When multiple sub-teams and cross-functional groups are working on the same project, there is a risk of disparate project plans popping up. These are typically fractured and incomplete, and they create all sorts of trouble for PMs and the organization’s leadership. One key to project success is avoiding this proliferation of different plans and schedules, particularly when executing large, complex, or high-visibility initiatives that are strategically important to the company.
The use of one integrated plan is a far better approach. It gives the entire team the ability to compile every activity and milestone under a single project management methodology, with one schedule to track milestones and to drive the beginning and completion of every task. Without a shared strategy guiding all stakeholder actions, projects become cumbersome and difficult to manage.
If the adoption of a master plan is a new concept for your team, you may wonder if the benefits are worth the effort to move away from your current approach. Think about where you’ve encountered problems in the past, and then consider what an integrated project plan can do for you.
An integrated master plan provides a single schedule for everyone to use. While very small projects may occasionally be handled entirely within the team, most efforts bring together a variety of stakeholders. Internal participants often include project management team members, end users, and supporting service groups (accounting, purchasing, HR, etc.). Outside collaborators may range from long-time vendors to niche consultants. Other external experts might also be involved, such as representatives from regulatory agencies or permitting officials from local municipalities. Difficulties occur when these various groups each have their own version of the project’s timeline. A single master plan eliminates improperly scheduled activities, inefficient resource allocation, and ensures sub-teams are all working toward the same completion dates.
The use of one integrated plan also enables careful monitoring of the project’s progress. A few delays here and there seem like small concerns, but those isolated incidents often add up to missed deadlines and expensive rush fees when everything is said and done. If multiple plans are in use across the project’s stakeholder base, it’s easy for an isolated delay to go unnoticed, potentially leading to difficulties across the other sub-groups. In order to maintain alignment with the project’s target completion date, it’s crucial that PMs have a way to track progress of every activity within the timeline. If a delay occurs, they can resequence the task flow within the integrated plan—shifting work or compressing the schedule—so that one setback doesn’t fester and snowball into a larger problem.
Because strategic projects need to deliver measurable value to the company—usually within a strict timeframe—an integrated plan gives executives one place to view status and issues. The leadership team, which often sponsor projects that cross departmental and divisional lines, may have outstanding commitments to customers that hinge on your project reaching its goals. It’s also common for investors or business partners to release funding upon the completion of specific milestones within a project. These are data points that executives need to constantly track, but doing that is nearly impossible if vendors or functional groups are each working with their own version of the project plan, with conflicting work completion dates and schedules for remaining activities. The use of a single integrated plan, however, provides the senior management team with a way to quickly identify if the project is on track, and if their existing commitments or pending business decisions will be impacted by delays or other concerns, such as unplanned resource consumption, insufficient staffing levels, or other issues.