Planning is the process of figuring out the scope of your project, determining what the objectives are and how to reach those goals. As you may have gathered, it’s fundamental to running a successful project.
That’s why you have to take the project planning process seriously: coming up with the project plan is crucial. You’re going to need the right planning tools to help document the project scope and objectives, and then communicate the plan to your stakeholders.
What Tools Do You Need?
Thankfully, there is project planning software that will guide you through the planning process and continue to help as you execute and monitor the project. Project management software offers a wide variety of features, but it’s the following that will be more important during your project planning phase:
- Online Gantt Chart
- Resource Management
- Task Management
Let’s take a closer look at each of these planning tools.
Online Gantt Chart
A Gantt chart is an ideal way to visualize the schedule across a vertical timeline. If you already have a spreadsheet with the tasks you’ve decided are necessary to complete the goals of your project, then importing is easy and seamless. You should be able to import from any number of formats, such as Microsoft Project, Excel or CSV files and keep your original formatting.
Of course, you can create your tasks in the program as well by inputting the data on the left-hand side of the Gantt chart. It will then populate the right-hand bar-chart side. If you have your task list on a Word document, you can just copy and paste into the appropriate field.
Once you’ve got your tasks in the Gantt chart, next you’ll want to assign a due date to each. This will create a timeline on the right-hand bar chart in which the duration of each task is shown across a calendar grid. Now you can see how long tasks will take against the backdrop of the project timeframe.
At this point, you can begin to assign team members to specific tasks. By inviting the team to the Gantt chart you have also set the stage for the necessary collaboration needed when executing the project. Your team can also help with the planning process.
An added benefit is with an online Gantt chart your team’s statuses are updated automatically, so you can see how the project is actually progressing against your estimates. Plus, you can automate through email notifications when tasks have been updated, so everyone is on the same page.
Now that you have your tasks organized, you’re going to want your resources also defined. Resources can include your team, the tools and equipment you’ll need for the project, as well as the space you’ll require to do the job.
A good project tool for resource management is going to offer you a view of all your work across the team on a single page. With this overview scheduling ahead is made easy, as you can now balance the workload among team members and not over- or under-task anyone.
Not only is it easy to see if you’ve over-assigned somebody, but it’s also a simple click to reassign those tasks to more evenly distribute them. To further assist in seeing at a glance who’s over-allocated, unallocated or when holiday and vacation days are scheduled, your resource management is color-coded.
When the project has started, this planning tool gets updated in real-time to help you view your team’s workload, which allows you to tweak the project plan even when the project planning phase has passed into action. By sharing your resource updates with the team, either online or off-line, you can further collaborate.
Just as you have to manage your schedule and resources, tasks have to be planned out as well. The better you plan your tasks, the more productive the project will be. Project planning software shows you the due dates for all your tasks and, when you’re executing the project, the percentage complete they are.
You can filter your view of the tasks by due date, owner or project if you’re working on a program. This helps you see just the information you need when planning to assign the tasks. When assigning tasks you can attach notes, files or links and easily track comments, production notes and document handoffs once the project has initiated.
With online project planning tools you can easily update tasks either from your computer or remotely from any wired device. Online connectivity also makes sharing and collaboration easy, so team members can stay in contact with you. And like the other tools, much of the process can be automated to give you email alerts to keep from missing important deadlines.
A dashboard is a must-have planning tool. While the dashboard is mostly thought of a way to monitor your team’s progress and your project’s health, they can also be used to give you an overview of your project plan when in the project planning phase. From this one page you can see everything about your project and if all the pieces are working together.
The dashboard collects all your data and displays it in color graphs and charts that are easy to print out or share online when making your project planning presentation to stakeholders. It also is a place where you can keep track of your budget and make sure you have allocated enough funds to cover the costs of the project.
Project Planning Software Gives You Control of the Project Plan
With the right project planning tools it’s easier to manage the planning phase of your project. You have a way to collect and organize all the data for the coming project and make sure you have teams assigned to tasks that can be completed within the timeframe you have for the project.
If you’re planning a project and want to have the tools that allow you and your team to better manage their work, then look no further than ProjectManager.com. A cloud-based PM tool, ProjectManager.com instantly records status updates, so you can manage your tasks in real-time. Its online Gantt chart makes scheduling easy, and changing deadlines and reallocating resources as simply as a click on your keyboard. Plus, all this data is feed to a dashboard giving you a bird’s-eye view of the project and the ability to drill down to details when you need them. Try our software free with this 30-day trial.