During the planning phase of project management, the project manager does their best to lay out a roadmap for implementing a project, given the best available information they have. The plan may change during the course of the project, and good project managers account for this by setting processes in place in advance to handle issues that arise.
In this section, we’ll cover four major areas of planning, which include creating the following:
- Project Charter
- Work Breakdown Structure
- Project Schedule
- Project Budget
The Project Charter can be described as the written rules of the road for a given project. It is a foundational document that can be revisited throughout the project to check the overall direction of the project. It is the North Star by which a project manager aligns streams of work and navigates requests for changes mid-project. Like the Statement of Work, it is also used if key staff on a project leave the organization before the project is complete. The Project Charter should be as clear and specific as possible
The Project Charter includes many of the same elements as a Statement of Work, but at a more acute level of detail. See the table on the next page for a comparison, noting that the exact elements included in a state or territory’s template may differ.
Table 1. Comparing Project Management Components
Statement of Work (SOW)
An understandable title for the work.
Same as SOW
A specific and measurable high-level goal.
Same as the SOW
Scope of Work
A high-level summary of the elements that are covered in the project.
Detailed description of the elements of the project with as much specificity as is known. If there are known requirements for the work, such as specific functionality that needs to be accomplished, these should be included. Any assumptions held for the project should also be included, such as the assumption that main staff assigned to the project will be available for the life of the project.
High-level descriptions of the end product of the project.
Detailed, measurable descriptions of what will be delivered at the end of the project with as much specificity (quantity, quality, etc.) as possible.
May not be included in the SOW.
Delineation of specific, known, and unknown events that may cause the project to be delayed, go over budget, or be delivered at a lower quality than promised. Along with the risks, a description of their likelihood of occurring and plans for mitigation should be included.
This is likely to not be included in the SOW.
Description of the types of changes to the project that would require input from individuals above the project manager, and the protocol to discuss, decide upon, and document those changes.
A rough, educated guess based on experience and industry standards, when available.
More refined estimates of costs given the detail of scope known at the time of charter creation.
A rough estimate of the timeline for accomplishing the project in total. It may have milestones included.
A more refined schedule with milestones delineated along a high-level timeline.
A list of those involved in the project, including their roles and responsibilities. Specific individuals who will implement the work (project manager, program staff assigned, etc.) may not be named at this time, but decision-makers such as the executive sponsor would be named.
This is like the SOW but may include specific individuals assigned to the project at this point rather than just position titles.
Not in the SOW.
A section that allows for authorization of the project by the individual who will serve as the executive sponsor. This is often the leader of the area of the organization from which the funding for the project is coming.
Work Breakdown Structure
The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is “a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team, to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables, with each descending level of the WBS representing an increasingly detailed definition of the project work."
The aim of a Work Breakdown Structure is to break down the work into the smallest manageable components. The components are verifiable products, services, or results—often called “work packages.” In the previous example of the child care licensor training curriculum revision, the Work Breakdown Structure may break down the work such that each deliverable is a component in and of itself. See Figure 1 to illustrate this concept.
Figure 1. Breaking a Project into Work Packages
Notice how some of the deliverables are at the smallest level of deconstruction and do not need further deconstruction (e.g., “Revise Existing Curriculum” and “Hold Pilot Training for Licensors”). Others require further breaking down of the work to get to a work package that is manageable (i.e., “Create Training on New Curriculum” and “Hold Training of Trainers”). The level at which projects are broken down is determined by the project manager and, to some degree, the norms of the organization.
After a WBS is created, each work package can be further decomposed into the activities that will need to be completed to produce the deliverable. This serves to estimate the amount of time and the resources that will be needed to complete the work package. Resources include both the positions needed to perform the work (e.g., one full-time equivalent [FTE] trainer for 4 weeks) and the goods or services to purchase (e.g., printing and binding 25 participant handbooks). These estimates will feed into the schedule and budget for each work package and roll up into the overall Project Budget and Project Schedule.
Table 2. Resource Estimation for Work Package Activities: Creating Participant Workbook for Licensors
This work will involve drafting outline and full workbook, and then revising the workbook after receiving edits from the editor
Account for one round of editing
1 Digital Content Developer
Will be published as a PDF
Attain Physical Copies
1 Administrative Assistant
Administrative assistant will coordinate attaining the PO and WO and delivery of the workbooks
Attain Physical Copies
Purchase order (PO) and work order (WO) for printing company
Administrative assistant will coordinate attaining the PO and WO and delivery of the workbooks
Once each work package has been broken down into activities, the schedule for the project can be developed. The key to creating a realistic schedule is to understand the work that is to be done so the estimation is as accurate as possible. Often, to move a project along, quick estimation or haphazard sequencing takes the place of thoughtful planning which, in the end, will delay a project. Taking time to complete the following steps in order will result in a well-planned project.
- Sequencing: Look at the overall relationships between the work packages and activities. If there are certain work packages or activities that require others to be started or completed before they can begin or finish, this is called a dependency. As the project manager is developing the Project Schedule, he or she notes the dependencies and “sequences” of the work packages or activities to account for those dependencies. In the example on page 9 in Figure 1, the work package “Hold Pilot Training for Licensors” is dependent on earlier work packages and activities being complete because the training can’t be held if the materials haven’t been developed yet. So, the sequence of the work schedule places the pilot training after the materials are developed.
- Estimation: There are several methods of estimation that can be used depending on the type of project at hand. A first estimation is a place to start and can be refined as more is known or as the project gets underway. A few ways to estimate the time an activity will take to complete are:
- Expert Judgment: For an experienced project manager or one working with program staff who have a good idea about how much time and other resources are needed, this is a common estimation method. It means using the information and experience they have to estimate as best they can.
