Step 5: Plan for the Known Unknowns – Project Planning

Risk Analysis Table
Risk Analysis Table

A lot of creative projects often go down to the wire, they are complicated by their very nature and there may be huge unknowns, especially if the project balances on the ‘cutting edge’. We have gathered some useful tools to help you plan, ensure positive communication between the creators and client, how to create a timeline, and how to assess risks and have a contingency even for the unknown unknowns. To start with, here is an outline of what should be included in a project plan…

Project Plan Outline:

  1. Project purpose
  2. Project team – roles & responsibilities matrix
  3. Risk Analysis Table
  4. Project Communications, tracking progress
  5. Version control
  6. Project timeline – Gantt chart, key milestones
  7. Project team directory

Project purpose:

Sometimes it might be nice to have a day without a purpose if you wanted to relax. However, a project without a purpose would end up looking like a headless chicken.

Whatever the project is aiming to achieve, for whom, how and why would be the main ingredient for this part of the project plan.

Project team – roles & responsibilities matrix:

Having clearly defined roles and responsibilities and agreeing them at the kick off meeting is pretty important. Otherwise, different expectations towards work that needs to be done can result in frustration with team members – not a healthy ingredient for a harmonious and productive working relationship.

Here is an example of a Responsibilities Matrix:

Responsibilities Matrix
Responsibilities Matrix

Risk Analysis Table:

Can you really plan for the unknown unknowns? Maybe not in detail, but you can at least list the known risks, potential issues, dependencies and their impact on your project outcome. Adding a 10%-20% of your budget as contingency could cover your “unknown unknowns”. Here are just a few examples of risks and their risk strategy for a creative project:

Risk Analysis Table

Risk Analysis Table
Example Risk Analysis Table for a digital project

Project communications, tracking progress:

The Project Manager takes the lead role in ensuring effective communications throughout the project, making sure team members are doing what they have said they would do, sharing progress, achievements, liaising with senior managers, suppliers, etc. If you are lucky you can get a project manager who even inspires you and motivates you to do what you are supposed to do. That would reduce the number of times a project manager gives you a nudge about something that was supposed to get done yesterday. Here are a few examples for what, when and how to communicate progress to whom:

Project Communications
Project Communications

Version control:

At the beginning of each document, file or spreadsheet, you should have a Revisions Table especially if you need to get a document signed off by several people.

Revisions Table
Revisions Table for version control

Project timeline, key milestones:

If you wanted just a very basic, simple Gantt chart then I am sure you can whizz something up in a spreadsheet, but if you wanted a slightly more sophisticated Gantt where you can define your dependencies, resources, key milestones, etc. then you could check out which integrates with Google Drive. Here is an example of one:

Gantt Chart example
Gantt Chart example


Key milestones are always good to highlight separately – these are the days you want to have booked into everyone’s diary as it’s a great occasion to celebrate achievements throughout the project.

The above might have given you some pointers for your own project and if you need a hand from Developing Dreams to help you turn your ideas into reality, then get in touch. We have PRINCE2 certified practitioners and Scrum Masters. We also work in partnership with Project Management on Demand, because we love the founder and get along really well.

**This is part 5 of a 7 article series. Missed step 1? Read A Jargon Free Anatomy of a Creative Brief.

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