Successful & Strategic Project Planning

The ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘who’ and ‘how’ in project management rely on planning within the organization. Not all project ideas turn into a real project or should become the effort that the organization puts forth. Not every proposed project is worth the money it requires.  And not every proposed project makes sense for what our organization is trying to accomplish this year or in the future in general.

What I am talking about is strategically planning what work we should be doing to make sure that we are spending money properly and in accordance with the goals and plans of our organization.  Strategic planning.  Without it, we are just doing whatever is next on our plate and that is not the best way to go about doing business.

So what do we need to do?  Here are my top 5 questions I ask myself any time I plan:

Is it worth the budget?

The project may make sense in terms of what we will get out of it, but it may not be worth the money we will have to spend to get there.  Think of it as ROI – or return on investment.

project roi

Some projects are necessary even if you are going to lose money on them – because, at the end of the day, you have acquired a new customer and have developed a more lucrative business; or maybe it places you in a particular situation that your organization wants or needs to be in, or you now have acquired new skills or expertise from the experience. But then again, some projects just are not worth the money it will take to make them happen.

Is it a good fit?

Next, is it a good fit for the organization and what you want to accomplish?  Do not take on a one-off project that will gain you the experience you will never need again – unless, of course, it is very lucrative.  Do not take on a project that is in conflict with the goals of your organization or, more importantly, projects that are happening right now.  Look at the project landscape for your organization and ask, “Is this new proposed project a good fit?” Not all are, no matter how much money you will make from them.

Is this the right time?

Perhaps right now is not the right time for a given project.  Look at your project portfolio and the priorities you have at the moment.  Does this project make sense this quarter or even this year?  Maybe it does not.  It all depends on several factors including time, money, priorities, purpose, and customer relations.  This one requires analysis but you have to look at it for every project.  “No” may not mean an absolute “no”, but it may mean “not right now.”

Do we have the right people?

Next, do you have the right people to pull off a particular project right now?  If not, this could mean you should never take on the project, or it may just mean that right now is not the right time because the key necessary resources are tied up on other projects.

resource forecast

Next month, next quarter or next year may make more sense.  A good resource forecasting and planning system may be necessary – and that may be what your real next project needs.  But look at your people landscape and make sure you can win with those available if you take on the project.  If you cannot, then now is not the right time.

Is it likely to succeed?

Finally, can you win on the proposed project?  Is it likely that you will succeed? Do you have time, money, and resources to pull it off?  Is it the right fit for where you want your organization to be? And have you considered the consequences if you fail? Could that failure be catastrophic or just a good learning experience?


Strategic planning on projects we are faced with can be an interesting – and somewhat painstaking – process to go through.  But it has to happen in order to make sure you are working on the right projects for your organization and ones that will help you rather than hinder you on all the work you are planning to take on.  Do not just charge ahead on everything that comes your way – plan accordingly and say “no” when you have to.  Or at least “not right now.”

About the author 

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at