Pick any major event, trip or undertaking in your life and think about the time, energy and work put into making sure everything went off without a hitch. Then think about the stress and aggravation you experienced those times when things didn't go as planned.
As a discipline, project management works the same way, except on a greater scale and involving many stakeholders and a larger pool of resources. It can include external vendors, several other internal and intra-departmental team members (as well as their schedules and input), additional parameters like cost, quality, timing, constant coordination, communication and associated risks.
Imagine the consequences of poor project planning if any one of these things is not handled correctly. All of the above factors and many others have an impact on -- and are in turn affected by -- the project planning aspect of project management.
How does poor project planning produce potential problems?
Lack of strategic alignment. In "How to align projects management with your business strategy," I outlined the benefits and risks associated with project management and the need to consider an enterprise project management office (EPMO) to ensure projects are consistently aligned with business objectives.
When it comes to planning and initiation, "EPMO participation is critical in companywide planning sessions in order to transform the traditional PMOs into high-performing teams that deliver significant value. This will also help to establish a shared vision." According to PMI research, the success rates of higher-performing PMOs also align with a company's financial performance.
Cost, quality and time constraint issues and scopecreep. Determining the scope of a project is difficult without spending a considerable amount of upfront time properly planning. Gathering requirements, developing comprehensive project management plans, and determining and scheduling activities among other things, require considerable thought, coordination and yes, a lot of time.
Without planning activities, these key project elements can lead to lack of stakeholder commitment and resources because poor planning does not instill confidence or credibility. In turn, this has the potential to discourage stakeholders from proceeding with the project manager or even with a project altogether. Strong project leaders instill confidence by keeping on top of project planning activities and therefore, remove the need for costly, time-consuming rework and increase success ratios throughout projects companywide.
Inefficient use of resources. Estimating costs and activity levels, scheduling resources, and continually monitoring and adjusting them requires intense planning to ensure a project is moving in the right direction. Effective planning identifies the tools and techniques required to accomplish these tasks and reduces the risk of having unclear roles and responsibilities. Resources, whether financial or human are usually limited these days and of high value to any business, so if squandered unnecessarily, it has the potential to be disastrous. Given the consequences, this is an area where companies should carefully plan how, when and where to employ limited resources to best maximize effectiveness.
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