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The Planning Phase is critical to a project’s success. A well thought-out project plan provides clear direction and understanding of team member’s contributions to the success of the project.   

The planning phase answers the following questions:

  • How will the work be accomplished?
  • Who will perform the work?
  • What, exactly, is the work to be done?
  • When will the work be done?

In the Planning Phase, the Project Manager and project leads work with the team to create the Communication Plan, the initial Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), and Project Schedule which includes tasks, time, resources, and effort estimates for the project.  The Project Schedule is progressively elaborated until all relevant areas of the chartered project have been addressed. 


Activity Description Inputs Outputs Owner Notes and Resources
Identify and analyze stakeholders Work with key project team members, customers, and project sponsor to identify stakeholders and their expectations. Project charter Stakeholder worksheet (not for distribution) Project Manager By using this information, you can drive your meeting schedules, communication plan, and other points of contact to ensure stakeholder communication needs are met.  A stakeholder analysis worksheet is available.
Create communication plan The project communication plan is created by the project team early in the project to indicate their agreement on how the team will communicate important information during the project such as: status, meetings, issues, deliverables access, and design/ document reviews.   This plan also includes important communications to stakeholders and folks that are not part of the project team.  Some of the topics that should be considered for these types of updates are: executive briefing sheets, web site updates, press releases, how to react to newspaper articles, roll out plans, and presentations to the community. Project charter

Stakeholder analysis
Communication plan Project Manager When developing the communication plan, determine what information each group would like to know.  There will likely be overlap, but assess knowledge, skills and abilities as they relate to the project and its end products to determine what and when to communicate.  It is ok to ask stakeholders about communication preferences during the information gathering activities.

It is a good idea to add these planned communications into the project schedule as they are just as important as the development of the other deliverables.

Large projects may require a separate communications team that facilitates the stakeholder analysis, plans communication, and executes those plans.  A communication plan template is available.
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) A Work Breakdown Structure, or WBS, is a hierarchical organization of high level activities that must be done to complete the work of the project.  Project charter and scope

High level requirements

Information gathering activities
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) diagram Organization's governance group A WBS enables the project team to verify that all areas of the project are identified that are necessary to achieve the objectives and measures of success.  This information is then used to develop the project schedule. A template for the WBS is available to use as a starting point. Here is a toolkit that can help walk you through creating a WBS.

A WBS may be developed in a number of ways:  1) it can be developed by copying a WBS from a similar project and  revising it with key team members, 2) it can be developed using an organization provided template as a starting point, or 3) it can be developed from scratch with the project team by using a brainstorming technique. Typically a WBS is presented in graphical form and is used as the basis for the full project schedule.
Start Requirements High level requirements gathering may be started during the planning phase.   This initial information can increase the quality of the initial version of the WBS and project schedule.  Project charter
Information gathering activities
Draft of high level requirements Business Analyst Please consult with your PM Lead or PMO for your organization’s requirements document template.
Create Project Schedule Creating the project schedule provides a roadmap for effective project planning and execution, and becomes a tool for monitoring progress throughout the project.  The project schedule documents the project tasks, deliverables, milestones, schedule, participants and budget and should facilitate communication among project stakeholders.  The project schedule is a living document that will be consulted and modified throughout the life of the project as factors within and outside the project affect the project elements.  Project charter Project communication plan
Work Breakdown Structure
High level requirements
Project schedule Project Manager Task identification and organization: Using the WBS and previously identified requirements, identify all of the tasks required to complete the project.  It is best to have project team members identify these tasks, as well as identifying known dependencies between tasks.

Assigning resources to tasks: Identify the project participants and assign these resources or roles to the project tasks identified in the project schedule.  As early as possible, project managers should consult with the respective team leads to identify resources assigned to the project.  Ideally, resources should be identified prior to the project kick-off meeting, in the initiation phase, so that they may participate and provide input early in the project. The availability of additional resources may translate into a shortened project schedule.  Conversely, scarce resources may extend the project schedule.  If there are dates in the project schedule that are immovable, then resources must be allocated to meet the required schedule.  In the absence of hard scheduling requirements, the project manager should adjust the project schedule to fit the resources available.

Estimating effort for tasks: Once the project schedule is defined, the project team must estimate the effort needed to perform the tasks identified.  Usually there will already be a higher-level estimate that has been prepared as part of the project proposal.  While this estimate may be used as a reference, it should not be the basis for the estimates in the project plan.  The Project Manager should develop the task effort estimates based on the team’s knowledge of the project requirements, prior experience, and the advice of others on the project team and in the department.  It is best to get estimates from the team members that will be doing the work.

Scheduling: Once the tasks have been defined and the required effort has been estimated, the Project Manager will create the project schedule.  The project schedule is developed by determining target start and completion dates for the tasks and deliverables in the project plan.  Often, the Project Manager will identify key milestones for project deliverables or important project events within the project schedule.

Baselining:  Once a project schedule is reviewed and approved by the team and project sponsor, it can be baselined.  Baselining a project freezes the project schedule so that comparisons between actual performance and expected performance can be made and the project can be adjusted accordingly.