You should not start the execution of your project without
first having a Project Definition and workplan in
place. The Project Definition tells you what your project is going to achieve.
Your workplan tells you how you are going to do it.
Your workplan lays out the step-by-step set of
activities that are required to complete the project. There are a number of
ways to create the workplan.
Do it in your head
Some people don’t like it, but it’s possible to manage small
projects in your head. This is especially the case if you are the only resource
working on the project. Many small enhancement projects are like this. If there
are only a dozen activities (or less) it’s fine to keep track of them in your
head. That being said, don’t be lazy. Most projects
are too large to manage in your head. This technique should only be used if the
project is very small and only has one or two resources.
Reuse a prior workplan
The best way to build a workplan
is to reuse one that was created previously for a similar project. If a similar
project was completed in the past, start by using that workplan
as your base and modify it accordingly. This will save all of the effort
associated with ‘discovering’ how the work should be laid out. This is
especially valuable if the previous project manager kept the workplan up-to-date and accurate throughout the project.
Use a workplan template
Projects that have similar characteristics generally have
similar workplans. Therefore, you can build general workplan templates for these types of projects. For
instance, you can build pre-built templates for implementing packaged software,
a research (R&D) project, a workstation upgrade, an iterative software
development project, etc. Once these workplan
templates are built, you can see if the approach you are using for your project
matches one of the templates. If so, you would use the template as a starting
point. One thing to look out for is that your pre-built templates tend to be
large and complicated because you want them to be applicable for all projects
with these characteristics. Therefore, the project manager must evaluate the
activities in the template and determine which ones are applicable to this
specific project. Those activities that are applicable should remain in the workplan. Those that are not needed should be removed.
Create a workplan from scratch
If your project is too large to manage in your head (most
are), and if you don’t have any prior workplans or workplan templates, you can always build a workplan the old-fashioned way – from scratch. You do this
by creating a Work
Breakdown Structure (WBS) to uncover all the work, estimating the effort of
each activity, sequencing the activities into a network diagram, adding
resources, leveling everything out and voila! — you have
Creating a workplan from scratch
is obviously the most time-consuming. The much better approach is to save good workplans from prior projects and to create workplan templates. These items will save countless hours
of having project managers build workplans from
scratch that end up being very similar to countless other workplans