Got a new project to manage? Excellent! But where do you start? The first few days (or weeks) can be daunting as you work out what needs to be done. Get your project off to the best start with these... 5 Tips For Planning Your Project

OK, let's get started!

Tip #1: Establish your team
You can't manage this project by yourself, so start off by working out who is going to help you get it done. Your project sponsor may already have some ideas about who will be on the team, so talk to them and then the individuals concerned to introduce yourself. Get to know them and the role they will play on the project as this will help you plan the workload effectively.

It's really important to get everyone together as soon as possible to talk about the project and establish the overall goals, so get that meeting in the diary quickly.

Tip #2: Create a task list
When it all seems overwhelming, the best place to start is to write down exactly what you need to do. Work with your new project team to create a list of all the tasks that are required to deliver the project. They are the subject matter experts, so don't try to do this by yourself! Use their knowledge to build a comprehensive task list.

Tip #3: Produce a project schedule
Now add all your project tasks on to a schedule. This means adding dates to your task list so that you can see the order in which they need to be completed. You can also add dependencies between the tasks. These link the tasks together and help you see what should be worked on first in order for subsequent tasks to happen on time. If you aren't sure about how to order the tasks, get your team involved. They are the experts and have probably done similar work before so they will be able to help you identify what tasks should happen when.

While you are at it, add resource names next to the tasks to highlight who is responsible for what. It's normally easy to work out who from the team is going to take the lead on which tasks, but it's important to get buy-in from the individuals before you allocate work to them.

Project schedules are often in the form of Gantt charts which show that information graphically on the screen. Your project management tools such as MS Project will produce a Gantt chart for you.

Tip #4: Ensure you have milestones
Got a fixed date, or want to mark the end of a project phase? Then use a milestone. They occur on a single specific date and appear as a black diamond shape on your Gantt chart. They highlight defined points on your schedule and are really useful when it comes to tracking progress. Aim to have at least one milestone per month. They should show you when big blocks of work have to be completed by.

Tip #5: Work out how to monitor progress
Finally, think about how to monitor progress on your project now, even if you have only just got the team together and are still putting together your task list. Decide how often you want to review progress and how you are going to do it. If you are worried about not being able to remember to get status updates from the team, put an alert in your calendar to remind you to contact them regularly.


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