If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Six weeks ago if you asked me to define Project Management, I would have answered with something like, “I don’t know…managing projects?”  Today I definitely know differently.   

There are so many details involved in planning an project that each step is  critical.  A “project” can be have many different definitions and sizes.  Everyday we are planning projects: tomorrow’s responsibilities, camping trips, family activities.  Basically all day every day we are planning projects.  

In the beginning, class discussions seemed so obvious to me but the more we learned, the more I realized that there was so much I wasn’t considering.  

Project Scope defines what you can and cannot do within the limits of your project.  It defines the size of the project and outlines the resources and deliverables required.  

Again this seems obvious but it’s so easy to make little changes to your project and then before you know it, you’ve exceeded your scope and your project falls apart.  Understanding your project scope and working within it keeps your project on track and under control.

Things to remember:

  • Project requirements: What do we need to get the job done?
  • Project deliverables: The things that you will create.
  • Boundaries: “Out of scope” items.  Boundary statements separate the items that apply to your project from those that are not necessary.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) breaks projects down into major phases, deliverables, and work components.  The work components are then broken down into more specific activities.  

Again it seemed so straight forward, but to really ensure you have EVERY detail is really quite challenging to do.  The WBS is the best way to understand a project’s detailed work.  If you forget to plan something along your critical path, it can be detrimental to every other step.  You must be able to clearly define your end goals and be able to  plan for each step to reach these goals.  

Things to remember:

  • WBS helps to understand a project’s detailed work
  • Breaks down a project into major phases, deliverables, and work components – specific activities
  • Activities broken down into simple, easy-to-manage tasks and should be designed to bring in tangible results
  • WBS is not for requirements, it should be action oriented

Cost Estimates and Budget involves budgeting different costs that can affect your overall budget and producing budget charts.

When planning a project it is important to understand the budget and costs you’re working with.  Some costs are more obvious than others but you should always be thinking about the not-so-obvious surprise costs.  These can really sneak up on you when executing your project.  

Costs are often underestimated so you should always be thinking about:

  • Single costs vs ongoing direct/indirect costs
  • Staff costs
  • Overhead (the general operating costs)
  • Day to day costs of running your business

When estimating your costs, you can use the Bottom-up or Top-down method.

  • Bottom-up: Objectives are set, activities and resources are identified and costs are budgeted accordingly.  Total budget must be approved by top management.
  • Top-down: Top management sets the spending limits, budget must stay within limit.

Things to remember:

  • Clearly define your project’s budget 
  • Be aware of both direct costs and indirect costs
  • Choose bottom-up or top-down method

Blair McIntosh, Director of Games at the Sport Alliance of Ontario, came to our class to discuss with us the opportunities and challenges a Project Manager can face when working within Sports Management.  

He talked about the importance of understanding your project in its entirety and planning for every little detail.  McIntosh explained how absolutely necessary a Work Breakdown Structure is when planning a multi-million-dollar project.  Properly estimating your costs and budgeting appropriately is a make-it-or-break-it aspect when planning a project.  It is nearly impossible to get sponsors or contracts if your numbers do not properly reflect your project.

Athough I’ve never had any professional project management experiences, I have found myself managing small projects in day-to-day life.  For example, every summer I plan a big weekend at my cottage with 20-25 of my closest friends.  Although this a fun personal project, it still requires planning because I am working with minimal beds, minimal space, and a cottage in the middle of nowhere.

Last year was by far the best year yet and it was all due to properly managing the project.  My organization went down like this:

  • Create meal plan: outlined exactly what people were bringing what food.  Each group was responsible for making one full meal.  
  • Understand Scope of cottage: Made sure everyone brought tents and coolers so sleeping and storage accommodations were taken care of.  
  • Plan for hidden costs: Asked everyone to bring coffee, toilet paper, and firewood (things that always run out first)  

No matter what size of project your planning or managing, you have to understand the project’s goals, objectives, scopes, and budgets.  Without a clear understanding of your work breakdown structure it’s easy to get carried away and before you know it, your project is ruined.  

Essentially what I’ve come to understand is this: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. 

 

 

 

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