Is Your Project Plan Too Detailed?

Project teams require a lot of information to move even the simplest initiatives to their target completions. If you plan to install new equipment as part of the initiative, for example, you need to know the specifications for each piece. For software development projects, it’s important that your team understands which features you expect to ship with the next release. But developing project plans that are too exhaustive can sometimes create unintended risks, and finding the right level of detail is tricky. The balance will vary from one project to another and continuously evolves as each initiative moves through its lifecycle.

Does your team struggle to include enough detail at the appropriate project stage without putting time and energy into unnecessary information gathering? Are group members routinely burdened by so much detail that they have difficulty adjusting all the plan’s elements in response to the current reality? If so, consider how too much detail in your project plan can actually work against you.

Information is good, but your team needs context around project details to use them effectively. As new details flow into your project, distinguish which datasets are for explanatory purposes from those that represent non-negotiable requirements. One top-line benefit is that group members can speed through their information reviews more quickly. In addition, your team may need flexibility to deal with unforeseen elements, ranging from last-minute supply chain disruptions to compliance mandate changes that occur mid-project. Knowing what’s needed to achieve the desired results and what’s a nice-to-have will help them make more informed decisions and keep the project moving forward.

Along the same lines, too much low-priority or informational detail can potentially slow your group’s efforts to find alternate solutions when problems arise. Screen after screen of disjointed or poorly notated minutiae will likely lead to widespread confusion, and reviews are inefficient if teams must sift through everything to glean data they can use. Even as details are added to near-stage tasks, it’s important to develop contingency plans in the event that market conditions, economic factors, or other changes require you to make adjustments. When teams have the information they need without being bogged down by extraneous details, they’re more nimble and responsive.

Having the full details for each activity ready to go is useful when it comes time to execute the task, but teams often waste time adding too much information for tasks that are still far in the future. Information that’s accurate today could change in the weeks or months ahead, and your stakeholders need to prioritize adding details for activities that are on the near-term time horizon so their efforts aren’t delayed waiting for necessary data. To avoid the trap of not having the data you need as tasks approach, consider adding placeholders for critically important details that are still outstanding. That will help provide your team with advance notice so they can track down anything that’s missing long before it becomes a bottleneck.

Too many details—or more specifically, the wrong details—stored within your project documentation can occasionally become a security or data privacy risk if you aren’t careful. When it comes to potentially sensitive information, project teams need to understand and adhere to the organization’s data retention program. It’s also important that everyone knows which information doesn’t belong in the project record so they can avoid including those details in the first place. It may be prudent to omit some details related to the organization’s intellectual property or trade secrets, for example, if there’s a chance that some portion of the project’s documentation may be released later through public disclosure requests. 

PMAlliance, Inc uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consultingproject management training and project portfolio management.

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