Is the project “small, medium or large”?
If it is going to be a “small” project, with a simple set of tasks and or goals, then this type of project likely needs limited planning. A set of notes or even a conversation may suffice in setting out the reason for the project and the problem it is trying to solve. It may also be possible on a small project to look at potential product wants and needs without having to document them. Ultimately, on small projects it should be plausible to estimate cost, quality, and time allocations in a simple and speedy manner.
If the project is what might be classed as “medium” or relatively complicated, then a simple conversation with those involved and making notes will likely not suffice. For medium sized projects where there are numerous team members and resources involved and more complex cost, quality, and time allocations to consider, then there is at least a basic plan needed. This overall basic plan could be as simple as deciding tasks, times, and responsibilities. Or it may involve more detailed planning, such as drafting a business case, a project brief, a project product description and ultimately a more in-depth project plan, involving a timeline of task and times etc. Essentially, if the project is not possible if only you are involved, then you may want to consider some project planning, and the project should be thought of as medium sized.
Lastly, if the project is “large” and or complex with multiple variables that all need careful control, then it is likely the case that a detailed project plan needs to be tailored for this specific project. The project itself likely needs to be defined, what is an isn’t within the boundaries of the project for example. Next, plan the project approach, how are different aspects of the project going to be undertaken and how will we know when they are done. There needs to be a more comprehensive business case, to look at why the project is being undertaken and whether it makes business sense. A project management team structure is likely needed, as with a large complex project everybody needs to know which project aspect(s) they are responsible for. Quality, change and risk management controls may need to be in place, with documents laying out how quality or change tolerances are to be approached and what should happen if risks become issues. There may also need to be controls around communication to define what is and is not acceptable regarding the methods and or recording of communication, for example meeting minutes or official documentation etc. The project plan in this case for a complex large project will likely have to involve sophisticated software. This planning software should enable the project to have a detailed grid of all time and task allocations with the assigned party, date of starting/completion, and the amount of effort (hours) being undertaken etc. It may also be the case that a sophisticated plan would also show that tasks are to be done, are being done, or have been done etc. On top of this, there may also be a specific breakdown of dependencies and dependants etc. With the former being in place, a Kanban board can be used to keep track of the “do, doing, done and not needed” etc. A detailed Gantt timeline would also be seen as very useful, as this would give a visual representation of task and time, chronologically ordered, relative to the dependencies and dependants.
In short, three things to consider before starting a project are as follows; Is the project small, is the project medium sized, or is the project large and complicated? Once you have a good idea of how simple or complex the project is, you can plan accordingly. Not all the planning indicated in this description is always necessary and, in some cases, there are also necessary plans that are not covered in this description. Either way, understanding that projects vary in size and knowing this prior to starting any given project, should help you be best prepared for any given eventuality and have responses ready that are appropriate and relative.