How to perfect project planning

The most important aspect of planning a construction project is the “scope, cost and schedule baseline”. According to the Alusani® Course Leader , a specialist in project management and engineering, the term 'baseline' refers to the latest approved plan.

Using the analogy of a shopping list, the Alusani® Course Leader explains that very often such a checklist is subjected to last minute adjustments before shopping begins. This 'final list' would be equivalent to the baseline in project planning.

There are many critical components that need to work together to produce a successful project, such as human resources, risk management, communication and financial management to name a few. However these components become irrelevant if stakeholders are not working from a clearly defined and updated plan.

According to the Alusani® Course Leader there is a severe lack of 'planners' in the engineering field. These are professionals whose skills sets are vastly different from those he refers to as 'schedulers'.

A scheduler has a very superficial knowledge of the project, and would only know what is required, says the Alusani® Course Leader, but not the nitty gritty of the project.

In contrast a planner understands the details of the project. They would know exactly what is required, where to source items and how to negotiate the most affordable costs. 'Planners are subject matter experts.'

Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of planning is the need to prepare for unexpected events. Risk management is central to effective planning, especially in volatile economies where there is a lack of political leadership, continuous strikes, inflation and a high unemployment rate.

He encourages businesses to establish a 'Risk Register'. This is a log of possible risks that could occur during the course of the project. The Risk Register must also be done during the planning stage.

Once the project begins, other challenges may arise but it's the people or team players who will determine the outcome of the project. “It’s about stakeholders...projects are run by people”.

At this stage of the project planners will need to step into a management role and elements like communication, reporting and administration will become critical.

He reminds novice project managers to be patient with themselves and to learn from their mistakes. “Knowing what not to do is sometimes better information”.

Project managers have a tendency to think they should know it all. However this is a false assumption that puts strain on the individual. According to the Alusani® Course Leader becoming a good project manager takes time.

“There are no short cuts, the best project managers learn by experience.”

For more insights join the CPD-accredited, Project Management, Scheduling & Control for Engineering and Construction Managers course hosted by Alusani Skills & Training Network®. Contact us to find out when our next course is running. For more information call 011 447 7470, email faith@alusani.co.za or visit their website www.alusani.co.za

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