The most valuable project management template is…..

What a question….! I asked myself this over the Christmas and New Years holidays. I was reviewing a booklet we have produced. The booklet contains a series of project management templates (free to download if you wish. Simply click here)

The reason I was checking them was because of a comment made by a person on one of our project management training events; that using the templates made project management bureaucratic. She felt that there were too many templates and they in themselves were too long.

I was able to say that it is about using the right tool for the right job. For example, you do not always have to complete a full project initiation document (PID). If you are working on a small quick delivery project (say 4 or 5 weeks) however, you need clear objectives, objectives that can be measured, objectives that mean something to the person managing it and objectives that key stakeholders understand. The form will help you identify what these are. However, if you involved in a project which lasts say 12 months, costs are high (you will need to define what high means!) and there are lots of risks involved then you will probably need to use all complete all of the PID plus a significant proportion of the other templates.

This same person asked me which of the project management templates had the most impact. I thought for a moment and told the group the story of the company who asked us to run the project management module of a management development programme. The company carried out their own internal evaluation of each event and asked each person what was the most valuable part of the course. We have run 3 events over a 24 month period for this company and virtually the whole of the 40 people who attended said seeing and practicing using the PID. Among other things they felt the PID was really helpful in that it:

• helped identify the boundaries of the project
• identified objectives clearly
• helped develop project roles
• made senior managers understand what they were signing off
• helped to identify key success factors
• acted as a tool to be used in monitoring and control of projects
• could be used to market and sell the project to key stakeholders
• ensured there is a ink between project objectives and the strategic objectives

I mentioned this to the group and to be fair to the person who asked the question she could see many of the above points. However…. she still felt project management was a little bureaucratic! I did guard my answer by saying that for each person in the room they may feel one of the other templates is more important. This could well be based on the project or projects they are working on.

So, which template do you think is most valuable? I’d be interested to hear and you can download the templates here. Oh, and do say whether you think project management is too bureaucratic.

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6 Responses to The most valuable project management template is…..

  1. I’d agree the set of templates looks overwhelming and would probably make project management more bureaucratic. Sure, it’s all about using right tools to the right job but quite often you could leave without majority of those papers and use one of many web tools to substitute the rest.

    I can remember only one situation when similar amount of documents was expected for the project. And the funny thing is it was during the presales stage. After contract has been signed project team on customer side didn’t expeted so much bureaucracy.

  2. Ron says:

    Thanks for your comment Pawel. I was interested in what you say especially when you say “….use many of the web tools to substitute the rest”. A couple of points:

    1) many clients do not have web tools and do not use them. A lot of clients using their words are immature at project management and do not have any web tools and the likelihood of them getting any is low

    2) using some of the templates has really helped some projects be delivered…e.g. the risk log points out in some cases the obvious but, very often the project manager or team members have kept this all in their heads and guess what…the risk strikes!

    Yes, I can see the value in using some templates in the pre sales stage however surely I’m surprised the client did not use them to measure progress!

    Thanks for the contribution.


  3. Hi Ron,

    I think the most valuable page is the check sheet (P18). I’m a big fan of checklists (as you will see from my blog) because they stimulate the PM to think about the project without getting lost in paperwork.

    Thanks for making the templates available.

    Mike Boyer Smith

  4. Ron,

    OK, I admit I’m biased since I work in software business. As far as your clients don’t use internet (computers) in their everyday work it’s easier to teach them basics using paper documents.

    Anyway as far as i’m familiar with e.g. construction projects there are people who enters all the data to one system or another. The more people work directly with the system the less additional work has to be done.

    Of course I agree that keeping all the details in one’s head doesn’t help to mitigate risks or move the project more smoothly. If the papers are the only way to change that, then OK, but I’d push to take another steps soon.

  5. Ron,
    I have a mini plan for every “project” I undertake as I am involved with lots of small things. I think that plans are vastly under-rated by most business people – create a business plan and put in the drawer ready for the nest time you see the bank manager kind of thing. However, most processes lend themselves to planning in the sense I learned when working on large projects in the government service.
    However, and this is where the caveats come in, that same government service taught me a lot about review and revise rather than just ticking boxes. That’s bureaucracy! Not the plan of itself which is just a tool.

  6. Ron says:

    Thanks for the comments, more welcome….

    Mike, as I mentioned you should use whatever forms/templates are appropriate for the project. I once saw a major It project which was delivered on time and to budget delivered using just 2 flipchart sheets, no risk log, no stakeholder map, no change control forms – they told me common sense and experience ruled.

    Hazel, I’m pleased to see you have a mini plan in place. One of the problems we see so often is that people do not know how to put an effective project plan together and once they do they do not know how to monitor it. Our very first client had some fantastic charts on the wall and when we asked why they needed external support (and they did!) they said that people who produced then thought that this was project over, putting the plan into action was not included!

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