An Introduction to Project Planning
PMBOK has five phases — Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring & Control, and Closing. In this post, we will focus on the PMBOK Planning Phase, and discuss the things to consider during Project Planning.
Note: Deming first developed the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle that describes four key phases of a project. Variations of this exist. And in fact, the PMBOK framework is founded on Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act model.
The Planning phase is all about getting organized. If you ever plan out your day be taking 15 minutes to think about the work you want to accomplish for the day, prioritizing the work and considering how you are going to get the work done, then most of these concepts will be familiar or easy to pick up.
In the Project planning phase, you will want to gather the necessary information to successfully complete your project. Specifically, you will want to refine the scope of the project into actual requirements, define the work needed to meet the requirements, develop a schedule, refine cost estimates and develop a project plan that documents how you will manage the project (additional details on the project plan below).
Side Note: The process of further refining the project information is called progressive elaboration. This means that the project plan and details are continuously being refined as more information becomes available, and changes are made as needed. Think of the project as a living and ever-changing thing. As you learn more about the work an understand the scope and challenges, the project requirements and other aspects will change. As a result, project management planning documents are referred to as living documents (e.g., Project Management Plan, Requirements Management Plan).
Below, you will find additional detail on the specifics of activities in the Planning Phase per PMBOK across their knowledge areas
Project Planning Activities Grouped by PMBOK Knowledge Area
The Project Planning phase touches the most number of processes according to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Per PMBOK, the following activities must be performed in the Project Planning phase. They are organized by project management knowledge area.
Keep in mind that this is the full set of activities. As a Project Manager, you will need to tailor this to meet the expectations of the project. Some projects don’t need to do all of these things. It just wouldn’t be worth it. Keep this in mind before you start your project.
Project Integration Management
- Develop Project Management Plan: The Project Management Plan is the top-level plan for the project, which describes how to manage the project. Depending on the size of the project, the Project Management Plan could be the top-level plan of a collection of subsidiary plans (e.g., Risk Management Plan)
Project Scope Management
- Scope Planning: Scope Planning is the process that results in a Project Scope Management Plan, which documents how the project scope will be established and maintained, and how the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) will be developed.
- Scope Definition: Scope definition is the process necessary for developing a detailed project scope statement, which serves as the basis for project decisions.
- Create WBS: Results in a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). A WBS is the result of an exercise that decomposes the project work into manageable components called work packages. The WBS serves as the basis for a project schedule. Decomposing all the project work into a WBS (and supporting WBS Dictionary) helps reduce the risk of missing pieces of the final product or service.
Project Time/Schedule Management
- Activity Definition: Activity Definition involves identifying the specific activities that need to be performed to deliver the project. The Project Scope Statement and WBS are used as inputs into the Activity Definition process.
- Activity Sequencing: Activity Sequencing is the process necessary to document activity dependencies and sequence the activities.
- Activity Resource Estimating: Activity Resource Estimating is the process of estimating the level of effort for each activity in terms of person resource time. The results of this process include a Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS), resource requirements and a resource calendar. The resource estimation techniques used at this point in the project are bottom-up — as opposed to the top-down resource estimates earlier in the project like Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) estimates.
- Activity Duration Estimating: Activity duration estimates are needed for proper schedule development. Duration differs from actual estimated level of effort. For example, an activity could take 1 week for one person to complete. But if the person can only devote 50% of their time, then it will take the person 2 weeks to complete. So, in this example, the level of effort is 1 work week, but the duration is 2 work weeks.
- Schedule Development: Schedule Development is the process that results in a baselined project schedule. The schedule is a product of the activity attributes collected above.
Project Cost Management
- Cost Estimating: Cost Estimating uses the information collected in developing the project schedule and resources to develop an approximate cost for each activity.
- Cost Budgeting: Cost Budgeting is the process that aggregates the costs of each activity to develop a cost baseline.
Project Quality Management
- Quality Planning: Yes, you must plan quality! This is often overlooked and assumed as a given. Quality planning is the process that identifies which quality standards to apply to the project and how to measure them. This results in a Quality Management Plan, quality metrics, quality checklists, a Process Improvement Plan (if needed), a quality baseline.
Project Human Resource Management
- Human Resource Planning: Human Resource Planning is also a critical, yet often under-appreciated process. Human Resource Planning results in a Staffing Management Plan and projet roles and responsibilities.
Project Communications Management
- Communications Planning: Communication Planning can be critical to the success of a project. A Communications Management Plan identifies how communication will be managed for the project. This includes internal communication among the project team as well as external communication. External communication planning can help set expectations and keeping stakeholders informed of progress.
Project Risk Management
- Risk Management Planning: Risk Management Planning is the process that results in a Risk Management Plan. The Risk Management Plan helps define the approach to managing risk within the project.
- Risk Identification: Risk Identification results in a Risk Register, which is a ledger of the identified risks for the project. The Risk Register must be managed throughout the life of the project. For more information on Risk and Issue Management, see the Risk and Issue Management Process Primer.
- Qualitative Risk Analysis: This process is a technique identified by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) for prioritizing risks based on a risk score, which is a function of probability and impact. Again, for more information on Risk and Issue Management, see the Risk and Issue Management Process Primer.
- Quantitative Risk Analysis: quantitative Risk Analysis, according to PMBOK, is the process necessary for numerically analyzing the effect of a risk on the project.
- Risk Response Planning: Every risk must have a risk response. In order to mitigate risks, a set of actions must be considered to reduce the threat of risks (negatively impacting risks) on a project. This involves identifying a mitigation strategy for each risk. Again, for more information on Risk and Issue Management, see the Risk and Issue Management Process Primer.
Project Procurement Management
- Plan Purchases and Acquisitions: Plan Purchases and Acquisitions is the process necessary for determining what to purchase and how to purchase it. For example, if the project is going to take, say, three years to complete, you might want to purchase the software and hardware needed for year three activities in year three and not any sooner. Otherwise, the project will not be able to take advantage of technology improvements (e.g., faster servers, better software, etc.). The result of this process is a Procurement Management Plan, a Contract Statement of Work (SOW) and Make-or-buy decisions (does it make sense to build in-house or purchase, etc.).
- Plan Contracting: Plan contracting is the process necessary to document requirements for potential sellers. This process results in procurement documents, seller evaluation criteria (how the sellers will be evaluated), and updates to the Contract Statement of Work. (NOTE: Keep in mind that the United States Federal Contracting process and terminology is often different from what is defined in PMBOK. However, an understanding of the PMBOK Project Procurement Management knowledge area will provide a good foundation to procurement management).
As you’ve noticed, the Project Planning phase requires planning across multiple knowledge areas. Taking the time to plan the project is critical. If the planning of the project and the decomposition of the work is incomplete at the end of the Project Planning phase, then expect quality, cost or schedule issues in later phases — specifically in the Project Execution phase.
Note: This post provides general guidance on the activities to consider during Project Planning. Each of the activities contain more detailed guidance that we will cover in different posts. Think of the above list as a roadmap to guide further research.
To see how these activities relate to other activities in the project life cycle, see table in the Introduction to the Project Life Cycle.