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Every time you estimate a new project and assign resources to it, you create a high level project plan.
High level planning is focusing on establishing your project’s requirements and deliverables, and then tracking them over time. It’s different from a detailed project plan, consisting of all the tasks needed to complete the project. One could say that a high level plan is a manager’s view of the project.
You would often need different tools for detailed project plans and high level planning, as they allow you to focus either on managing particular tasks or managing and assigning resources throughout the projects.
For example, Jira is a great project management tool that lets you track each task within a project. Teamdeck, on the other hand, helps you manage resources within your organization, and assign people to projects based on their availability.
What is high level planning?
High level planning means managing your project’s goals, dependencies, available resources, together with its timeline and budget. It states what should be done, when and by whom, without getting into details of particular tasks. It gives you a clear overview of the scope and required resources, so you can make informed decisions estimating and running your project.
High level project planning is closely connected to Agile project management principles, which states that a project manager (PM) should oversee the process, which can be described as a facilitative way of leadership.
In this case, “facilitative leadership” means that PMs point their teams in the right direction, ensure proper communication and project’s flow, at the same time allowing the team to take responsibility for the projects themselves. This way, PMs can increase the sense of ownership amongst team members, which proves to make them more productive.
Creating a high level plan, you need to include:
- Goals – this way you can decide what it takes to reach your client’s objectives.
- Timing – it’s vital to know how long a project may take to accomplish, and how the timing impacts project’s release, e.g. from marketing perspectives and business opportunities.
- Team – knowing the goals and the timeline, you know who should work on your project and you can find out whether they are available within a given timeframe.
This way you focus on project requirements, business objectives and roles needed to deliver the project, and based on that, create a schedule and allocate resources to your project.
How to implement a high level plan?
We’ve already listed what a high level project plan should consist of.
Now, let’s evaluate how you can use it to schedule resources, estimate their cost and manage your schedule.
How to allocate resources and estimate their cost
You need to evaluate your projects’s objectives and the scope in order to decide whom to include in the project. Make use of a kick-off phase to better understand the project and roles required to deliver it.
When it comes to allocating resources, first thing to do is aligning employees’ skills and experience with your project’s requirements. Having drafted a high level project plan you are already familiar with goals and deliverables. All it takes now is to come up with a list if employees who meet the project’s criteria.
Allocating resources remember to include not only they’re currently working on (or the future projects they’ve already been assigned to), but also:
- Employees’ availability, including their time zones and working hours (full-time, part-time, freelancer).
- Other work-related assignments.
- Days off and national holidays.
This way, you lower the chances that some unexpected events interfere with your project over time.
Assessing your team’s availability is much easier when you use high level planning tools like Teamdeck. It comes with a schedule where you can check the current workload of your employees.
Once you’ve identified your team members and confirmed that they are available for the time of the project, estimate the budget with them using story points based estimation technique, which we described more thoroughly in this article about project kick-off.
Key takeaways: Using high level project plans, you’re able to identify resources you need to deliver a project, confirm their availability and estimate the project’s budget.
How to manage your schedule over time
High level planning is not just about the project’s start. It’s also overseeing your project over time.
One of the techniques you may want to use is resource leveling. It’s simply adjusting the workload to your employees’ availability in order to avoid overbooking. What you need to watch out for, however, is that it changes the project’s path, resulting in delays in development.
To distribute the slack more evenly, you can use resource smoothing technique. According to PMBOK® Guide, it’s adjusting “the activities of a schedule model such that the requirement for resources on the project do not exceed certain predefined resource limits”.
Key takeaways: Using a schedule to monitor your team’s workload during the project allows you to spot how the availability of you team members changes. Then, you’re able to adjust their capacity and project scope, avoiding under- or overbooking, and employee burnout.
Start managing your resources on a high level
We’ve discussed what high level planning is and how having a schedule helps to better manage your team. Use it to have a better overview of your resources’ capacity and project scope.
In order to implement a high level project plan:
- Make sure that you know exactly what the project is about, what are its goals, objectives and requirements.
- Find the best resources to deliver a project.
- Use a tool that lets you check if the resources you need are available.
- Monitor team’s workload over time to spot resources with too much or too little to do.
Teamdeck is a high level planning tool that allows you to plan and monitor your resources throughout multiple projects. Sign up for a 14-day free trial to give it a try.