A Quick Start Guide to Successful Project Planning

June 18, 2020

Our work at Odyssey revolves around our clients’ projects. Over time, we have seen what makes projects successful. Whether it be large- or small-scale, it all comes down to planning. Project planning may take time, but the benefits are tremendous. Better communication and clearer expectations will always ensure a greater chance of success. Potential mistakes or any required clarifications are also handled right from the start.

Project planning comes down to three basic parts. First, your objective and the scope of the project, the general “what”, “why” and “how.” Second, your schedule and milestones, your “when” and “what.” And third, your budget, another component of “how.” Defining these parts from the outset will help set you up for great success.

Through the project planning process, it might help to think of the SMART framework. The SMART framework requires that your goals, or in this case your project, be the following:

1) Specific: defined and clear;

2) Measurable: tangible and objective data to determine the success;

3) Achievable: agreeable to everyone involved;

4) Realistic: relevant and resourced as needed; and

5) Time-based: scheduled or trackable with time.

Your Objective and the Scope of the Project

These come readily to most people who are seeking to embark on a project already. Your objective is what you are looking to do, and your scope is the general to-do list for it.

But it is likely that your project involves many other parties. You should discuss the objective and scope of your project with them. Include your stakeholders and even your customers, as they may have other ideas. Those involved with the project, e.g. the lead designer and software architect, should be part of the round table. This way, you can hear out any initial ideas, requirements, and concerns from all around. Your objective and scope of project will be better defined and make it easier to determine the rest.

When determining this, it is also helpful to include in your plan some more basic details. This can include the contact information of people who are executing the project, or any relevant addresses for the project.

Your Milestones or Deliverables, and Your Schedule

Your schedule for your milestones needs to be realistic. It should consider many factors, like any possible delays or the ease of certain steps. This will vary from industry to industry, from team to team. This is also why it is important to talk to all involved parties, so that you can determine these factors.

Your milestone schedule might include things like a limit to the billable hours per week. Some have an indefinite part to the project, like ongoing software support. In any case, your milestones or deliverables must be clear and defined to anyone involved.

If you are working with a contractor like us, then you will likely be dealing with a statement of work (SOW). The SOW describes all three basic parts in detail and one of the main documents that both you and the contractor will build on and from.

Your Budget

Like your schedule, your budget should be realistic. Underestimating the budget may mean constraints that you did not expect. Overestimating may lead to unnecessary spending.

Do your research and call for quotes throughout this process if needed. Include your project scope or deliverables when inquiring. Delineate your budget into its purposes or intentions. It will aid in determining for the future what a successful and quality project may cost. It may even help in determining why a vendor may have charged more than expected.

As you search out vendors, you will likely come across two different kinds of pricing: fixed cost and variable cost. Both have their pros and cons, but usually fixed cost will be easier to factor into a budget and a schedule. We have found that variable cost tends to work best if the scope is currently undefined or too vague for a complete SOW.

One More Thing: Communication

Throughout your project planning, you should consider communication. Communication is the backbone of any project, because without it, the project struggles.

Try to find the best way to communicate with everyone involved. Keep your communication constant through that channel and set up regular check-ins. We have some suggestions in our post about remote solutions during COVID-19.

Checking in with your team will help keep your project on schedule. Reporting to stakeholders will keep them in the know and boost their confidence in the project. Communicating has everyone on the same page, and if they are not, you must try for it. Otherwise people may miss details, or expectations may go by the wayside.

Project planning may take a while, but it sets you up for success. We have worked with many clients over the years (since 1990!) and understand its value. We have continued to learn and hone our planning process with our clients. While every project is different, focusing on these three basic parts will help you get going. Having these parts answered already means that you’re on your way to a great project plan.

Here at Odyssey, we actively communicate with clients right from the start. For example, during the ideation phase, we take the time to start creating mockups and detailed wireframes. This way, we understand what the client wants out of the project. We clear out any potential miscommunication through illustrating what we interpret from the client’s objective. We carry this process throughout the entire project, so that we can stay on the same page.

Contact us today if you have a project that you would like to discuss!

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