The Ultimate Project Management Checklist for Faultless Projects
Project management checklist is an essential resource for the productive Project Manager. Whether you’re starting a project from scratch or taking over one that’s already been started – either way, you’ve got a project team waiting for your direction.
Project planning is often ignored in favour of getting on with the work. Don’t fail to realise the value of a good project plan to save time and money, and eliminate problems before they arise.
This checklist will help you manage any project with the highest success rate – let’s get started!
First step: Don’t panic! Use this printable project management checklist as a starting point.
□ Research 🗂
Before taking on a project, you have to stop and make sure you know all the facts. Take a deep breath and dive into the project documentation, ask thoughtful questions, be informed and methodical.
□ Understand Your Role 🎩
Having a clear understanding of your role is an important pillar of a successful project. Even if it isn’t documented on paper, it will help you ensure that all stakeholders are considered and that you’re aware of your responsibilities in case issues arise.
□ Identify the Stakeholders 🕵️
A project is successful when it has met the expectations of all stakeholders. A stakeholder can be anybody directly or indirectly impacted by the project.
It is not always easy to determine the project’s stakeholders, particularly those affected indirectly. A stakeholder could be:
- The client
- The project manager
- The project team
- The customer who receives the deliverables
□ Write a Project Plan ✍️
Some tools are more comprehensive than others, but a rock solid project plan can be achieved in any solution as long as it helps you to formalize your thoughts and keep consistency.
Try to make your project plan as simple as possible – the more straightforward and easier it is to read, the better.
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□ Set Goals 🚀
The first step in creating any project plan is setting achievable goals. Meet with the stakeholders, and discuss the possible outcomes. Turn the output into a comprehensive list, and prioritize the needs. A good technique for doing this is reviewing them against the SMART principle.
The acronym SMART has several slightly different variations, which you can modify depending on your project:
S – specific, significant
M – measurable, motivational
A – agreed upon, attainable, action-oriented
R – realistic, relevant, rewarding, results-oriented
T – time-bound, tangible, trackable
Remember: Every goal has to be measurable. Depending on your project’s objectives, you can track various Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Monitoring KPIs helps to evaluate the project’s performance and make data-driven decisions.
□ Create a Vision 🖼
From the smaller goals, create a wider vision statement. Without a strong, shared vision, it’s hard to gather the momentum needed to get the project off the ground.
The vision statement should explain what the project is hoping to achieve in a few details:
- Where does the project fit with the overall business strategy?
- What will be the project’s outcome?
- How will the project benefit the stakeholders?
□ Develop the Budget 💵
A project budget is a detailed, time-based estimate of all the costs for your project. You typically develop a budget in phases – from an initial estimate to a detailed version to the final approved project budget.
When starting a project, it is difficult to know how much it will eventually cost – and with so much uncertainty in projects, it can be one of the project manager’s greatest challenges.
Your project budget will be made up of different direct and indirect costs, with a small amount assigned for contingency reserve.
Once you have an idea how long a project is going to take and how much resources you need (coming right up in the checklist!), you can calculate the approximate total for the direct and indirect costs.
□ Determine the Direct Costs
These costs are directly attributed to the project and charged on an item-by-item basis.
- Labour (people) costs
- Consultant fees
- Raw material costs
- Software licences
- Travel costs
□ Determine the Indirect Costs
These costs signify resources that benefit more than one project, and only a proportion of their total cost is charged to the project.
- Telephone charges
- Office space rent
- Office equipment costs
- General administration costs
- Company insurance costs
□ Add the Contingency Reserve
Don’t forget to reserve a buffer to your project to cover risks – the contingency reserve. Usually, it’s a percentage of the total project cost and time.
□ Create a Resource Allocation Plan 📑
An organization’s resources include people, equipment, materials, knowledge, and time.
Find out what resources are available for the project, now and in the future. A resource allocation plan is an important tool in the effective management of scarce resources.
Describe the type of resources needed and the timing of that need. As the project schedule changes, the resource plan must be flexible enough to adjust as these alterations occur.
A Resource Plan will help you to:
- Identify the number of resources required per project activity
- Plan the timeline for using or consuming these resources
- Create a detailed resource utilization schedule
□ Establish the Deliverables ✅
Using the previously defined goals, create a list of things the project needs to deliver to meet those goals. Simply put – tasks and subtasks. Specify when and how to deliver each item.
Add notes to tasks that might seem confusing or need an explanation. It never hurts to add detail!
□ Create a Timeline ⏳
Create a list of tasks that need to be carried out for each identified deliverable. For each task, determine the following:
- The amount of effort (hours, days, etc.) required for completing the task
- The responsible person who will carry out the task
Once you have established the amount of time needed for each task, you can work out the effort required for each deliverable, and a delivery date.
At this point in the planning, you can use project planning software such as Scoro, Wrike, MS Project or any of your choosing, to create your project schedule. Alternatively, use one of the many free templates available.
□ (Re-)Assess the Deadline ⚙️
A common problem discovered at this point is that you have an imposed delivery deadline from the client, that, based on your estimates, is unrealistic.
If you discover that you can’t deliver the project in time, you must contact the client immediately.
The options you have:
- Renegotiate the deadline (project delay)
- Employ additional resources (increased cost)
- Reduce the scope of the project (fewer deliverables)
Use the previously created project schedule to justify pursuing one of these options.
□ Create a Communications Plan 📩
A project must begin with clear communication of the project goals and the effort required to meet them.
Create a document showing:
- Who should be informed about the project
- How often and when should they be informed
- How will they receive the information
The most common reporting tool is the weekly or monthly status report, describing how the project is performing, milestones achieved, and the work you’ve planned for the next period.
□ Create a Risk Management Plan ⛔️
Although often overlooked, risk management is an important part of project management. It is important to identify as many risks to your project as possible and be prepared if something bad happens.
Here are some examples of common project risks:
- Unclear roles and responsibilities
- Poor communication resulting in misunderstandings, quality problems and rework
- Stakeholders adding or changing requirements after the project has started
- Lack of resource commitment
- Misunderstanding stakeholder needs
- No stakeholder input obtained
- Too optimistic time and cost estimates
Remember: Ignoring risks doesn’t make them go away 😉
□ Manage the Documentation 🗃
To keep the project transparent and everyone on the same page, keep your project plan attached to other project-related documents such as the proposal, time logs, work reports, meeting notes, or anything else that might come in handy.
□ Format 📇
Having followed this checklist, you should now have an excellent and actionable project plan. Now it’s time to match the content with appearance.
- Include the project information such as the client & project name
- Add your company’s (and the client’s) logo
- Use your company’s branded fonts and colour scheme
□ Track the Progress 📊
Congratulations, you made it! Don’t forget to update your plan as the project makes progress, and continually measure progress against the plan.
Project managers often use a project KPI dashboard that provides a quick overview of the project’s performance and updates. Having a real-time overview of the KPIs helps to make informed decisions and achieve long-term goals.