Have you encountered a proposed project plan that wasn’t considered credible, either by the project team itself or by the organization’s sponsors and executives? Developing workable plans when funding is lean, time is tight, and your group is already buried in other projects can leave you in a precarious spot. But though gathering the right kind of data to ensure your plan is solid takes effort and energy, the results from cutting corners during the plan development process are often far worse. Project managers and their internal groups run the risk of inflicting serious damage on their reputations—along with hampering their project’s chances at success—if a plan isn’t believable.
To maintain the senior leadership group’s trust and protect your team’s standing as knowledgeable project professionals, it’s imperative your plans are consistently credible and authentic. By following the guidelines below, you can be confident your project plans reflect reliable facts, well-informed estimates, and an understanding of the factors that could influence your ability to successfully execute your project.
- It’s informed by detailed, up-to-date budget figures.
The use of old or vague financial data can erode the believability of your project plan. Copying budget information from a previous project—even if the two share similar scopes and achievables—is an easy way to save time but it’s likely to put your plan’s credibility in doubt. That sort of data quickly goes out of date, particularly if it doesn’t incorporate swings in labor or material prices over time, if the vendor has switched suppliers or reduced their availability for contract work, or if market demand for products or workers outstrips today’s supply. A credible project plan relies on budget estimates that are current and realistic.
- It’s built on accurate and complete task duration estimates.
Your project plan’s credibility may be called into question if your timeline isn’t based on real-world task data. One of the primary components of a solid project plan is the use of task durations estimated by those individuals who will be doing the work. Their first-hand knowledge of how long activities typically take, and if conditions exist that have the potential to slow or delay their completion, is crucial to creating a project plan that’s rational and reasonable.
- Its development includes activity dependency data.
Participants in your project plan development process not only need to weigh in with timely and factual information on tasks that fall within their areas of responsibility, they also need to work together to ensure the entire activity flow is fully developed and orchestrated. A plan that calls for tasks to be executed simultaneously will quickly fall apart if that sequencing is impossible or unwise, for example. As you work with stakeholders to craft their task duration estimates, bring people together to discuss the workflows involved to confirm the plan accurately reflects the optimal progression of activities throughout the project’s lifecycle.
- It accounts for resource demands across your entire project portfolio.
Even if a project plan is realistic, it still may not be credible if it was developed in a vacuum. Project teams must take into consideration the resource, timing, and funding demands of the other projects in the organization’s portfolio. Without this additional layer of information, you may not be able to drive your plan to a successful completion. Have you double-booked key expertise within your project team? Do deadlines for the various functional areas conflict from one project to the next? Building your plan to accommodate realistic workloads, to address competing obligations and priorities, and to identify potential bottlenecks results in a proposal your stakeholders can trust.