Manage Your Projects … Not Just Your Schedule (Part 1)


Have you ever been in a project where the definition of a project plan is nothing more than a project schedule generated by tools like Microsoft Project? Indeed a project schedule is quite important, however, it’s not enough to successfully manage a project.
Have you ever been in a project where the definition of a project plan is nothing more than a project schedule generated by tools like Microsoft Project? Indeed a project schedule is quite important, however, it’s not enough to successfully manage a project.

If a project is being measured only through a schedule, it is evident that sound project management practices are lacking. I would like to share a proven process in managing projects. It involves four key phases:

1. Project Definition
2. Project Planning
3. Project Execution
4. Project Closing

In this first post of a four part series, I would like to focus on Project Definition. Project definition kicks off the project. During this phase, project managers have to clarify why the project is being undertaken, what’s the justification, when it needs to be completed, where it will be deployed and who it is intended for.

In addition, at this early stage of the game, the project manager must identify the key players (aka stakeholders), their role and what expectations they have for the project. Personally, I always create what’s called a stakeholders list. It is a simple spreadsheet that identifies the name, role and expectation of a specific stakeholder. By having this, I can serve as a reference should there be any competing expectations and also should there be change that takes place anytime during the project.

Also, it is in this phase that the project manager clearly identifies customer needs and what the priorities are: Is it schedule? Budget? Or scope? If you take the marching orders from the customer without ranking what the priorities are, then you are being a project passenger and not a project manager.

More to this, project deliverables should be identified during this phase. Typically, project deliverables are tangible events or documents. Example of project deliverables can be:
• Requirements document completed
• Vendor contracts approved
• Prototype tested
• Budget approved

Lastly, once the project is clearly defined, a project charter should be generated and signed by relevant stakeholders. A project charter is a formal document that may include:

1. Statement of Work
2. Business Case
3. Financial Case
4. Project Objectives
5. Stakeholders list

A signed project charter is the output of the project definition phase and authorizes the detailed planning of the project to commence.

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