- Analogous Estimating: This is used when a project manager or program staff have completed similar projects before and can use that experience to estimate how much time the project will take to accomplish.
- Publicly Available Data/Industry Standards: This is used more often in construction or technology projects, which may allow for estimation using commonly held industry standards for time or cost. The cost of a specific software package or piece of machinery may have a published price and time for installation that can be used for estimation in resource and time scheduling.
- Bottom Up: This is a method of estimating in which the person conducting the activities at the most deconstructed level of the work estimates the time it will take, and then each small activity is added together to build up to the larger work package for a total estimation of time.
- Draft Schedule: After gathering the sequencing and estimation information, the next task is creating the first draft of the schedule. This can be done manually or by using an automated project management tool. These will be discussed later in this chapter. Using an automated scheduling tool could be helpful if the project has clearly defined time estimates for activities and known dependencies. Two common ways of displaying the draft schedule are shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 Gantt Chart with Milestones
Figure 3 Network Diagram
As the schedule is built, we can identify the Critical Path. This determines the total project duration because it is made up of the activities that will take the longest duration or the longest “path” through the project. These activities are deemed “critical” because they must be completed on time for the overall Project Schedule to be accurate. In Figure 3, the Critical Path is 20 days long because this is the path through Activities A and C to the end. Other paths through the work are shorter, and thus activities on those paths have a little wiggle room in their timelines as compared to the Critical Path.
- Optimize Schedule: Once the schedule is drafted, it should be reviewed by team members to check for accurate estimations and sequencing. Additionally, we must check for over- or under-allocation of resources to ensure the project can proceed as planned. For example, when we look at the Project Management Triangle section from earlier, if two activities are scheduled to happen simultaneously, but the activities have the same person assigned to them full time, we will either need to assign a different person, lengthen the duration (assigning half the person’s time to each activity), or change the sequence of the activities to have them occur consecutively rather than concurrently.
Considerations for States or Territories
Working within a state or territory also comes with the risk that other factors, such as legislation being passed or a budget being modified, may disrupt a schedule as it is being developed or while a project is in progress. Additionally, a project may have a predetermined end date that has no flexibility to move. In these cases, we look at the other two areas in the project management triangle (cost and quality) to determine whether there is room for movement in either of these to get the project done within the time constraints.
Depending on the operating practices of the state or territory and the type of project being managed, a project manager may have different levels of responsibility for creating and maintaining the Project Budget. It’s important to work with the fiscal and budget staff of the state or territory early and often to stay on track with their policies, procedures, and expectations for budgeting within a project.
Project Budget Factors
When creating a budget for a project, the following factors should be accounted for:
- People: Whether using existing or hiring new staff, factor in the staff time. Fiscal staff in the state or territory may have a standard hourly or yearly rate to use to account for each type of position and should be consulted.
- Equipment: This factor should account for any specialized tools or equipment needed to complete the project. For example, laptops or software licenses for new hires.
- Materials: This accounts for the consumable materials needed to complete the project. For example, if the project is to create and deliver new training to all child care providers in the quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), materials would need to be purchased for the training sessions, such as markers, flip charts, table tents, and so forth.
- Occupancy Costs: There may be a flat rate that is charged to each project by the state or territory, or in some cases, additional space may be needed to house the people and equipment for a given project. This could include space rental or purchase and any other costs associated with being in the space, such as utilities, that are charged back to the project.
- Contracted Work: In some projects, portions of the work will be bid out for contract with outside vendors through Requests for Proposal (RFPs), Requests for Bid (RFBs), or through some other procurement method. This should be accounted for in the overall Project Budget, whether it is a cost reimbursement contract (one in which the vendor charges the state or territory as it incurs costs for staff and other resources) or a fixed-price contract (one in which all costs associated with the work are accounted for in a flat price).
- Contingency: Depending on the practices of the state or territory, contingency may be built in as a certain percentage of the overall project or as different amounts for each portion of the work. For example, if the project requires IT staff to build something entirely new to them, it may make sense to build in additional staff time to account for the learning curve.
Steps in Creating a Project Budget
Creating a Project Budget relates directly to the Project Schedule. When the schedule is set, much of the information from that can be used to build the budget using similar methods. In the same way that we estimated, drafted, and refined the schedule, we will use those steps in creating a Project Budget.
- Estimate Costs: As with scheduling, budget estimation uses the best information available to determine the cost of an activity, resources, materials, and so on. Estimation can be done through:
- Bottom-Up Estimation: Breaking the costs down to the activity or work package level and then adding them all together.
- Expert Judgment: As in scheduling, the project manager or program staff use the information and experience they possess to estimate the cost. Oftentimes, the estimates done for scheduling feed right into the budgeting because staff hours equate to a certain dollar value charged to the project.
- Analogous Estimating: This can be used when a project manager or program staff have completed similar projects before and can use that experience to estimate how much money the project will cost. For example, a similar software upgrade was done in the past and can be used to estimate the cost of the upgrade as part of this project.
- Funding Limitations: As with schedule limitations, some projects come with price tags that are set by entities outside the project (i.e., legislators or the governor). As such, the project manager must work within the other two points of the project management triangle (time and quality) to fit within the funding limitation.
- Draft the Project Budget: After estimating the costs, the next task is combining all these estimates into a budget draft. There are several tools that can assist in the creation of a budget, and often project management tools have features to automate some of this process. Many states or territories have templates or systems that are required for projects and should be consulted on this point.
- Review and Refine the Project Budget: The draft budget should be reviewed by team members with expertise in the topic as well as fiscal and management staff. As the project progresses and costs are incurred, the budget will become more refined. We’ll discuss more about this in the “Monitoring and Control” section.
PMI. (2008). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK Guide) (4th ed.). Project Management Institute, Inc.