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Planning occurs broadly at two levels; planning and delivery.

At the planning level a series of ideas are set out, principles of how each aspect of the work will be managed. These plans include documents such as the risk management plan, quality management plan and benefits management plan. They are sometimes referred to as strategies (e.g. the benefits management strategy).

The policy-level plans set out procedures and processes for each aspect of management. They list preferred techniques, including templates for documentation and defined responsibilities.

At the delivery level, documents will answer such questions as:

Why? – a statement of the reasons the work is required. It includes a definition of the need, problem or opportunity being addressed.

What? – describes the objectives, scope and deliverables of the work, together with their acceptance criteria. It also describes the success criteria for the project and the key performance indicators (KPIs) used to measure success. The ‘what’ needs to take into account any constraints, assumptions and dependencies.

How? – there may be alternative ways of achieving client’s requirements. The chosen method should be documented along with reasons for its choice.

Who? – the project organisation is defined along with key roles and responsibilities, together with a plan defining the resources that will be required and how they will be acquired.

When? – a project schedule that includes key milestones, phasing and detailed timings for the activities required to complete the work.

How much? – including budgets and cash flows for expenditure

Where? – the geographical location(s) where the work will be performed and the impacts on the costs and personnel factors.

All of the delivery information is developed in outline form during the concept phase of a project or programme. “This is usually referred to as the project or programme brief”

When senior management give approval to proceed, detailed documentation is prepared in the definition phase. This is then referred to as the project or programme management plan.

On larger projects and all programmes, it is unreasonable to develop detailed schedules for the entire life cycle. The later stages of work will be subject to change, as a result of altered requirements and performance in the earlier stages.

It is common to apply the principle of ‘rolling wave planning’ where earlier stages and tranches are planned in more detail than the later ones.

It is important to share the management plan with all parties involved so there is a common understanding of what the requirements are and how they will be delivered.

Once agreed, the management plan provides a baseline which is periodically reviewed and updated with rigorous change control. It forms the basis of gate reviews where the continuing viability of the work is assessed.

By its very nature, delivery planning is speculative. It involves looking into the future and estimating what will happen. Estimates will be based on whatever data is available and expertise in its interpretation and application.