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Project Management: Planning

As a Certified Associate in Project Management with experience in a PMO environment, I know how important it is to plan & execute projects.

Planning Tools and Techniques


Planning is the main method we can use to control and regulate a project that is being executed. Executing a project is putting a plan into action to deliver the expected results.

In the planning stage, a project manager thinks through the whole project, communicates and manages the individuals who will do the work, and finds the best arrangement in which the work must be done or executed.

Project managers have to plan to find the best course of action, to make it clear in their minds what needs to be done, to check what is outside their areas of expertise, and to know how to delegate and set works for others.

Here are some planning tools that we can use to plan a project.

Gantt Chart


A Gantt chart is a graphic representation of the plan for the project. It shows the tasks, their durations, their sequences (or positions in time), and the overall duration of the project. It presents all this information in an interrelated form, and is a simple way to communicate the plan of the project.

We prepare a Gantt chart to combine information of the tasks and the length of time of our project. Such a chart helps us to understand the necessary process to complete the project. It also helps us to get an accurate grasp of the whole duration of the project, communicate information about it, and provide a standard for evaluation and estimation if we need to make additional decisions.

Is a Gantt chart entirely reliable? Not really. We cannot rely on a Gantt chart to give details on why tasks are put in the order in which they appear. We also cannot rely on a Gantt chart to show which tasks are critical to a well-timed completion of the project, or to show the impact of changes on the dependencies or sequences of tasks. A tasks dependency is a logical relationship between tasks or milestones. In a task dependency, a task or a milestone relies on other tasks to be performed, entirely or partially, before it can be performed.

Critical Path Analysis


A critical path is the order of activities of a project that assesses the longest total duration to determine the shortest time possible to complete the project.

A critical path chart or network shows which tasks are critical or essential to the timely completion of the project.

A critical path software automatically calculates the effects of changes in relation to the dependencies between tasks. Because of its operating speed, the software updates quickly any change to task data and its resources.

Software programs are used to help with planning a project and allocating resources to tasks, resource leveling, costing or estimating the cost, Work Breakdown Structure, and Organizational Breakdown Structure.

Here are some project management software presented in alphabetical order: Accelo, Asana, Backlog, Easy Projects, inMotion,, ProWorkFlow, Workamajig, Workfront, and Wrike. If you want to know more about these software, you can visit the website of GetApp®, which publishes user-generated and editorial reviews of software and apps for businesses.

What-if Scenarios

Costs and time must be verified against objectives during the planning phase.

What-if scenarios are used when data change. Computer software then re-calculate new duration, resource allocations, and cost to offer possible options.

If the planning software shows that the required completion date goes beyond the permitted time or cost, the project manager must then look at three options:

  • Find which tasks can be done in parallel or can be partly covered, then connect again these tasks on the network in parallel. The computer will then estimate a shorter project duration.
  • Enter the new mandatory completion date, and the computer will work out a new start date.
  • Find out if the duration of the critical tasks can be reduced. This can be done by putting in more resources, working longer hours, lowering the quality which will reduce the amount of work, or using prefabrication.

If the planning software shows that the cost is going to be greater than the allocated budget, the project manager can either reduce the number of resources, shorten the schedule, or lower the quality of the deliverable.

Explanation of Terms and Expressions

Here is an explanation of some of the words or expressions used above:

  • Resource allocation assigns resources such as time, people, and tools, on a number of tasks to meet a deadline.
  • Resource leveling is a technique that adjusts the start and finish dates in line with resource limitation to balance the demand for resources with the available supply.
  • A Work Breakdown Structure breaks down a project into smaller components where each focuses on a deliverable.
  • Organizational Breakdown Structure is a model that details the organizational framework for project planning, resource management, time and expense tracking, cost allocation, revenue and profit reporting, and the management of work.
  • Time tracking keeps a record of hours worked.
  • Expense tracking keeps a record of what was spent.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.