Right First Time: Why are project plans important on large programmes?

In Right First Time we explore how assuring successful change management is crucial in insurance transformational programmes. Dynamic software applications, allow insurers to transact policies and enable digital platforms more effectively than ever before. However, implementation is not merely a matter of getting it done, but in getting it done right the first time, every time.

Why are Project Plans Important?

Project plans are vital for project managers and project teams alike. Here, we explore the top five most important reasons to have an effective project plan.

1. Unites the project team

The project plan unites the team around a set of common goals. A plan provides a clear vision, including; what the project is aiming to realise at completion, how long that will take, and what stages are required to deliver it. The best project managers widely communicate the project plan and take every opportunity to explain it.

Ensuring that every member of the team is invested in the plan is key to delivery, everyone should feel like they play a vital role in success. After all, projects are delivered by people. The better they are informed of the project objectives, the better able they are to achieve them.

2. Clearly states the value of the project

Large-scale or enterprise-level projects are expensive to mount. Any company pursuing a transformational programme of change will expect a return on that investment. Every project under consideration must promise something of value. In business, to be fundamentally successful, the project as planned must meet the Gain Test:

“The project deliverable must have a definitive gain, by generating revenue, reducing expenditure, or by enabling customers to acquire or save money. Preferably, all three.”

An effective plan allows for the return on investment to be calculated, ensuring that the value of the project meets, or excels expectations. If the project will not return sufficient value, then a rethink is required before going any further.

3. Enables resource management

Large projects can involve hundreds of people. The project plan provides project managers with the capability to understand how many people, with the appropriate skill sets to deploy at any point in time.

Those people require equipment, office space, system access and a whole host of other facilities to support their work. Without effective planning, these facilities cannot be efficiently sourced and installed.

4. Project Plans make for confident decision making

Large projects are inherently complex. Hundreds of decisions are made at all levels of a project, every day. From a Developer deciding upon a coding strategy, to a senior sponsor’s decision on high-level scope, those decisions shape the course and outcome of a change programme.

The plan helps prevent project participants from being overwhelmed, by organising information into a form which can be readily accessed and used. By referring to the project plan, decision-makers can ensure their choices meet the planned project goals, align with the activities in other teams, and delivers the value expected. Anything which deviates from, or might impact the plan, can be equitably raised and discussed before proceeding.

Where decisions are rationally and transparently made, those making those decisions can be more confident in them, and those who might be affected by those decisions, are more confident in them.

5. Project Plans mitigate or minimises risks

All projects have risks. The prediction, logging and reduction of risk is a major project management activity. By careful analysis of the project plan, concerns, risks, and potential pitfalls may be anticipated, and most importantly counteracted.

Project plans are often closely aligned with risks, business continuity plans and other risk countermeasures. Project managers capture potential and actual risks at all project levels. In some instances, changes to the plan might be required to mitigate or minimise risks.

How Project Planning helps

Generally, the larger a project is, the more effective its project planning should be. While project managers draw up project plans, they belong to the whole team because all project activities revolve around the plan.

Planning helps all project participants to deliver the project in a concise and timely manner. Progress, when measured against the plan, gives project sponsors the assurance that the project is proceeding as expected.