communicate early and often with this group before they are impacted
- Desire – impart an understanding of why this is good for them and for the company
- Knowledge – training in new processes and behaviors
- Ability – make them successful by setting up a support structure
- Reinforcement – monitoring the expected behaviors and business outcomes and being prepared to make adjustments as new knowledge comes to light
There are some Stakeholders that can be a member of both groups. Typically members of the Project Sponsor’s team will participate in the project and also be affected by the result.
The Project Charter should contain a high-level timeline so that expectations can be set and preliminary commitments established. If not enough is known at Charter time to be reasonably certain of this timeline, then it should be noted as to when the baseline schedule will be established.
The timeline will contain elements that depend on your organization’s methodology. You will want to note target completion dates for major milestones and phases. Here is an example for a software development project:
- Requirements – Jan 31
- Design – Feb 23
- Development/Unit Testing – April 8
- System Testing – April 30
- User Acceptance Testing – May 21
- Transition to Production – June 8
- Production Stabilization – July 8
For projects not involving software, your phases and major milestones will be named according to the nature of the project. Here is an example where the project is to order and install new equipment in several locations:
- Scope established – Jan 15
- Products Ordered – Jan 30
- Products Tested – Feb 21
- Products installed in pilot locations – March 15
- Products installed in all locations – June 1