Project planning is the key to effective project execution.
Planning provides structure to the project objectives, tasks, work breakdown structure, schedules, deliverables, costs and resources needed to complete the project.
FinanSys provides excellent project management and professional services to our clients with dedicated project managers who are professionally trained to handle your projects in the most efficient way when delivering our FMS or ERP solutions. But it is equally important for you, as the client, to have a clear project approach and even appoint a project lead to help ensure a smooth process overall.
This guide will help you to define a project plan and the essential elements that are needed to develop it.
What is project planning?
Project planning is the process of defining project deliverables, tasks, work breakdown structure, and schedule.
It also involves estimating costs and resources needed to complete the project, managing risks to ensure successful completion of the project on time and budget and communicating plans and progress throughout the organisation.
Why plan projects?
Planning provides a framework for the effective execution of a project to achieve goals and objectives.
Good project management is based on good planning. Planning requires that you determine what needs to be done, when it should be started and completed, and how much it will cost.
10 Steps to Successful Project Planning
The following 10 steps are key to a successful ERP project planning, thus creating an excellent foundation for you and your team to then successfully deliver the project.
1. Define project objectives
Without clear objectives and success criteria, it is difficult to determine if the project should be undertaken at all, or if goals have been met.
Clarifying objectives helps determine what needs to change, when, who is responsible for the change, how many people need to be involved and other milestones of success.
So from the outset of the project, clearly define what your project objectives are and who is responsible for them.
This is important for measuring the project when it is completed to ensure that all the scope are met.
The defining features of a project objective are that it is measurable, quantifiable and assignable.
The project objectives should reflect the business goals. Identify the business goals of the project and how they align with organisational strategies. Explicitly state your project objectives to all stakeholders so that they can set realistic expectations for it.
2. Break the project into a list of deliverables and milestone
When planning a project, it is good to break it down into deliverables.
- What functionality do you want to be included in the system?
- What does the system have to do?
- What deliverables are needed along the way?
- What outputs will the stakeholders receive that demonstrates you’ve met their requirements?
- What documentation will be needed to support the system once it’s implemented?
You’d also want to develop a schedule that includes milestones. Flexible and realistic project scheduling depends on the fact that no two projects are alike. Use your list of deliverables as a framework for adding milestones.
3. Define tasks for each deliverable and milestone
A list of deliverables does not provide enough detail to provide a plan. You have to take the extra step to define the tasks that will be needed to complete each deliverable and milestone.
You should also create a work breakdown structure to break down tasks into manageable pieces, identify dependencies between tasks and schedule them accordingly.
By breaking a project down into bite-size pieces, you reduce the risk that it will be impossible to complete.
Task breakdown provides a way to define the activities and steps needed to complete project objectives. Tasks also provide a way to measure progress, cost resources, assign responsibility and track status.
4. Estimate the time and resources needed for completion
Estimating the amount of time and resources required for project completion is an important part of the planning process.
Attempting to run a project without sufficient information can be challenging, leading to inaccurate estimates and cost overruns later in the project life cycle.
Estimates should include costs for management, design, development and testing. They should also include time for requirements gathering, testing and quality assurance.
5. Identify risks
Successful FMS and ERP project planning includes being flexible enough to handle the unexpected.
Identify risks associated with completing the project successfully and develop contingency plans if necessary. For instance, account for how you would manage delays in the project, or what you’ll do if costs end up being more than you initially considered.
6. Identify stakeholders and obtain their input
Identifying key project stakeholders at the outset of the project is critical to the successful completion of your FMS or ERP implementation.
Ensure that you have identified all key stakeholders, and gain buy-in from each one to participate in your project planning process.
Stakeholders can include end-users, executives, project sponsors, project managers and others.
7. Identify requirements
Requirements are the specific features that a system must include in order to deliver solutions to existing problems, provide business value, and support organisational goals.
Requirements help determine what change is needed, when the change will occur, who is responsible for making the change, how many people are involved in implementing the changes and other milestones of success.
So from the beginning of the project, clearly define the requirements so that everyone, including your implementation partner, is working towards a shared goal.
8. Establish a budget
Some organisations go into the process of implementing a financial management system or an enterprise resource planning solution without first creating a budget. This often leads to unexpected costs and project delays.
To ensure your FMS or ERP project budget is realistic, set a baseline and include the full cost from start to finish. The budget should include costs for hardware (if needed), software implementation and upgrades, software licenses, hardware modifications, training costs, support costs, and implementation fees.
In addition to the direct costs you pay to your vendors, you should also include indirect costs, such as the lost productivity of employees while they learn new software and how much revenue the system will generate over the long term.
9. Stick to the plan
It can be tempting to ask your implementation team to make big changes amidst project implementation but resist the urge. You may want to add new features or functionality, but doing so late in the project can delay completion and dramatically increase your costs.
If you need changes made, start planning early to deliver them in a timely manner. Working closely with your vendor at an early stage of the project will give you more time to identify and implement your changes.
10. Evaluate the results and take action to complete any outstanding requirements
While some users may be ready and able to use your financial or business management system from day one, other elements of the new software may not yet be up to par.
By developing a good project plan during the planning phase, you would have accounted for these issues in your schedule and budget.
Once you’re up and running, check to see where your project is at in the schedule. If necessary, adjust tasks or milestones as needed. Also, take this opportunity to solve any outstanding problems with the new system – don’t wait until a deadline is looming.
In this post, we have outlined 10 steps to successful ERP and FMS project planning.
This includes identifying all stakeholders and gaining their buy-in, clearly defining the functionality you want to be included in the system from the beginning of the process, establishing a budget that is realistic for your specific needs and timeline, developing an achievable schedule with deadlines and milestones as well as evaluating results after completion.
To learn more about these steps or how our team can help you succeed at implementing a new financial or business management system without stress, contact us now!