Guideline Eight | Plan

8. Select a format for the project plan that is simple, easy to modify and allows sufficient monitoring of project progress.

The importance of early and ongoing planning throughout the life of a project cannot be overstated. Effective project planning occurs from the outset of the project and continues throughout the project until final completion. Plans and planning may come in both written and verbal forms, they provide links to the project logic, and are an important aid to identifying and reducing risk.

Project genesis tends to be complex. It is often driven by ‘big forces’ operating at the macro-level in an institution – such as creative enthusiasm at executive level, political necessity or declared strategic priorities. Sometimes analysis of key aspects of implementation is overlooked in the project submission document, but such oversights become clear in the detailed planning process.  For example, little thought may have been given to developing the skills needed by those charged with delivering project outcomes, or to the potential impact of project activities on other operations, or even to the potential implications of project success.

Since planning can be a complex process it often helps to involve the project team and other key stakeholders. This improves the potential accuracy of the plan and supports buy-in and collaborative effort. Identifying who is to be involved, where and how, ensures that those most capable in particular areas contribute according to their respective expertise. It also helps to distribute workload and effort.
A range of planning tools is available, from technical project planning software to simple spreadsheets. As well as software applications, a variety of pro-forma are also available on the internet (see for example the JISC link). The key task is to ensure that you are comfortable and fluent with the tool that you select and that plans can be easily adapted and integrated in the case of emergent developments during the life of the project.

Interlinked planning ought to occur in all the major domains of the project, for example in relation to: Implementation

  • Work Breakdown: a representation of the work involved in completing the project
  • Project Plan: tasks in a timetable detailed to an appropriate level Communication
  • Stakeholder Analysis: a core activity that informs critical interactions
  • Communication Plan: communication activities clearly linked to the Project Plan Outcomes
  • Dissemination Plan: how the outcomes of the project will be disseminated during and at the conclusion of the project