There are many articles on the worldwide web that claim to be the guide on how to plan your project. A simple and quick search on a term such as ‘project planning’ and a large number of hits will slap you in your face. A lot of those articles are similar to each other or just plain copies. The question I asked myself a while back, after participated in a bunch of projects myself, is: “If so much can be found on this subject (best practices, case studies) , why is it that it’s still so hard to make a decent project plan?”

A key stage in project management
Planning your project is all about getting the job done by planning each stage of a project
before it happens, from your first ideas through to completion. This sounds simple and clear but most of the times it’s complex and blurry. In my opinion ‘planning your project’ is one of the key stages in project management next to picking your resources/team.

Save yourself time, money and the trouble
Project planning is easily ignored because people want to get on with the work and getting it done. But starting with a decent plan can actually save you a bunch of time, money and the trouble. I’d like to think that all of you who are reading this, are aware of these. Sadly, a lot of people still do not. I’m also not perfect (who is?) and even I am most of the time unaware of this and love to get on with the work by just doing it.

Commitment, commitment and commitment
The last year gave me a different insight on a project plan while I was a project coordinator for a period of one year of an IT implementation project. Let me start by saying that a project plan only works if every team member commits himself to it. The most valuable aspect of decent project plans within your company is that it will give you a clear insight in resource management. Especially within big organizations this can be of high value.

Get yourself a real planning tool
But how can I have insight in resource management if everybody plans within MS Excel? Well, you can’t. Get rid of MS Excel when it comes to creating your plan and get yourself a real planning tool. MS Excel is a great tool as well but it’s hard to collaborate and share. There are tools on the market that can give you a clear view of what your resources are working on and when they are allocated. Remember that a tool is just a tool and is only there to help you reach the goals and meet the deadlines.

Some last words…
Planning your project is not simple, as I mentioned before, but everyone can do it. Setting up a decent plan does not have to be rocket science especially when you take time to set it up before you start on your project. I’d like to think of myself as a well organized person but in fact I am far from it. Most of the times my wardrobe at home is a mess, maybe because I have too much clothes, but it isn’t well organized as well. Have said this people still wanted me to do project coordination on my last project. Not because they think I am well organized but because of the fact I believe in it and see the importance of a decent project planning. O, there is just one thing that needs to be said: remember to update your plan as the project progresses, and measure progress against the plan.