Planning and managing a project involves many elements that cannot be all included in one article. However, they can be grouped into three major categories: Product, People, and Process.
This includes the objectives, benefits, outcomes, and deliverables of the project. It’s about answering the following key questions:
- Why are we doing this project? What is the problem we are trying to solve? Are we doing this to save cost, grow revenue, improve customer satisfaction, or meet regulatory requirements, etc.? What are the business benefits to be realized as an outcome of the project? How will we know that these benefits are realized? How can they be measured and tracked?
- What should the final product look like by the end of the project? What are the business and technical requirements and needs? What functionality do the users of this product need? What does the environment within which this product will live look like?
- Besides the product, what other deliverables are needed as an outcome of the project, including research and prototype findings, requirements analysis & design documentation, business process maps, operational guides, training material, user manuals, project status reports, and plans, etc.?
This is about understanding the stakeholder landscape, i.e., who will potentially impact or be impacted by this project. This includes understanding all stakeholders, their personas, culture, backgrounds, previous experiences with similar projects and expectations. The following are key questions to ask:
- Who are the beneficiaries of this project, including business sponsors and end-users? What are their personas? What is their vision for the end product? What are their expectations? What new experience are they seeking? What do they care about? What gets them excited or turns them off? How will they interact with the product? What common patterns and characteristics do they share?
- Who will build the product and make this possible? What types of human resources, skill sets, and experience are needed? Where will the resources come from (internal, external, delivery partners, etc.)? In what capacity will they be allocated to the project? How soon are they available? Where are they located? What are their personas? What gets them excited or turns them off? How do they like to work together and be the most productive?
- Who will manage or operate the product once the project is over? How will they be managing the product? What is important to them once they take over the product? What are their concerns about current operations or previous projects?
This addresses how we plan to achieve the project’s outcome and deliver the final product, including answering the following questions:
- What is the delivery strategy best suited for this project and environment (internal organization, external stakeholders)? Are key stakeholders risk-averse or open to new approaches and technologies? Are they open to Agile practices where details are elaborated during the project or are they more comfortable with a plan-driven approach where detail is defined up-front? Is a hybrid model suitable for this project and environment?
- What is the project governance model? How are key executives and business sponsors engaged and supportive of the project? How will decisions be made? Who is responsible or accountable for what? What is the escalation path?
- What regular project reporting, meetings, and communications are needed? Who will do it? How (meetings, collaboration tools, email, etc.)? Who is the target audience? How can we make this most effective and efficient?
- How will we identify, manage, and address project issues and risks? What tools will be used to track this? How can we make sure that risks and issues are actually addressed and closed before it’s too late? How will we manage change effectively and ensure the project stays within the approved timeline and budget?
- How will we go about analyzing and understanding the user requirements, designing the solution, building it, ensuring that it meets the desired outcome and expected quality standards? What tools and technologies will we be using? What will the project team look like? How will they collaborate with each other and other stakeholders on a day-to-day basis? How can we make the project team most effective and efficient?
- How do we plan to roll out the product to the end-users and operations teams? What is our plan for organizational readiness, people change management, user adoption, and training? Who is in charge of this? How can we make sure it is an integral part of the project throughout delivery and not only at the very end?
These are some questions for Project managers and Project sponsors to consider as they embark on a new project. I hope you find this useful, and please share your experiences and thoughts about other key questions I may have missed.
Salah Bugazia, PMP, MBA, is based in Washington, DC, and London, England. He has over 20 years of background in business and information technology, large project delivery and program management, as well as strong business acumen and hands-on technical expertise. Salah has significant global experience with planning business strategies, managing complex large-scale programs and delivering high-quality results through strong leadership, team and stakeholder collaboration, and effective communication across all organizational levels. Salah writes about business change management and leadership.