It became evident during my first month as a Client Success Strategist with an internet marketing company that project planning and management are key to the success of any campaign. Information on best practices and how to go about managing a project is fairly available online; however, the first steps in this process are the most important. Surprisingly, despite their significance, they are often not stressed enough and many times overlooked. As superfluous as it may sound, it definitely helps to plan for your plan.
The first step to any well managed project is assessing the overall business need. More than likely, you have been asked to manage a project for one simple reason. A business or, perhaps an individual, has a need for something and a desired outcome associated with that need. Project planning can be difficult but the purpose is simple: create and/or manage a plan that will achieve the associated goal(s). This is why understanding the business need is a critical step in project management.
Another important step in the beginning stages of project management is to evaluate the scope of work. This, although it seems simple enough, can be one of the most challenging steps in your project planning. Not only do you need to thoroughly evaluate all time and resources associated with the project, but you must also be able to predict any possible roadblocks or bottlenecks in your project. This role of “future teller” might seem impossible, but if you examine the challenges faced in past projects of similar scope, and analyze the time it took to resolve such past situations, you can add appropriate buffers into your project planning. For example, the first time I was asked to project manage an SEO campaign I did not take into consideration the difficulty of setting up tracking for web analytics through Omniture. I only scheduled one day for this task in the project roadmap and the actual time spent was four days. Consequently, it delayed all future deliverables and my project plan had to be adjusted to account for an entire week of tracking setup. I now know to assess the type of analytics used and consider this while creating my project plan.
After you have gained a clear understanding of the project’s business need and scope of work, it is time to begin creating your project roadmap. Creating a project roadmap is actually one of the easiest steps in the beginning stages of project planning. If you have already analyzed the business need and project purpose, and evaluated the scope of work and resources needed, the hard part is essentially over. You have done your homework and the research is finished. Now it is time to consolidate your findings into one presentation, i.e. your project roadmap.