It is often tempting to just roll up your sleeves and start bringing the project into being. But time taken to plan and create a project plan will actually ensure that you don't rush into something and make foolish mistakes because you didn't plan for something. The old saying 'Act in haste, repent at leisure' is certainly very true, but with a good project plan, you simply will not have to repent, because everything will be fine.
What Does The Project Plan Contain?
There is a lot of information required in a project plan. To some extent what the plan contains will be strongly influenced by the nature and scope of the project; so it is a good idea to start off by defining the nature of the project and its scope.
You also need to identify all the 'stakeholders' in the project, since a project will only be successful if all the stakeholders are satisfied with the project once it has been completed. This task sounds far easier than it is because a stakeholder is anyone who will be affected by the project, so identifying them can take some time.
Once you have identified all the stakeholders, then you need to engage with them to ascertain what they want and need from this project and you will need to start to draw up a list of project goals, so that you are fully aware of just how these needs and wishes can be met.
A budget is integral to the successful completion of any project and the budget needs to be firmly entrenched in the project plan because you need to ensure that you stay within budget, but still manage to deliver all the goals that you are setting.
Resources are about not just money but skills required and 'things' that are required, to enable the project to be successfully delivered.
Risks to the project or things that could go wrong or pose a threat to the successful completion of the course should also be identified, so that they can be managed and responsibility allocated for effective management of risk.
Tasks, duties and responsibilities are all very important, because there has to be a clear strategy for what needs to be done and who is responsible for doing what and when these things will be done. It is really important that these are identified very early on in the process. It may well be that the individuals who will be team members have not even been finally agreed, but the job titles or areas can be used, so IT can be identified as being responsible for delivering a certain level of service.
Often these duties and tasks are contained in a Gantt chart, which is effectively a bar chart that lists duties and shows responsibility for delivering these duties against the agreed timeframe. The beauty of the Gantt chart is that it shows the evolution of the project and how each duty and task flows into the completion process.
Although there are a whole host of other elements to be contained in a project plan, the final key element has to be quality. Quality is vital because there is no point in delivering a project where quality has been left behind. So your project plan needs to be able to define quality, describe how you will implement the quality standards that are expected and ensure that your project is as good as it possibly can be. Otherwise you are in severe danger of producing a project that fails to deliver what was expected.
However one thing that you should always bear in mind is that no matter what your project plan contains it needs to be regularly updated and the deliverables delivered!