What are Project Planning and the Project Schedule?
Project planning is highly important and fundamental to successful project management and effective planning is a prerequisite for the on time and on budget delivery of any project.
The project schedule provides "the project" with the outline structure and activity detail to ensure minimum risk to the overall delivery. At a simple level, the schedule tells you how long the project, or any part of it, will take. In addition to providing dates, the project schedule should also tell you:
Who is accountable for every aspect of the project
The approach being undertaken
The major deliverables from the project
The timing of the key decisions and review points
Why is Project Planning and the Project Schedule Important?
Projects are the vehicle which deliver your future company and help the organisation to achieve its strategic goals. Effective project management is therefore vital to ensure organisations thrive and remain competitive. Without adequate planning projects will overrun and are very likely to incur additional costs - thus putting the anticipated business benefits in jeopardy.
The ability to build and manage a project schedule is one of the essential requirements for a successful project outcome. The project schedule forms the basis on which the cost and resource plans are constructed and provides visibility of all the phases, stages and activities for the entire project. This enables real time project status reports and analysis from both a financial and time perspective.
Planning allows for the accurate measurement of the project status and provides early warning of problem areas, allowing risk management and the running of "what if" scenarios to mitigate any compromised position.
A programme of related projects requires even greater levels of planning so that interdependencies are fully understood and controlled. Planning of a portfolio of projects (a mixture of independent and/or interdependent projects) is required to manage overall resources and ensure effective cash flow management.
Key features to Project Planning
A project schedule should provide the following features:
A baseline against which to measure progress - without a plan concept such as "early" or "late" have no meaning
A breakdown of the project into manageable packages (work breakdown structure) based on deliverables/outputs
A listing of accountabilities for different activities
A clear way of showing project interdependencies
Clear visibility of key dates, milestones and time constraints
A pictorial presentation of project progress
It is important to recognise that project planning should also include forecasting and reforecasting the future.