Many people are aware of the old adage Perfect Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance but very few people really take this to heart, however I have found it a perfect way to remember to put the effort in up front in order to ensure success in any project.
In my experience, many bosses are reluctant to allow project managers to spend long enough in the planning stage because they don’t perhaps appreciate that spending project costs early in the process will pay dividends later on.
I once was recruited for a project where, I was given full reign to plan a large and complex project taking the time I needed to get it right. I spent eighteen months planning the project in great detail – it was a roll-out of a document management system to nearly 4000 staff members and required a great deal of training and IT support. To be fair, during the 18 months, I did have some other tasks and as part of the planning I was writing the business case [see panel] too (and of course the project brief, project initiation document and the risk log!).
What are my planning tips? Research, understanding and full access to everyone on the team who will be able to inform you about what the project will entail. Even for quite large projects, I prefer to plan in Excel and this was no exception, I had a huge but easy to use Excel spreadsheet. Although I can and have used MS Project for project planning and running, I do feel that for most projects, it’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
By the time the roll-out started, I was moved to another project and had to hand over to a colleague. She brought the project in on time and on budget, to my original plan, two years later. The time spent planning ensured that there were no changes required, no additional budget required and no expensive overruns.
As an aside, in my experience bosses never want to spend enough time on testing during software development either, but that is for another blog!
Business case development
I’ll be writing about business case development in a future blog but in this project my business case disclosed that there were actually no financial benefits to a high profile multi million pound project (across the entire organisation) and the project was stopped for a few weeks whilst the bosses decided whether to carry on – which eventually they did but at least they were under no illusions about the benefits.