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Essential tools for project planning


All project planning relies on proven project management tools if it is to stand the best chance of producing the desired outcome.

Some of these tools have filtered down into lay usage. However, a firm understanding of the principles and procedures behind them needs to be grasped – usually through a course of accredited project management training, including the now widely subscribed Prince2 training modules – in order to optimise the results.

The following are some of the more fundamental tools used in project planning, the operational principles that should be considered when looking for suitable project management training. It will also help to keep these principles in mind when learning about more sophisticated methodologies such as those laid out in Prince2 training.

The first tool, and perhaps the one most well-known outside project management training circles, is the Critical Path Method (CPM). CPM essentially involves separating out elements of the project into discrete tasks (usually placed in individual ‘boxes’ on a diagram), and ranking them in both chronological order and in relation to their direct impact on the closure of the project.

CPM will often be used in conjunction with a second important tool; that of Programme Evaluation and Review Technique – or PERT – charts. PERT charts specify the length of time likely to be taken for each task, and also help ensure that each task is carried out and completed in strict sequential order.

Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) help to precisely define the nature and scope of each individual role within the project; whilst Gantt charts use horizontal bars stretched out along a time axis to show when and for how long each task takes place within the overall project framework.

A final principle – and one which those embarking on Prince2 training will find crops up frequently – is to permit the right degree of flexibility in a project’s structure so as to allow creative input.

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