Project planning is an essential project management tool.
It serves the following purposes:
- to define tasks to be completed,
- to set timeline objectives,
- to coordinate actions,
- to manage resources,
- to reduce risks,
- to monitor actions in progress,
- to keep track of the project’s progress status.
Project planning is a decision-making tool for the project manager, as well as a tool facilitating communication between the different participants in a project.
Project monitoring needs to allow real status to be compared with planned objectives.
The success of good project monitoring depends on the project manager having reliable information on:
- the resources consumed, the deadline extensions and, therefore, the estimated costs incurred,
- an estimate of the remaining work to be done and any additional work to be factored in,
- the difficulties encountered.
B. Principles of preparation
Project planning is initialised at the start of a project and updated throughout its life cycle. There may be multiple schedules for a single project: a general schedule and one or more detailed schedules. Together, these schedules allow the main project tasks and milestones to be managed.
Creating a schedule requires the use of planning techniques:
- the tasks need to be identified,
- the tasks need to be quantified in terms of allocated time, costs or resources,
- the logic behind all of the tasks needs to be analysed.
These elements are the result of the project analysis, which takes place prior to the planning phase.
To implement this tool effectively, the following steps need to be carried out:
1 - Determine and organise the list of tasks to be carried out to successfully complete the project
Techniques such as brainstorming or working groups can be used to identify the tasks. The list produced must then be organised: the tasks are broken down into groups and prioritised through a system of work packages.
2 - Estimate the durations and resources
Next, a table needs to be filled in, specifying the duration and allocated resources for each task.
The unit of time chosen to express the duration depends on the type of project. The resources can be human or material.
It is important to keep in mind that a project schedule begins on the known or estimated project start date. Based on the estimated duration of the tasks, the total duration of the project can be calculated; this also gives an estimated project completion date, which may be significantly different from the desired completion date. In this case, the planning manager will need to re-estimate the project parameters in order to set a project completion date that is more in line with the imperatives.
3 - Set up the logical network
The logical network needs to take the task priority assumptions into account. This network often takes the form of tasks interconnected by logical connections. It is essential that each task's chronological position be identified, i.e., what it follows, and what it precedes. Thus, once the network has been outlined, the project chronology becomes apparent.
A Gantt chart is a tool used to diagram a project’s schedule and a simple means of monitoring its progress.
The chart presents the schedule in the form of a list of tasks in a column, with the defined time scale as an axis. It provides a simple view of the project phasing over time and aids in anticipating activities to be carried out well in advance. It also facilitates the management of resource conflicts and potential delays by providing a clear view of how they impact the project phasing.
The Gantt chart is also an effective communication tool for use with the various project participants.
Schedules can be produced using different tools: e.g. Excel and especially more specialised tools such as MS Project, GantProject, etc.
C. Typical content of a project schedule
The typical content expected from the project schedule monitoring activity consists of a deadline progress report, as per document RNC-ECCS-M-60 entitled “Cost and schedule management»
Annex P of this standard specifies that the aim of the deadline progress report is to provide the customer with a clear understanding of the schedule status, progress, and trends.
The deadline progress report shall provide the following information:
- reference schedule and related key points;
- schedule of current work;
- milestone trend analysis for the key points;
- clarification and justification of any deviation from the reference schedule;
- proposition of corrective actions;
- evaluation of the validity of the sequences, relations and constraints defined for the scheduled activities;
- status of deliverables.