10 dos and don'ts for project planning

It is a long way from an initial client briefing to the successful completion of a project - oftentimes it is a walk in the park, but sometimes it is more of a steep path with rubble. The way the route runs depends, on the one hand, on the project itself, but also on several internal and external factors.
Kristina Reiß


It is a long way from an initial client briefing to the successful completion of a project - oftentimes it is a walk in the park, but sometimes it is more of a steep path with rubble. The way the route runs depends, on the one hand, on the project itself, but also on several internal and external factors. Many problems can be avoided, though, by observing a few simple, almost self-explanatory, rules. Often, however, it is those self-evident things that are being forgotten, and one or the other reminder can make project planning and regulation easier.

Of course, every project is different and not every trick is always applicable or it is of varying importance depending on the project. Observing some simple dos and don'ts, however, provides a good foundation and is groundbreaking for the success of a project.

1. Project Start

DO: taking the time you need
DON’T: waiting too long

When a new job is assigned, no hassle should arise. Initially, careful planning is necessary. The first step should always be to set up a timing: Who needs what kind of feedback or when does the project have to be fully implemented? Cost estimates and communication with the different departments must not be postponed too long, in order not to cause a delay for the entire project. It is important, however, that the project manager takes enough time to work to work on the briefing with the objectives and requirements, to talk about it with the various departments responsible for the project, to forward questions to those responsible and to think the project through in order to send out a detailed project plan and cost estimate. If this doesn’t happen and work is started too early, for example prior to clarifying all questions, it can lead to unnecessary workloads - a classic case of the so-called whiskey syndrome (actually Whiscy Snyndrome). This is an acronym for Why Isn’t Sam Coding Yet? The term comes from IT and describes the issue that initially, too little time is calculated for planning and defining the basic framework because everybody wants to start as quickly as possible. And in the end you have to pay the price for it. Of course, excessive planning and regulation can also jeopardize the success of the project. It is important to find the right balance and to define a project objective prior to starting work.


2. Project Objectives

DO: setting goals and realizing them
DON’T: permanently changing the goals

The same project can require completely different measures with different objectives. For this reason, it is necessary to define objectives, which are to be recorded as step-by-step milestones and then implemented this way. The goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, terminated) and once they are thought up and set, they are not to be changed, but tracked, otherwise the success of the project is at stake.

3. Responsibilities

DO: taking responsibility and choosing a person to be in charge
DON’T: excluding persons involved and lacking transparency

With the start of the project, a person has to be identified who is in charge. He or she assumes responsibility for the successful project implementation and also makes the decisions. It is absolutely necessary to involve all parties and therefore the whole team in the decision-making process, so that a sense of community is created and all are pulling in the same direction. Transparency is important to build trust and for everyone being on the same level of knowledge. This makes it possible to react more quickly and, if necessary, intervene. The CC function for mails is a simple tool within the project management team to keep for keeping all participants up-to-date.

4. Timings

DO: meeting deadlines and adhering to the project plan
DON’T: threatening quality through incorrectly set timings

Before the project finally begins, the timings (also intermediate steps in the form of the milestones mentioned above) must be defined and coordinated. These timings are typically recorded in a project plan. A change in timing due to different conditions must be communicated immediately and transparently, both internally and externally. In this case, every team member must also be given an early warning when delays arise or are imminent. Timings have to be estimated realistically and communicated in order not to give false promises, which may be at the expense of quality: time and quality should never be in conflict with each other.

5. The Team

DO: finding the right people for the project
DON’T: permanently changing the team structure

The team constellation can be crucial for the success or failure of a project. It is important to have the right people cooperate with the appropriate expertise. Once the team has been established, the motto is "Never change a winning team": changes in the team composition should be avoided as far as possible in order to prevent additional expenditures due to induction training and a lack of knowledge transfer, which can lead to loss of quality, errors and timing delays

6. Risks

DO: observing all risks
DON’T: not planning for risks

As different as projects can be, the risks involved in a project can vary just as much and have to be taken into account in the risk assessment. In doing so, it is important to balance all factors together with the various team members from the various departments in order to adequately evaluate all risks and to communicate these openly to all parties involved. The higher the risk, the more important it is that the necessary time and resource buffers are built into the project plan, which provides scope for possible problems.



DO: keeping track of costs, resources and efforts
DON’T: panicking and obsessive monitoring, if something went wrong

It is the project manager’s job to constantly keep an eye on expenses, costs and resources. Sneak peeks, a daily look at the project time tracking, consultation with the departments about the work progress and project controlling at least once a month, are simple means to keep an overview.

However, the continuous control must not end in a pattern of control constraints – the team members need certain freedoms and the confidence of the project manager in order to be able to carry out their work in a motivated manner. Otherwise control has a negative impact on the quality of the work, because those who feel controlled are simultaneously demotivated and perform worse. In addition, the lack of trust can also severely damage teamwork in the long run. It is particularly important not to panic if something does not run as planned, because this leads to uncertainties for all parties involved. The project manager has to keep a level head in every situation and makes everyone feel that the problem situation is quickly defused by appropriate measures.

8. Project acceptance by those responsible

DO: regular coordination of the project progress
DON’T: not planning for feedback

The job is not yet finished with the "delivery" of the project, since it is rarely to be assumed that there is no feedback on the service provided. This should be planned for and calculated from the beginning, because depending on the feedback, the team will have to do a few adjustments. In this respect, transparency, regular sneak peeks and milestones play an important role, too: if those responsible are closely involved in the development process, they can inform the team beforehand if certain points develop into a different direction as they have imagined. If interim results are presented to those responsible in previously defined time intervals, the project will be completed successfully.

9. The Project Completion

DO: celebrating the success
DON’T: forgetting maintenance

Once a project has been successfully completed, room for joy may also be made. Appreciating the team members after the completion of the project is important for the motivation of subsequent projects.

What should not be forgotten by the success of the project is that in many cases further support is required, which should be provided with the same care - for example, following the successful launch of a website, you must also be able to rely on the subsequent maintenance of the site.

10. Analyses and reports

DO: setting relevant KPIs right from the beginning
DON’T: forgetting regular check-ups after completion of the project

Final analyzes or regular reporting should be planned at the beginning of the project in order to be able to evaluate whether all the objectives have been met. Therefor it is sensible to agree on the relevant KPIs at an early stage, which have previously been determined by means of market research and analysis. For example for the before mentioned new website this means to use monthly reports to check the performance and to adapt strategies if necessary.



About Kristina Reiß

Kristina Reiß has been part of our project management since January 2015, and as Project Lead, she is working with her team to serve clients in the areas of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and finance. Prior to her time at Cocomore, she studied cultural anthropology / folklore, book science and English studies in Mainz and afterwards gained professional experience in the areas of PR, editorial and social media. As a real multi-tasking talent with a sense of strategic planning and good teamwork, however, after two years she knew: "I want to be part of the project management!" Three words that describe Kristina are: Teamplayer, communicative, solution-oriented.