How do I plan a project more effectively and efficiently within my organization?

You should have planned that better!

‘Why did you not do that sooner?’ may sound very familiar. ‘My project planning was not organized’ is an answer that is often given. These are common sentences within organizations. Sentences that cost time and eventually money. The planning of tasks and activities allows the individual to work structurally yet it can also make money. Because of the improved planning of projects an organization will work more effective and more efficient. The consequence is that the information flow is improving, the projects can be maintained better and the internal processes are improving. The result? More profit using a more effective and efficient project planning! But what is the best way to plan a project?

It is a tricky question to answer. Every organization plans the projects differently due to company rules and composition. Whereas some make use of project management software, others use Post-its. It should be obvious that the organization that uses project management software is able to respond to unforeseen situations with more flexibility. That is because the information can be adapted and shared with just one click of the button. There is also a difference in the type of planning; does it concern a staff planning, task division or recurring activities? As long as there are no two equal organizations, there are no equal projects. In addition, the capacity and available recources do not just differ per organization but also per individual. Because of the New World of Work the workweek of 40 hours on location no longer applies to everyone. To properly plan and manage a project internal and external knowledge of the resources is essential. Without this knowledge it is impossible to plan effectively and efficiently.

Nevertheless, there are a number of general proceedings that help determine the success of a project. These steps will be covered in this article. First of all there is the helicopterview of the project manager. The manager needs to maintain the overview over the project. Secondly there is the subdividing of a project into tasks. This allows the proceedings and the costs of the project to be managed. Thirdly there is the actual managing of the project. By means of decent planning and management, risks and ad-hoc reactions can be avoided.

Helicopterview over the projects

During the planning of projects there are many questions that a project manager needs to ask himself. Which staff will I use, how many hours will the project take and how do I deal with unforeseen events? Because a project can be influences by both internal as well as external factors there needs to be a helicopterview. An overview of the current affairs like the situation on the market and internal availability of employees is essential for the planning of projects. First of all, an organization can direct the project in time by keeping an overview. If there are employees that are ill then tasks can be redivided or employees can be added to the project. Secondly, space for a new order can be taken into account this way. If there suddenly was to be an extra order then the assignment could still be executed thanks to good personnel planning.

To work as efficiently as possible projects need to be tuned to each other as much as possible. The project manager therefore needs to plan his projects both centralized and decentralized. On the one hand the project manager can make the project run more efficiently thanks to internal knowledge. This way employees with the required knowledge and resources can be added to the project. At the same time the project manager can respond better to the changing situation in the market. Thanks to the internal knowledge the process can be directed better and an ad-hoc reaction is prevented.

Starting with project planning

To properly plan a project there needs to be a division of labor. The division of labor indicates exactly which tasks need to be executed within the project. The task planning offers an overview of the entire project that helps determine the success of the project. Therefore, project planning includes the following elements:

  1. task planning
  2. staff planning
  3. project management

1: Task planning

For the execution of a project, a good task planning is crucial. Without a good task planning a project can not be directed. A consequence of that would be that in the case of a possible problem there would be an ad-hoc reaction. A task should have a clear objective. In other words, an action needs to be completed within a certain time span. Splitting up a project in tasks offers an organization the following advantages:

  • Improved time management of personnel.
  • Real time cost overview of parts of projects.
  • Invoicing specific per activity.
  • Improved direction to the project by adding extra capacity to a task or by using extra capacity somewhere else.
  • Employees know when and within what time span they need to complete a task.
  • This way, employees can organize their own workday to a certain extent.
  • Task planning eases the hour changes and printing of work orders.

If the tasks are known then they can be divided by the professionals and noted in their calendars.

2: Staff planning

To effectively plan a project knowledge of the personnel and organization is important. Which professionals are available to me, what are their capacities, which activities could they delegate or sit in for? Those are questions that should be known during the planning of the calendars. The planning of personnel should take place as efficiently as possible. The proceedings of the project should not suffer because of the absenteeism or holiday of a specialist. In that case the project will experience delay and the profit will be pressurized. That is why it is important that a project manager can answer the following questions to himself.

  • What employee can execute or take over extra tasks in the case of absenteeism?
  • Are all employees able to handle the registration system well?
  • Is there always access to the calendar of the employees?
  • Can calendars be changed and shared easily?

After the tasks have been divided and the calendars have been planned, the planning of a project can be completed and the managing can begin.

3: Project management

Project management consists of directing projects and avoiding risks. By making the right choices and considerations, risks can be avoided as much as possible. During this phase the project manager supervises the running activities; is everything going according to the planning? If not: which action should be done to make everything run smoothly? In this phase of the project it is vital that every actor sticks to the earlier made planning. The helicopterview of a projectmanager comes into its own here. He or she monitors the proceedings and directs the project if needed.

Project management pitfall prevention

  • Prevent the use of Post-its. A project rises or falls with the project administration. The project information needs to be easily accessible and controllable. Ensure a good insight into the planning and sharing thereof. Through the use of project management software an organization can not just work more effective and more efficient, but can also get a step ahead of the competition.

  • Involve the employees in the planning. Leave the employees free to determine the order in which to execute the tasks assigned within the designated project. This way the special circumstances of the department or individual can be taken into account.

  • Prevent ad-hoc reactions through an assessment of the organization and market. Which unexpected circumstances could present themselves and how could I best react to them? As can be read in our earlier article the making of an ad-hoc decision is a prelude to the failure of a project.

  • Learn from earlier experiences. History is one of the foundations of project management. He who wants to dictate the future should look at the past.

  • Prevent culture problems within the organization. Through habit and routine the planning of projects happens in a different way on every department. Try not to deviate from this immediately and motivate the change for the personnel. Old and new can work together very well.

  • Opt for the necessary project management software. Watch out for the internal wishes and possibilities that the software package for project management offers. Does it allow for more control on project for the organization and can the organization grow with it?

Project management starts at the first meeting

The company rules that are used both inernally as well as externally determine the final project planning. That is why project planning starts at the first meeting. All considerations that determine the successful completion of a project need to be taken into account for this meeting. Whether it concerns a supplier of parts, personnel, client or software supplier: all help shape the successful completion of a project. First of all because of the capacities of a supplier. If a supplier is not able to meet the demand then that has consequences for the planning of the project. The choice of a supplier is very important. Secondly the personnel; the personnel needs to be not just professional, but also needs to respond to an extra request. Thirdly the client; the assignment needs to be crisp and clearly formulated. Without proper formulation a task planning can be tricky. Fourthly there is the software supplier. The supplier software needs to be easy to integrate and needs to include all aspects of project management. The advantage of this is that personnel planning, task planning, work orders and invoicing, among others, can all be handled in one system.

Project planning is very important for the proceedings and monitoring of running projects. Gaining insight into the activities will eventually pay off in time saving and growth. Automating the project planning enables organizations to work more efficient and more effective. The result is an increased profit and safeguarding of the continuity.