Assembling the Project Plan

Discover dynamic project planning, real-time data, key fields, buffering, and optimization.

The evolving nature of a project plan

The project plan is a living document that goes through multiple phases during the life of the project. In the beginning, it is strictly a plan—it marks the planned path to get from these early stages to the end. However, as the project begins, it will start capturing real-time data called actuals: actual start date, actual completion date, as well as actual resourcing. For now, we’ll focus on the early version of the project plan because this form of the plan is what leads to later versions.

There are a few key pieces of data that we need to gather for any project. Aside from the standards (task description, duration, and predecessors), we’ll want to capture the requirements that it satisfies. Though we showed this as a separate chart—and it can be a separate exercise—having a central sheet to see all of the important data is very useful and reduces the churn of cross-referencing, which can lead to mistakes.

Depending on the company and how it handles resourcing, capturing the swarming capability of a given task can be very beneficial. Swarming is the act of having multiple people work on the same task at the same time. This could be overlapping subtasks, such as quality assurance and actual implementation, or it could be splitting the development up among multiple developers. The swarming count is the maximum number of 'cooks in the kitchen' that the task can handle but doesn’t represent the actual number of people we might assign if everything is going okay. Having this swarming count ahead of improves a TPM's ability to quickly react to changes and speed up a task that is in danger of missing a milestone or that impacts other work's ability to start on time.

Utilizing key fields in project planning

Last but not least, start date and end date round out the rest of our basic plan. Your situation may compel you to add more than this, but these are a good starting point for every project. In fact, you may find that using a template for the fields you typically use is helpful for ensuring you don’t forget any crucial aspects of the plan!

The table below shows the requirements and tasks we’ve covered in this chapter as a project plan, complete with all of the fields we've discussed:

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