Entrepreneurship is big in 2020 and for good reason: more and more people are freeing themselves from the 9 to 5 grind and starting their own businesses. But it takes some seriously good self-management and organization to bring together your own projects and execute them successfully. In this post we take a look at the most important project planning steps and which simple project planning tools you’ll need to get your entire team moving in the right direction.
What are the Most Important Project Planning Steps?
1. Create and Analyze a Business Case For Your Project
You have a project in mind? Great. But what’s it all about? The very first of your project planning steps should be to write out a comprehensive business case detailing exactly why and how your project is going to add to the success of your business. Analyze it. Get some people you trust to analyze it. If your project still seems like a good idea, proceed to step 2!
2. Meet With Your Stakeholders
This project won’t be happening in a vacuum where no other human being exists. You’re going to have stakeholders and you should involve those stakeholders as soon as possible to gauge their thoughts on your project plan. Whether your stakeholders are partners, distributors, or even your potential customer base, getting feedback early on in your project planning steps is vital.
3. Define Your Project’s Scope
Once you have met with key people in your team and beyond, it’s time to lay down some parameters for your project. Think about what the project will and won’t attempt to accomplish and make both of those things very clear in your project plan. We all like to aim for the stars, but projects with realistic (and clearly spelled out) expectations will go on to get better results than those with lofty goals and vague parameters.
4. Set Your Objectives
If you’ve landed on the scope of your project, it’s time to lay out some clear objectives that you’ll be aiming for throughout its lifespan. Your objectives not only need to be clearly defined, but also achievable! An objective that states ‘capture the European market’ is all well and good, but try smaller, more manageable objectives first, and adjust to loftier goals as you start to see success.
5. Determine Deliverables
Objectives are goals - deliverables are actions that will help you achieve those goals. This is one of the most important project planning steps, so do not skip it! Deciding on your deliverables should involve a lot of careful planning and sense checking with your stakeholders. After all, you can note that Mary will have stock delivered to the depot within one week - but if Mary’s truck has gone in for a service, your plans will be scuppered. Deliverable planning done well can really set your project up for success.
6. Plan a Project Schedule and Milestones
Scheduling will keep your entire project plan on track. Scheduling is the difference between “that will get done” to “that was done last week.”
Planning out your project schedule and including important details such as milestones, goals and deliverables is how you’ll begin to take your plan from paper to action.
7. Assign Tasks
Don’t be the kind of entrepreneur who tries to do it all themselves. Unless your business really is very small and you simply don’t have the capital to hire help, then you need to learn how to delegate - and early on.
Using your project plan to assign tasks is the best way of making good use of your team from the start. You’ll also have a very clear understanding of who is doing what, and will be able to keep watch over deadlines and performance.
8. Carry Out a Risk Assessment
The last, but by no means the least of the project planning steps, is risk assessment. Step back and take a look at your project plan, asking yourself: “Where could things go wrong?”
Check your objectives, your deliverables, and the scope of your project and try and find fault with it. What if your suppliers don’t deliver on time? How will that affect the project as a whole? What is your marketing and communications plan and could your promotional ideas backfire on you? Risk is everywhere in business - so plan for it!
What Project Planning Tools do I Need?
If you’re aiming to become a successful entrepreneur, the first thing you need to know is this: You won’t get anywhere without a serious dose of organization. So what project planning tools do other successful businesspeople use to ensure their projects take off and fly?
The first, and perhaps most important of the project planning tools is a scheduling system that really works for you. Whether you choose Project Manager, Toggl, or even your own digital planner, getting the right scheduling tool for you will help you plan and delegate with tasks, templates, workflows, and calendars
Collaboration tools are one of the hottest trends in project planning right now, and for good reason. Sites like Trello and Asana are excellent ways of assigning tasks, adding notes to deliverables, editing, and approving work.
Do you have a good editing and document sharing system going within your team? Are you in control of your document versions? Whether you use DropBox, GoogleDocs or another document sharing tool - getting your documentation ducks in a row is important.
There are plenty of evaluation tools once your project has launched or wrapped up - and evaluation is one of the most important things you can do. From customer surveys to data analysis and focus groups, project evaluation tools can be both physical and digital in nature.
Can a Personal Planner be a Project Planning Tool?
There are a whole bunch of steps to the project planning process, and a whole bunch of project planning tools vying for your attention along the way. If you’re not a fan of having screeds of digital platforms to get accustomed to, or if you’re just a fan of keeping things simple, then getting things done and dusted in your own personal planner is a totally legitimate way of going about your project planning. If you need a new planner in your life - try this one.Happy project planning!