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Project Planning Tools for Project Managers

Author: Atif Qureshi

“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent return on energy!”- Brian Tracy

In today’s dynamic and fast-paced project management environments, project planning rarely gets the attention it deserves from project managers. The emergence of modern project management methodologies and approaches such as agile and extreme programming has reduced the time allocated for project planning to a bare minimum. Most project managers fail to realize that a solid project plan can save time and money and reduces the risk of project failure.

In this article, we will look at some of the tools and techniques you can use to prepare a project plan that covers all the bases.

1. Gantt chart A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart that illustrates project schedule. It shows how much time each activity will take, along with their start and end date. Modern Gantt charts can provide you a better picture as they also highlight the dependency between each task.

Project managers can schedule project activities, track progress and know the sequence and time duration using Gantt charts. Highlight critical points in the project and use software to manage Gantt charts efficiently. When preparing Gantt charts, always consider the time needed for reviews and approvals.

2. PERT chart PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. PERT presents a graphical representation of the project through a network diagram. Nodes represent milestones and events, while the vectors reflect project tasks. To depict the sequence of these tasks, arrows are used.

Some project managers prefer PERT charts over Gantt charts because of their ability to illustrate task dependencies more clearly. On the flip side, PERT charts are more difficult to interpret. The complexity can increase tremendously if you are applying it on a large, complex project.

3. Work breakdown structure (WBS) A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) defines the work breakdown structure as “a hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables.” When managing a big project, the first thing you need to do is to break down the tasks into smaller, manageable ones.

Creating a work breakdown structure decomposes the big projects into smaller components based on the deliverables. Work breakdown structures can also help project managers in estimating and controlling costs. Moreover, they also provide a framework for project managers for scheduling and controlling development.

4. RAID log RAID stands for Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies. Before starting any project, project managers should prepare a RAID log. It help project managers in tracking the current and future impact of external factors on the projects. By following a proactive approach, project managers can easily eliminate risks and issues—but they will have to judge the accuracy of their assessment and develop a better understanding about dependencies in order to achieve project success.

5. MoSCoW method MoSCoW stands for Must have, Should have, Could have and Won’t have. MoSCoW is a prioritization technique in multiple domains such as project management, software development and business analysis to develop a better understanding of stakeholder requirements. It helps you focus on the most important requirements and prioritize them to deliver to clients. There is still some ambiguity with respect to timing and ranking of tasks. It is widely used in agile project management and modern approaches.

6. SWOT analysis SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is a structured planning method for evaluating projects and businesses. As a project manager, you need to identify your strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities in order to complete projects successfully. SWOT analysis does exactly that. In order to succeed as a project manager, you should be familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of your team. More importantly, you should know the threats and risk factors that will come your way as the project progresses. Keep an eye on opportunities and maximize them to achieve better project results.

7. Task management tool We live in a world where technology is everywhere, so why not harness the power of technology to streamline your tasks and achieve project success? A task management tool can enhance your team’s productivity and optimize resource utilization. By using such tools, you can communicate and collaborate with your team members in a better way.

Moreover, these tools also help you in track the performance of every team member as well as the overall project’s progress. With so many benefits, every project manager must use task management tools to maximize their chances of project success. There are many task management tools available in the market, both paid and free. Choose software that has all the features you need and fulfills all your requirements.

Conclusion By following the above-mentioned techniques and using the aforementioned project planning tools, you can easily make an effective project plan that will help you in executing project tasks smoothly. Project managers should use a hybrid approach by using some of these techniques and project planning for the best results. Without an effective project plan at your disposal, you will have many issues along the way—and will never be able to complete projects before the deadline and inside the budget.

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