Project Planner Tools

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Plan out your project using helpful tools to keep you organized.
Plan out your project using helpful tools to keep you organized. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Having the right organizational tools can directly impact your success as a project planner. When you are put in charge of a project, it is essential for you to have a list of the tools that you can use to make sure a project is completed effectively, efficiently and without going over the budget. Try working with a variety of project planning tools to find the ones that are most suitable for you.

Scheduling Tools

The first thing you want to do in the project planning process is create a project schedule. The project schedule tells you and those on your project team what the timeline of the project must be, given predetermined deadlines. Some project planners prefer to start with the end date and work backwards. One type of scheduling tool to consider for this is a schedule network analysis, which is an illustration that represents all of the steps and tasks to be completed in the project. The graphs on the illustration tell planners how much time is being scheduled for a specific step or task to be performed, as well as what order of operations the activities must be carried out in. A Gantt chart is an Excel graph that is commonly used by project managers to read and review schedules.

Project Mapping Tools

A project's tasks must be planned out from the beginning, and project mapping tools abet the planning process by listing project phases and breaking them down into activities, tasks and steps. A work breakdown structure is a widely used project mapping tool that works like a flow chart. The large project phases are categorized at the top of the chart, and each phase contains sub categories and sub-sub categories of the details within that phase. Work breakdown structures are also helpful in allowing the project planner to visualize how many more steps, tasks, activities and phases must be completed before the project is finalized.

Budget Planning Tools

Every project has a budget, which is an allocated amount of funding that project planners must work within. Planners rely on budget planning tools to determine how to execute a project without spending more money than the budget allows. As a project planner, you may be asked to create a budget based on how much you anticipate the total project to cost. If this is the case, create a bottom-up budget tool in Excel by making a list of all the expenses you identify, such as resources, labor, materials, travel costs and equipment. Come up with a total, which will be your budget. Sometimes, project planners have a predetermined budget and need to create a top-down budget planning tool that starts with the total budget and breaks out the individual expenses.

Progress Documenting Tools

Part of being an effective project planner means setting milestones and objectives for progress throughout the course of the project. Progress documenting tools help planners keep track of where the project is, and identify if a step in the project has been delayed. Use one of your time management tools, such as the Gantt chart, and develop milestone marks for each phase of the project. The milestones will be your measure of how smoothly the project is moving.

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