In PRINCE2, all plans documents and not just a simple schedule. This article will describe the steps and content of a typical PRINCE2 plan. PRINCE2 uses a common ‘template’ for each level of plan – project, stage, and work package. The structure of all these plans are the same, but the level of detail is not.
The first step, usually carried out once per project, is to design the plan, and here, decisions must be made on how the plan can best be presented, how it will be used, its presentation and layout. It should also include use of planning tools and estimating methods, the levels of plan required and monitoring and control methods to be used. When creating the project plan, be aware that the next step is to create the detailed business case. The reason this comes AFTER the plan, is that the costs and timescale information will be a direct input into refining the business case.
The second step is to carry out product-based planning which I have described in another article, and will therefore not repeat here. But I will remind you that this consists of four steps: create the project product description, create the product breakdown structure, create lower-level product descriptions, and finally, create the product flow diagram.
The next step in creating the plan document is to identify activities and dependencies. I recommend that you use each named product as a starting point to create a list of the activities or tasks that need to take place in order to create that product. Remember to include activities such as quality checking, and approval tasks. These activities should also include management activities and communication aspects.
Dependencies are those linkages between activities, and need to be determined next. For example activity A must be finished before activity B can be started. Dependencies may be internal to the project or external.
The next step is to prepare estimates, and PRINCE2 does not go into great detail as to how estimating should occur, but does suggest several techniques. For each activity an estimate is needed for its duration, work effort, cost and resource requirements.
The next step is to prepare the schedule. A schedule is a list of activities referenced against a timescale, usually by determining start and finish dates for each activity.
There are many different approaches to scheduling, but most rely on industry standard project management techniques. First, the activities should be sequenced in a realistic order in which they will be performed.
Diagramming techniques such as Network Diagrams and Gantt Charts are often used here, including the use of Critical Path Analysis in which the critical path is calculated and the float or slack ( spare time), for each non-critical task.
You will want to assess the number of people you need to carry out the work of each activity next, and this will include discussions on who is available, when, and how much time they have available. Each individual resource will need to be assigned to any particular activity. Remember, that resources may be human or nonhuman such as tools, equipment, facilities, goods and services.
It is normal at this point to discover that some resources will be over-utilised, or that certain time points have too many resources working at once. Both of these are a problem and need to be resolved by techniques such as levelling or smoothing.
Once this has happened it is important to agree control points for example end stage assessments and approvals of products. Also to be included, are milestones which are zero-time activities on the schedule marking an important achievement. These are helpful to the project manager to determine the progress of the plan.
The planned budget can now be calculated. As part of the planning activity, risks both positive and negative need to be identified and suitable responses planned. These responses in terms of their activities and resources will also need to be built into the plan.
The final step is to document the plan, any constraints on it, external dependencies, assumptions made, any monitoring and control required, and the risks identified along with their required responses.
The plan document is now complete and ready for review and ultimately approval by the appropriate authority.
David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of project-related downloadable video training products under the Primer and PM Academy System brand names. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.
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