Proper planning is a critical factor in determining whether a new project will successfully meet its goals. Too often, individuals and groups rush into action without a clear understanding of project goals and priorities, as well as a specific plan for execution. As a result, many projects suffer from delays and setbacks due to faulty assumptions, easily foreseeable challenges, and poor scheduling.
One of the core concepts in the planning phase of project management is Scope vs. Time vs. Cost. Another important factor in project planning is proper scheduling. Below, we will examine both of these and provide tools to facilitate your planning process.
Project goals are typically stated in terms of scope, time, and cost. Scope defines exactly what you are seeking to accomplish. What specific business needs does your project address? What precisely are you trying to do? What will be inside and outside the scope of your efforts? Time defines the specific period available to accomplish your goals. What is the final, hard deadline by which you must be finished? Cost refers to the amount of resources available for use. What is your allowable budget for the project? Which employees are available for assignment to this project, and how many hours do they have available?
After clearly defining the cost, time and scope of your project, it is extremely important to understand the importance and flexibility of these factors, relative to each other. If you are unable to deliver the project completely, on time, and under budget, which of these are most and least important? Is it better to deliver limited results by the original deadline? Or is accomplishing the full scope more important than the end date? How does cost play into this? Understanding where you have flexibility will help you navigate challenges encountered during project execution.
Project managers use a tool called the Flexibility Matrix to help them clarify the question of Scope vs. Time vs. Cost. It is a valuable resource to have at your disposal.
Perhaps the most important method for ensuring that your project will meet its deadline is through the creation of a detailed and realistic schedule. Identify the separate steps required for project execution and determine whether any of them depend on the completion of earlier steps, or if they may be initiated immediately. For example, if baking cookies requires preheating the oven to 400 degrees, and it takes 10 minutes for the oven to reach the desired temperature, then the oven should be turned on at least 10 minutes prior to when the cookie dough will be ready for baking. Mixing the dough, which is not dependent on heating the oven, can be done concurrently to save time.
The Gantt Chart is an extremely effective visual tool for establishing project schedules. It was first created by Henry Gantt, a mechanical engineer who is considered a forefather of modern project management.
For Further Information
The Flexibility Matrix and the Gantt Chart, will help you plan your next project. But they are just the tip of the project management iceberg. Bibliophiles who are hungry for more information may be interested in “Just Enough Project Management” by Curtis R. Cook, a short and inexpensive volume that introduces the major concepts and techniques of project management in an accessible and enjoyable way.
Individuals who wish to add formal project management to their skillsets may pursue certification from the Project Management Institute. Universities in Silicon Valley and throughout the San Francisco Bay Area offer excellent project management programs to prepare you for certification.
Menlo Partners is a strong advocate for professional development and lifelong learning. If you are searching for a role in accounting, administration, finance, human resources, marketing or operations in the San Francisco Bay Area, call us today. Menlo Partners Staffing, a Peninsula based temporary staffing and employment agency (650)752-6193.