Planning the Project – PMP Certification

Planning the project is one of the five performance domains of the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. It’s the second stage after initiating the project and counts for a full 24 per cent of the final assessment. Its purpose is to demonstrate that the candidate can effectively formulate and maintain a detailed scheme for actualizing project goals.

Combination Document

The project plan is a combination document, composed of a range of smaller subsidiary plans. These subsidiary plans are chiefly derived from one of the nine knowledge areas of the PMP certificate. Additionally, a project plan may contain material beyond these knowledge areas. This can include supplemental detail derived from research. When a project involves technical information, relevant technical documents such as data sheets may also be included. In projects that require highly complex technical work, an entire technical subsidiary plan may be necessary for completeness.

Subsidiary Plans

Among the subsidiary plans that you will need to create are:

– The scope management plan, outlining the boundaries of the project.

– The time schedule management plan, elucidating the schedule and what measures will be taken to ensure that the project stays on track.

– A cost management plan that will break down the costs associated with the project and determine an acceptable budget.

– A quality management plan which will detail the metrics by which quality will be measured and outline the measures used for quality control.

– A human resource management plan, with an analysis of the skills required to complete the project and the number of staff who will need to be involved.

– A communications management plan which will detail the information flows required to enact the various elements of the project effectively; and to ensure that the relevant individuals and organizations are kept up to date with the project’s progress and any changes.

– A risk management plan breaking down the possible hazards associated with the project and how they will be minimized.

– A procurement management plan detailing what materials and equipment will be necessary for the project and how it will be acquired.

Note that the list does not include a subsidiary plan for the project integration knowledge area. Project integration management is the overall process by which all the various project plans are combined into the overarching project.

Updating Project Plans

It’s important to bear in mind that project requirements will always change and evolve over time. For this reason, the project plan must be a living document, flexible and amenable to change when necessary. It must be updated continually throughout the whole of the project’s lifetime.

The concept of the integrated plan is built into the formal project management process. It is impossible to overlook or ignore; feedback loops are built into the process that continually generate updates, meaning that you can’t follow it without continuously updating the project plan. Like the main plan, the subsidiary plans must also be updated continuously in an iterated process that incorporates new data and events. As the project advances, you are guaranteed to enter previously unexplored realms; new factors are likely to emerge which will require that you update your planning documents.

Anticipating Change

Circumstances can change dramatically between the inception of a project and its completion. This needs to be borne in mind when the project plan is developed. A successful project plan is one which factors in the possibility of minor or major changes in the relevant facts and conditions surrounding the project.

Obviously, it’s best to plan proactively and set up failsafes to address changes before they occur. In the real world, not every eventuality can be anticipated, however. By creating mechanisms by which your project plan can adapt to changes in circumstances, you make it far more robust, less likely to exceed budgets or deadlines and more likely to succeed. Such mechanisms are collectively known as a change control system.

Change Control

A change control system lays out the procedures for making any changes to the official project plan documents. These formal, documented procedures must be followed whenever a change is made. A change control system will incorporate elements such as the necessary approval levels required before a member of the team can make changes, what paperwork is required and what tracking systems will be put in place.

If your organization already has such change control systems in place, you should use these. This will save a significant amount of extra work as you won’t need to re-invent the wheel; you’ll also have the benefit of a tried-and-tested system that’s in line with organizational policy and culture. You may wish to add additional steps to the system if these will make it more effective and relevant for your project.

If no change control systems currently exist, your project team will need to create one. this should be done early in the project; you should have the system in place before any changes need to be made to the documentation.

Elements of a Change Control System

When devising a change control system you need to consider the following:

– What reviews proposed changes will be subject to.

– What approval levels will be required to make changes.

– What the team will do when the change is very small or simple, obviating the need for a formal review.

– In emergencies, what action should be taken.

In addition to the above, your project team should also put together procedures for document versioning and configuration management. This will avoid confusion amongst stakeholders in the project as to which set of documentation is the most recent.

Obtaining Approval

Before the project begins in earnest, it is a wise precaution to make sure you have obtained written approvals from your customers. This will give your team a solid place to work from in the event of disagreements over costs or specifications. Make sure that you continue to seek written approval whenever new expenditures are made necessary by changes to the project. The scope documents are also very valuable here as they outline precisely what the customer specified at the outset of the project. Document all such approvals, as well as maintaining records of the project team’s accomplishments and expenditures.

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