Whatever planning techniques are used they will all need to answer some fundamental questions.
This is the main aim of the project and will be governed by what the customer requires as the final product. It will be ratified within the Terms and Conditions approved by the Project Board and will be translated into objectives and plan stages containing the relevant tasks needed to progress towards the final product.
The project management team will know what is required in terms of the definition (specification) of the final product and will then need to ascertain exactly what strategy will get the project there.
Many strategies may exist but only one should be followed.
Who will be the key personnel involved in the project? These must be identified and the levels of authority and responsibility clarified and agreed. The description of roles should be recorded.
Under PRINCE2® [see ‘The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2’] the organisation or programme management will appoint an Executive who will lead the way with appointments. This is described more in process 'Starting up a Project (SU)' and the sub-process 'Appointing an Executive and Project Manager (SU1)'.
All projects have to address the time factor. The final product must be produced within a specific time frame.
Preliminary costs must be assessed. This will require the best estimations of task durations and associated resource costs. An initial budget must be approved as part of the project approval.
On the one hand this will refer to the final product. That is, the assessment of the characteristics and the specification of the final product derived from discussions with the customer. These quality criteria must be obtained and recorded.
In addition, you must decide to what level of accuracy you will need to generate the relevant data. Usually, higher accuracy means more time and costs. This may not be appropriate at an early stage.
The first stage plan should be as accurate as you can make it but later stages will be less certain and more subject to risk to warrant a high degree of accuracy and effort. This is where the system of horizon planning comes in.
Most, if not all, of these questions will be answered when putting together the Project Notebook (and in turn the Terms of Reference document).
Make sure that you talk to the customer to ascertain the exact details of the expected performance of the product. The level of performance is critical. It will impact upon raw materials, tolerances and effort. For example, there is no point in using high grade stainless steel if less robust material will do. Don’t produce something that, although meets customer needs, has vastly superior performance than expected. This is likely to mean extra costs that may not be justified for the project.
PRINCE2® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.