No Integrated Project Plan? Beware the Risks.

The development of an integrated project plan is crucial, particularly when your project involves disparate sub-teams. You might have internal stakeholders carrying out important tasks, such as when the IT department tackles infrastructure upgrades necessary to support a new software platform, or a business unit must revise their existing workflows to accommodate an expanded production line. There are typically outside resources participating in projects, too. Vendors are often charged with providing technical expertise, for example, or delivering and installing new equipment.

integrated project plan

This blending of inside and outside stakeholders gives your project team strength, but it could also lead to problems if everyone isn’t on the same page. You need to know that the various cross-functional groups are all moving in a unified direction. With so many activities to oversee and a timeline to maintain, any lack of coordination becomes a real issue if you have multiple contributors each marching to their own drum.

Still not convinced it’s worth the time and effort to create a comprehensive, integrated project plan? Consider the risks you run if stakeholders are left to their own devices.

1 – You’ll have multiple plans floating around. Different sub-teams will each have their own version of a plan. Some will omit activities that don’t involve their team members directly. Others might have too much detail, leading to confusion or delays while the group tries to sort out what needs to happen next. When none of these project plans match, cross-team discussions about scheduling tasks and resolving issues are more complicated, and fraught with the potential for misunderstandings.

2 – You’ll have a lot of competing schedules. Because each area is leveraging a unique plan, the schedules will be equally diverse. What happens when an activity slips on one schedule? Will that information be communicated across the rest of the project team? You could end up with overlapping activities and conflicts among internal and external resources. Delays and rush labor charges are just one possible end result.

3 – Status updates lose their value. One plan may be on track while another has fallen behind. How do you reconcile those discrepancies? Reporting the current status becomes problematic, and the issues pile up as the project moves on. The methods for providing progress updates are also questionable—some sub-teams might use percentage complete as their yardstick while other groups could simply provide their status as “done” or “not done.” Determining how these various reports translate into alignment with the target completion date is difficult at best.

4 – Accountability goes out the window. It’s nearly impossible to hold anyone accountable for delays or mistakes if one version of the plan shows them to be on track while another does not. Which is correct? Resolving problems is especially challenging, as one plan may show the project to be in jeopardy at the same time a competing plan doesn’t indicate there’s any problem at all. Developing a strategy to address issues, such as re-sequencing tasks or compressing the schedule for key activities, becomes exponentially more demanding when you can’t even get everyone to agree a problem is urgent and a solution is needed.

5 – The executives could be in for some nasty surprises. Your leadership team expects you to show them the master plan, with a workable schedule and accurate resource allocations. But given the lack of visibility inherent in a multi-plan environment, they’re likely to discover at some point that their version of the truth isn’t necessarily the one everyone else is using. A surprised executive is rarely a happy executive, so be prepared for some uncomfortable questions once the scope of the problem becomes clear.