22 Nov A 5-Step Approach To Creating A Project Plan
If you run a project-based business, you want to finish projects on time, on budget and meet your customer’s expectations.
You need to plan the work before you begin so you can work the plan from start to finish.
And, if you’ve struggled to manage all the moving parts of a project efficiently, you might think you’re not a good enough project manager. But the truth is, every business owner can use a well-developed plan to steer every project toward successful completion.
Here’s your five-step approach to creating a clear project plan with tips on useful tools you can use to simplify complexity:
1. Plan The Work
Planning the work is the first step to establishing a timeline and allocating the right resources. Collect this information in a project plan document that you can use as a control and communications tool. It involves determining and documenting a list of project deliverables, specific goals, tasks, costs and deadlines.
Here’s a checklist of things to document in your project plan:
Objectives – desired impact for your customer
Goals – specific, measurable results
Phases – critical milestones before completion
Tasks – action steps to achieve every goal
Resources – people, materials and equipment requirements
Budget – by phase or overall project
Schedule – deadlines for each stage and project completion
It’s also essential to set clear policies and establish processes to handle communication, collect payments, manage
change requests, sign off on completed work, issue refunds and deal with cost-overruns.
Once all the project requirements are clearly defined, ensure you and your customer’s signing authority sign-off on the plan indicating you both agree to the process, terms and deliverables.
Tip: Online proposal software such as QuoteRoller or BidSketch offer templates and can help you get your project proposal signed faster. You can use an online project management tool such as Asana or Trello to set up project tasks, set deadlines, organize content files and manage communication between team members on progress. Sage 100 Contractor offers an integrated project management solution if you are in the construction industry.
2. Assign Tasks and Set Schedule
Meet with your project team to assign responsibility to each task and create a detailed schedule estimating the time required to complete each phase of the project. Review and discuss timelines to ensure everyone has the information they need to complete their part. Revise the schedule to address any potential scheduling conflicts or resource constraints.
It may help to look at similar projects you’ve recently completed to get a handle on how long it takes to complete specific tasks. If you don’t have a process in place to track time, now is a great time to start to help accurately schedule tasks for projects moving forward.
Tip: The project management tools named above allow you to assign tasks and set deadlines. Everhour is a time tracking app that integrates with Asana or you’ll find many other options to consider online.
3. Set Up A Budget
Estimate your expenses to complete each phase of the project. Calculate labour, materials, and any equipment requirements then add a contingency in case your costs are higher than anticipated. It is important to have the right categories for expenses set up in your accounting software so you can track your actual costs compared to budget.
Tip: Choose the right accounting software for your business that you can customize such as Sage 50. You want to be able to set up your project budget, track expenses by category and generate reporting so you can compare actual costs to budget. Consider adding Sage One, an online accounting solution that imports data into Sage 50 and makes it easy to set up project quotes, send invoices, and update transactions from anywhere you have an internet connection so you can work remotely or from the office.
Communicate clearly, frequently and concisely with internal and outsourced team members working on every project. Set clear expectations in your initial scheduling meeting about how to deal with issues, where to store project information (and who can access it), and what metrics will be used to achieve the best results. Check in with your team on progress regularly. You don’t have to schedule a meeting every time you check in, but regular email, phone or text communication on progress is essential to control variables and steer progress in the right direction.
Tip: Slack is an online team communication tool with an Asana integration you can use to manage and archive all your team communication in one place instead of tracking emails, phone calls or text messages.
5. Post-Project Debrief
Schedule time to debrief with your team post-project to objectively review what happened, what worked, what didn’t, what was missing and clarify what you’d like to do differently moving forward.
Tip: Debriefing after you’ve completed a project is an excellent way to stay on track to continuously improve and innovate.
Over to you,
Managing projects is a complex process but starting with a well-developed plan provides a simple structure to
follow a more direct route toward successful completion.
Is one of the steps in this plan a weak point in your current process? Focus on it for your next project.
And, if you would like help with setting up a better structure to create project plans or customize your accounting system to get accurate project reporting, head over to my contact page to book a free consult. I’d love to help.