Planning is one of the fundamental principles of effective project management. Planning aims to determine what type of work needs to be completed, how to complete it, and what resources are required. It involves performing a process or a group of processes to make a blueprint and achieve optimum balance between stakeholder needs and available resources. Project planning software helps establish and manage the planning process. Such software lets project managers address most of the challenges and issues that surround the planning process.
Top 5 project planning challenges
The planning process involves a number of issues that project managers have to address at the very beginning as well as throughout the entire project life-cycle. For instance, poorly defined task dependencies throw the team into confusion; lack of customer engagement breaks right definition of deliverables, deadlines, processes; wrong allocation of resources causes waste of time and effort; and so on.
The primary task of a project manager is to identify outstanding challenges and generate right solutions. Although every project is unique and thus encounters specific issues, there can be highlighted a number of challenges that are common to most projects, regardless of their purpose, size and nature.
Here are top 5 challenges that most project managers have to address when planning their projects:
- Unrealistic deadlines (when a wrong approach to project scheduling is employed in setting start and finish time for tasks and activities).
- Lack of communication (existing communication channels do not allow team members to efficiently exchange information between each other, senior management, customer and other stakeholders).
- Uncontrolled scope changes (otherwise called "scope creep"; when poor control over scope changes causes lack of correlation between key constraints (Schedule, Quality, Budget), so the project can no longer be managed according to the plan).
- Failure to manage risk (when the risks which have been identified and addressed by the project plan are no longer reviewed and controlled unless they are instigated by a sudden event later on).
- Lack of accountability (when project participants are not kept accountable for their results at any stage, so the overall risk of failure rises).
Software to address the challenges
Theoretically, project managers could cope with any of the planning challenges without using computer programs. For example, the challenge of unrealistic deadlines would be addressed by manually checking the project schedule for errors, incorrect references, wrong dates, and so on. Then the project manager would have to spend much time and effort on manual checks and correction.
In practice, most project managers prefer using a kind of software that could minimize effort while increasing efficiency. Project planning software lets efficiently manage the planning process and helps address the challenges. For example, managers and teams can use such software to create activity schedules and check each one for errors in dates, milestones, dependencies, assignments, etc.
In particular, project planning software has the following key features that simplify the planning process, increase individual efficiency, and solve most challenges:
- Work scheduling. This functionality lets project managers develop schedules, add tasks to user calendars, define accurate time frames for scheduled activities, set durations for separate project stages and also schedule overall project time length.
- Real-time data sharing and exchange. Users can access one and the same database to manage their tasks, view the contents of the project plan, communicate with each other, etc.
- Control and monitoring of latest changes. Managers and team leaders can view records of all changes made to certain tasks, schedules or other items of the project plan.
- Document management. All necessary files (e.g. project plan, risk register, issue log) can be saved and kept in the same database file.
- Performance analysis. Managers can create various reports to analyze current performance and compare it with planned one.
CentriQS solution for project planning
All of the features listed above are available in CentriQS project planning solution. CentriQS helps you define and plan your projects. For example, the program features the Projects view in which you can create new projects.
To plan tasks and create schedules for your projects, you can switch to the Tasks view or to the Scheduler view directly from the Projects view:
CentriQS supports real-time user collaboration, so users can share data (tasks, projects, schedules, etc.) immediately with each other. This capability lets improve communication between project participants. For example, to inform your team about important changes in the project plan, you can add required text message in the Comment field of the task "Project plan". Then all users (who are assigned to, owner of or creator of the task) will be able to read the message.
CentriQS lets you keep all necessary documents and projects in one database, so it will be easier for your personnel to manage documentation and records. The software features the Files view in which you can upload documents to your database or add links to necessary files. For example, after you upload the file "project-plan.docx" to your database, authorized users can access the Files view and see the plan of your project.