July 14, 2012 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Plan Development
How to Document a Project Plan: Who Are You Documenting For?
By Glen D. Ford
Have you ever led a project where management was convinced you were just there to create work? Where you were never given enough time to plan your project? Where you were expected to be working before you knew what you were working on?
Have you ever wondered who you were developing the project plan for and if there was any point?
At some time, every project manager runs into such a project. One of the reasons for that situation is a lack of clarity in the purpose and audience for project plans. In this article, I’m going to deal with the second part - who are you writing the project plan for.
Knowing who your audience is and why they are reading your work is a key factor in success as a writer. Just as much for a project manager as it is for a novel writer, or a self-help writer or an article writer. Meeting your audience’s needs is a key success factor. It converts a bunch of words into a moving article or an emotion grabbing report. It can mean the difference between your project plan being read or skimmed or even ignored.
There are two distinct major audiences for your project plan. The first is management. These are the people who are tasked with spending money wisely. Who are tasked with accomplishing the business of business. The second major audience is the project team. This is the group of people who will be accomplishing your project for you. In addition to these major audiences, there can be a number of variations including customers, end clients, and peers. But for our purposes we’re going to focus on the two major players.
Management includes the sponsor, the steering committee and others who might have an interest in the project. Management’s principal interest is in the probability that the project will complete and that it will be performed at the best possible cost. The definition of cost, of course, can vary from project to project. It can be expressed in terms of time, duration, money, or management involvement. As a result they are going to focus on four elements in your project:
- What are you doing
- When will it be ready
- How much will it cost
- What are the risks
- Why are you doing it
- Do you have control
Your project plan needs to focus on answering those questions in order to grab their interest. Anything else is, at best, of much lower priority. In fact, providing extraneous information can cause your managers to begin micromanaging the project. This leads to one of the standard problems between project managers and senior managers. I’m referring of course to the belief that the schedule is the whole of the project plan. And the resulting pressure to get on with it.
On the other hand, your project team’s focus is on the tasks that make up the project. Your project team consists of the people who will be working on the details of the project as resource managers, information sources or product delivery specialists. They are the subject matter experts whose job it is to deliver the product. Their interest focuses on the following questions:
- What am I doing
- When do I need to start
- When do I need to finish by
- How long will it take
- What do I do if…
In theory, you want people to understand the whole of the project. You want them to know where they fit in. That way they can make decisions that work well within the overall task. But in the real world, most people aren’t interested. Their focus is on their portion. What are they responsible for? Your project plan needs to answer this for them. In addition, they also need to know why they are doing it. But this is irrelevant from their point of view. The project plan is not the right method to communicate this information.
Glen Ford is an accomplished project management consultant, trainer and writer. He has over 20 years experience as a project manager in such diverse projects as Construction, IT, Software Development, Marketing and Business Startup. He is a serial entrepreneur who quite literally learned to be an entrepreneur at his great-grandfather’s knee.
Check out his newest book available on Amazon at http://vproz.ca/books/how-to-document-a-project-plan. You can read more from Glen on his blog.
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