Can you do the project; should you do the project?
Once you have a Project Plan and a view of the time and cost of a project, you may feel it is time to get started. Almost but you need to ask yourself a couple of important questions:
It is an unfortunate truth that sometimes all planning does is make you understand that something you really want to do is not possible. If your plan does show this, do not immediately despair. You should think whether anything can be changed to meet your conditions. For instance, if the condition you cannot meet is that the project must be completed in a limited amount of time, can you do it faster by spending more money? If it is to do the project for a limited amount of money, can you do it more cheaply by reducing the scope, lowering the quality, or taking more risk?
Although project management will significantly improve your chances of doing a complicated task well, it will not make the impossible possible. And it is far better that you know the truth now rather than spending time and money on a project only to find out that you cannot do it. Even if your project can be done and should be done, you must review your plan and check to see if it is the best way to achieve your objective. A first pass at a plan is not always the best way of doing something.
Developing a Project Plan in practice
In the next section I explain the actual steps to develop a Project Plan. The first time you develop a plan you may find it complicated. You may ask yourself all the time, is this good enough? The amount of time and effort you spend planning is a judgement and depends on the complexity of a project. Some project managers do it relatively quickly, while others spend up to 30 per cent of the total project time getting the plan right in the first place. It is a trade-off between planning forever to get the perfect answer versus going too quickly and producing something meaningless. Planning is a valuable activity and the better your plan, the easier and more reliable your project will be. But also remember that the Project Plan is a tool to help you deliver the project and not an end in itself.
There are many software packages that can help you in implementing the approach described in this chapter. I have assumed you do not have any such tool and will work using some simple forms. Even if you do have project management software, it is a good idea to use the forms once as it will help you to understand project planning more fully. Great as the software tools are, and successful as they are in helping people to manage the planning process, they will not ensure you create a good plan, which requires your clear and structured thinking.
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