“IT Project Planning Steps” on Smartsheet, March 8, 2022
Step 3: Create a Project Charter that Includes Objectives
Creating a project charter before starting work on a project is essential. The charter provides details on scope, resources, and timelines. Possibly most important, it sets out the project’s primary objectives. Make sure you and your team are certain that those assumed objectives are the right objectives.
“One of the most critical aspects of planning an IT project is clearly understanding the objectives of the project,” says Alan Zucker, Founding Principal of Project Management Essentials, who has more than two decades of experience managing projects in Fortune 100 companies. “Objectives are the ‘what do we want’ and ‘why do we want it.’ Scope is the ‘how are we going to deliver it.’ Understanding objectives is important because there may be multiple solutions to solving the problem and we want to understand the problem before deciding how to solve it.
“Start with the why.’ Start with the objective. Ask questions. What will meeting that objective allow us to do? What do we hope to achieve?”
Step 4: Establish Proof of Principle
An important part of understanding and setting objectives is to fully understand the product your IT project is set to develop. You must be certain the product is technically possible and worthwhile.
“Make sure there is clarity around what you want to deliver,” says Zucker. “A proof of principle — that’s going to be invaluable.”
Step 6: Establish Project Scope
Once you set your objective and the tentative budget, it’s time to establish the exact scope of the project. You will set the parameters of what the project will produce or complete and what it won’t do.
“Once we have an understanding of what is wanted and why, we can begin to ask questions about scope,” shares Zucker. “We can start looking at high-level project scope. What’s in scope? And, often as important, what is out of scope?”
Step 7: Create a Project Management Plan
Once you determine the objectives, budget, and scope, you can complete a project management plan. This plan provides an overall structure for how to accomplish the work.
“The project management plan should be customized or tailored to the specific project,” says Zucker. “It is the project manager’s guide for executing the project.”
tep 9: Decide on the Best Methodology for Your Project
Early in the planning process, you’ll want to decide which project management methodology to use. That likely will be Agile or a modified version of it. Some IT projects still use more traditional methods.
Zucker advises asking “what kind of project are we executing and what type of methodology is going to fit well with this project.” For many IT projects, that means Agile or some version of it, which allows for the continual changes and adaptations that are part of an IT project.
Zucker adds that “the decision on whether this project is going to be Agile or traditional may be made for you” because many organizations have a preference for the methodology they use to manage projects.
Tips for IT Project Planning
Experts recommend forming and maintaining project teams. You should also determine planning documents that are necessary and those that aren’t, as well as how to show work and progress.
Here are some top expert tips for IT project planning:
- Maintain Ongoing Project Teams: Some organizations may create a custom team for each specific project. But Zucker says there are advantages to maintaining ongoing teams of mostly the same members — called persistent teams — working on project after project. Team members get to know each other and what everyone does best, making project work move more efficiently.
“Persistent teams can be used in either environment: Agile or traditional,” Zucker says.
- Ensure Your Goal Is the Right Goal: Too often, company or project leaders announce a goal for a project and immediately begin planning to achieve it. But they don’t always analyze whether that goal is the right goal or if accomplishing it will achieve what they want for the organization.
“I’ve seen that whole thing played out a lot of times,” Zucker shares. “They spend 15 seconds on what I want to achieve, then immediately drill down into details on how to implement the thing. Let’s make sure that’s what we want to do.”