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  • 10 Keys to Pre-Project Planning



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    April 7th, 2014

    There are many project phases associated with the project management process.  The most common construct of the project management process includes 5 phases: initiation, planning, execution, monitor / control, and closing.  In general, anything prior to the Project Charter which begins the initiation phase is considered Pre-Project Planning.  The Project Charter is the document that identifies the formal start of a project.  Pre-Project Planning is any work done before the formal project start.  The more information a Project Manager can gather from the onset, the success increases.  Pre-Project Planning can be a formal or informal process depending on the organization, the culture, and its procedures.  Either way, it is a good practice to gather some key information before you begin a project.  This process can begin by answering these common Pre-Project Planning questions:

    1. What is the goal of the project?

    The goal of the project should conform to the organizational mission and vision, as well as personify the core values of the company.  To clarify the goals of a project, a project manager should be able answer questions such as: What is the desired end result for the project? What problem will the project solve? How will this project affect the way we do business? What needs does this project fill?

    1. Who are the known stakeholders?

    Identification of the stakeholders is critical to project success.  Some stakeholders can change scope, cost, and resource availability for a project.  If there are any known or assumed stakeholders, it is important to know as soon as possible.  A rigorous process of stakeholder identification and expectations needs to be completed prior to the Project Charter.

    1. What is the business case for this project?

    The business case is the explanation of why a project is valuable to the organization.  A business case is not always monetary in nature.  It can include other aspects of business such as: community involvement, environmental responsibility, or public relations.  A project with no business case or a weak business case creates too many unknowns to a project and significantly contributes to project failure.  In addition, the unknowns of a weak business case will create a substantial increase in time and cost in the discovery phase of the project.  Creating a strong business case avoids this potential issue.

    1. What are the alternatives to providing the deliverables?

    Almost every proposed project has alternatives.  For example, choosing a new application for a specific outcome generally has alternatives.  Weighing the specific deliverables and outcomes should provide the necessary information to select a proper project fit.  If a project manager does not know any specific alternatives, actively researching alternatives is the best course of action. The project manager and the project team need to discuss the potential alternatives. The best choice provides all of the necessary deliverables while providing the lowest project cost.

    1. What is the budget?

    Sometimes the project budget is generally known going into a project.  If not, it is critical to have a general idea of the cost and scope to estimate the budget for the Statement of Work. The project budget is considered a primary constraint for any project.  The budget affects the scope and approach because it constrains the available time and resources necessary to achieve the desired deliverables.

    1. What is the Scope?

    Defining the scope can be difficult at this stage of the process, but it is important to gain as much understanding as possible.  The scope of a project is often constrained by time and cost so a clearly defined scope is critical.  A clearly defined scope can control the time and costs risks.

    1. What is the project schedule?

    The project schedule can change many aspects of a project to include: the scope, cost, and available resources.  If the desired future state is not attainable within the available budget, the project manager may want to separate the project into phases.  Project phases are also a great way to provide deliverables and reach milestones prior to the future state objective.

    1. What are the known deliverables of the project?

    Understanding some potential deliverables provides a starting point for some of the critical variables of a project.  The project manager can ascertain the availability of human and material resources, and if they are not available, take the additional cost of outsourcing and procurements needs into account during the project discovery phase.  The deliverables must be agreed upon by the key stakeholders of the project.  Any changes to the deliverables must be agreed upon or the project will not have a positive outcome.

    1. What is the priority of the project?

    High priority projects, whether internal or external, have the ability to create risk in other projects due to the allocation of resources.  Proper coordination with functional leads, executives, and other project managers may solve this issue.  A project manager should maintain a vigilant awareness of high priority projects, taking a proactive approach and avoiding resource allocation issues.  

    1. What are the potential risks?

    Some projects create risk, and sometimes undue risk to the project, other projects, or the organization.  Create a list of risks associated with a project.  In addition, add a mitigation plan to each potential risk so that it does not escalate to an issue. As project managers, the awareness of potential risk will reduce project risk and increase the project value.

    Sometimes these questions are easily answered through the intellectual capital of the organization.  In some instances a project manager has handled enough of a certain type of project that they already have most of the answers.  If not, due diligence in Pre-Project Planning is a great place to start.  The answers to these 10 key factors of Pre-Project Planning provide the information needed for the Project Charter.  Once the Project Charter is completed and the project deliverables are successfully communicated to the key stakeholders, there should be a full sign off of the Project Charter.  A clear and concise Project Charter, that has a full sign off, affirms that the key stakeholders agree with the project details.

    Phil Spizzirri, D.M., MBA, PMP, is a Consulting Manager who is an expert in project management at MSS.  To find out more about how MSS can help your organization in project management, contact us at info@msstech.com.

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    Cite this blog post:
    MLA: Spizziri, Phil. “10 Keys to Pre-Project Planning.” MSS. MSS. Blog. 08 April 2015.
    APA: P Spizziri. (2014, Apr 7). 10 Keys to Pre-Project Planning.