There are three issues that our clients report when discussing project planning status:
- Managers repeat the same mistakes and reinvent the wheel with each project because they do not possess the dynamic templates to ensure consistency.
- Entire portfolios swing wildly off-budget, with no accurate baselines to measure success, because managers lack the ability to forecast against resources, roles, benefits, and budgets.
- Project managers lack governance because they have not defined the stage gates for project management lifecycle excellence, or even reached a level of repeatable competence.
Don’t worry. If these issues sound like yours, use our step-by-step guide to create better, more effective project planning processes and leverage the technology that empowers them.
Three Essential Processes to Amplify Project Planning Success
If you are limping along and struggling under the burden and challenges we mentioned above, try any or all of these solutions to gain significant planning improvements today.
1. Make use of templates to simplify and standardize processes.
In most organizations, the structure of enterprise projects is 70-80 percent the same, regardless of the specific objectives of an individual project. For example, a similar vetting process is typically required whether the project team is creating a mobile app or deploying new cloud software. With that in mind, robust project templates should:
- Have institutional knowledge embedded into them that reflects former budget, time, and resource needs and quickly identifies possible constraints
- Be required for all enterprise projects, to avoid one-off spreadsheet- or email-based planning processes that limit visibility
- Include web-based and mobile functionality
- Serve as another stage-gate to balance project needs prior to the forecasting process itself
- Enable collaborative and iterative functionality as planning decisions are made, with all of the appropriate stakeholders able to access and adjust
2. Prioritize forecasting for benchmarking and planning.
If you want to change your former “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” processes, here is a simple list to change your forecasting from awful to awesome:
- Ensure you have a solid resource and skills database to run scenarios. This database should be able to sliceand-dice for role; for average time and expense related to these roles; even for utilization and capacity by role.
- Find a way to measure benefits and strategic impact by forecasting appropriately for these attributes. For example, if your PMO wants to improve project delivery over time on specific types of projects, it is critical to analyze the benchmark data and identify trends you will need to address in the types of projects that fail. With this information you can predict and target these obstacles to create a positive impact on project delivery.
- Stay flexible. Your project planning can only remain a flexible process if you can manage it at any level within your project hierarchy. Rolling-up the forecast from the lowest level, while creating higher-level forecasts for executive oversight, will ensure you get the visibility you need to keep a tight rein over the budget.
- Ensure your forecasts provide a budget baseline; include a way to compare live forecasts and actuals in graphical and tabular format and by value and effort. In this digital economy, forecasting cannot be a one-and-done, static entity
3. Value governance in the PM lifecycle.
This will pay big dividends! Inconsistent governance means you’ve never defined the stage gates to enact proper approvals at the proper times. And if you’ve got regulatory and compliance requirements that must be managed during planning, you’ve got to nail down the processes and the people to address these crucial checkpoints. Governance that fully defines life-cycle thresholds and includes the necessary team involvement is within your reach. Here is how to make it happen:
- Calculate project-related values based on events or time-triggers that you run into often. These stage gates will go a long way in ensuring you’re not engaged in endless, costly firefighting and that you don’t finish a project without crucial regulatory elements or approvals in place.
- Formalize project governance by ensuring the business has a framework to measure project value against critical stage gates. Templates will help, as well as accurate forecasting, of course. As you know, it’s all connected.
- Build trend analysis for high-level progress and status views, anywhere across the project hierarchy, measuring both granular and big-picture elements. These ensure company and compliance mandates are met while planning—and not in an ad hoc fashion.
- Define your projects by deliverable, providing PMs and management with a graphical view of the status of a project at a ground-level or lifecycle level. Drawing straight lines for deliverable checkpoints ensures governance remains a builtin function within all of your moving parts.
Planning Perfection: Powerful Practices from Real Companies
Over the years, we’ve watched how templates, forecasting, and governance empower project management success in our client companies in several industries. One of our healthcare clients needed a way to forecast at any level in their project hierarchy, because their planning workload for different-sized teams required they maintain tight control on fluctuating resources. This meant higher level control as well as ensuring tasks for in-the-field consultants were captured in any timeframe, in weeks or months, using grid-style entry.
Using KeyedIn Enterprise, they were able to forecast for role-based resource plans and expense type, and build new templates (with most out-of-the-box KeyedIn templates requiring minimal modifications), while experiencing a new capability to leverage their exponential growth. Templating provided better checks and balances; forecasting improved informed decisionmaking and yielded an optimization of processes. Appropriate sign-off and regulatory governance are also included in “wizards,” nailing down critical elements of governance within a couple of clicks.
If your organization struggles with the project planning challenges – including effective and user-friendly templates; accurate and efficient forecasting; and visible, actionable governance processes – it’s time to see how KeyedIn Enterprise can improve your project planning.
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