Why projects fail (part three) – the matter of planning

Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now – Alan Lakein



f you read the first article of this series (you can find it here), I promised to deepen the matter of planning that is considered the second cause of failure in IT projects.

In this article, I’d like to try to comprehend why so many IT projects fail over the question of planning.

The Project Management Plan

Do you know what’s a project management plan?

Oh yes, we usually identifies it with the Bar Chart (or GANTT or Project Schedule), which looks more or less like the following picture.

Project Schedule

Bad news is, this is not the project plan. This is a combination of an activity list and a GANTT chart, and is basically a project schedule. It is important, absolutely no doubt to it, but it answers only one question: when. And if when is the only question you plan for, the likely answer is never.

When is not the most important question in project planning. The most important question is how. How do you define scope? How do you change it? How do you estimate duration? How do you identify risks? How do you distribute documents? How do you control quality? These are some of the questions that project planning strives to answer.

The Project Management Plan (or Project Plan as we call it nowadays) is a key document used to define how the project (including schedule) will be managed.


What’s its content?

The Project Plan could be a unique document or a collection of documents. Editing the project plan prior to beginning the project and making it signed by the Sponsor, will stem the risk of project failure over the question of planning.

Now the question you’re surely posing is: why have I to write down such a number of informations about my project when I know exactly all of them?

The answer comes in a flash. Writing down the informations, it will force you to deepen such a number of points that you considered clear at first blush and, above all, because the document, signed by the Sponsor, gives you the correct authority and autonomy on your project.

The common content of the Project Management Plan is:

  • Project Management Approach
  • Project Scope
  • Milestone List
  • Schedule Baseline and Work Breakdown Structure
  • Change Management Plan
  • Communications Management Plan
  • Cost Management Plan
  • Procurement Management Plan
  • Project Scope Management Plan
  • Schedule Management Plan
  • Quality Management Plan
  • Risk Management Plan including Risk Register
  • Staffing Management Plan
  • Resource Calendar
  • Cost Baseline
  • Quality Baseline

I prepared a template for you compiled with fake project data; click here to download it.

You could find many other template like this on other blogs on internet; the one I’m proposing is a template taken on the web (it’s a free source of course) and adapted to my needs.

I’m using it on my projects and I assure you that it’s very effective.

I’m an enthusiastic and highly motivated PMP and Prince2 (Foundation) Senior Program Manager with 16+ years experience in the Healthcare industry. I often work in highly pressurized and challenging environments, managing a large-scale software development program up to an order value of €6M. I’m extremely professional in approach and behaviour, adaptable to change, very meticulous, collaborative, energetic, resilient, innovative, proactive and pragmatic. I’m passionate about process improvement, technology innovation, knowledge sharing techniques and how businesses can capitalize on social media integration. My greatest strength is helping to focus my organization’s efforts on the activities necessary to achieve strategic goals and objectives in order to consistently meet both the customer’s and business’ needs; on time and under budget.


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