Let me first set the scene before we start, as carrying out activity planning is not the first planning step within a PRINCE2 Project.
PRINCE2 uses a very powerful technique which starts with planning with products. You see, project deliverables in PRINCE2 are known as products, but although the deliverables are usually physical products, occasionally a deliverable may be a soft product, or “Outcome “
This may be something like a changed customer perception of the company and is therefore the type of product that you cannot hold or touch.
PRINCE2 Product based planning starts with creating the project product description along with its acceptance criteria, and then using the PRINCE2 Product based planning technique.
The product based planning technique consists of three steps; the first step is to create the above mentioned Project product description. The next two steps are to create two very powerful diagrams, the Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) and the Product Flow Diagram (PFD).
The purpose of this article is not to go into any further details on the PRINCE2 Product-based planning technique, but rather to focus on what comes next – which is the PRINCE2 Activity planning.
The PRINCE2 Activity Planning Technique
Having already identified the products in the above technique, you will now want to determine the activities probably by running a planning workshop. You would want to invite people such as suppliers, team specialist, and team managers since they will have the experience of what type of activities are needed in order to create the previously identified products.
For the specialist products you can write the activities against each box on the product flow diagram, or you can list them on the left side of a Gantt chart. It is highly likely that you will be using a computerised scheduling or project management software application which allows you to specify the various activities, such as milestones as well as forming them into logical groups.
It is important to remember that you have to sets of PRINCE2 Products – The management products and the specialist products. Do not forget that management products will also take time and effort to create so you must include them within your Gantt chart along with their allocated resources.
Another important point is not to forget the external products they also have a time duration even though you are not directly supplying or resources, it may well be that your project is paying for them.
PRINCE2 Activity estimating
Estimating is one of the hardest parts of project planning, however the PRINCE2 Official Manual only mentions it briefly as well as listing a few techniques. Remember that estimating can be a tricky business.
Estimating can be subdivided into two basic approaches: top down estimating, which you do across the whole project, and the more detailed bottom up approach, when you have the detailed activities in stage planning and can estimate them and add them together to get a total.
Some techniques rely on a new knowing how long things have taken before; that is, what is normal in your organisation.
If your project staff have lots of support work to do alongside their project work, do not expect them to be as productive or staff who can concentrate just on the project work alone. This variation in the working environment is one reason why you cannot have an easy estimating formula that fits all situations.
One of the most powerful tools that you can use in estimating your current project activities is using stored historic information. However, many organisations are really bad and archiving this and making it available for swift access.
Some industries, such as the construction industry, Holt statistics on how much the various bits of building work costs. So for each element of building you can just look up the detail and find out materials costs and labour costs for the stated unit, such as per square metre.
PRINCE2 Scheduling and resourcing
The work of scheduling and resourcing is very closely integrated with estimating and you will find that you move backwards and forwards between these two jobs.
Although you will first estimate the amount of time you need to do an activity, in terms of the work effort, but then the estimate depends on what resources are available and this in turn will determine the task duration.
There is a careful trade-off here on the amount of work effort. A trade-off is required verses the number of people that you allocate to carry the work out. There is not a linear relationship between such trade-offs as the more people you add to the task, the more complex it gets – mainly to do with communication.
So you can see that estimating, resourcing, and scheduling are closely related
As I have previously mentioned, you can use different techniques for scheduling, however, most project plans use activity networks (Also called a network diagrams) and Gantt charts. In fact, most people just use Gantt charts because they do not really understand activity networks, but you can use the timeline if you prefer.