Project Management: How to Develop a Strategic Plan
Without effective strategic planning, it’s difficult to achieve success in project management.1 Strategic planning focuses on a business’s future by understanding operational priorities and resource availability, setting out clear objectives for desired business results, and developing an action plan on how to achieve them.2 The process creates and implements decisions that guide an organisation’s direction, ensuring that it’s adaptable to a changing business environment.3
Ultimately, strategic planning gives a business the opportunity to take control of its vision and turn projected results into reality. This emphasises its importance for project managers, who are responsible for the success or failure of a project, and ensuring an organisation operates at optimal efficiency.4
How to develop a strategic plan
The strategic plan provides a sense of organisational direction and assists in the creation of realistic business objectives. A KPMG survey found that 27% more projects are executed successfully when an organisation’s structure and resources align with their strategy.5 This one-page document improves the decision-making process and allows organisations to be more proactive, which aids the ability to prepare for unfavourable situations and minimise any risks involved. The benefits include:
- Projects are completed more efficiently
- Project communication is increased6
- Resources are managed more effectively7
- Ensures project managers make informed decisions
- Chances of success are improved8
While the initial creation task may seem overwhelming at first, simplifying it into a step-by-step process will ensure you target each business goal and reach your proposed business outcome. Try this five-step approach:
Step 1: Understand your company’s mission and objectives
This first step focuses on understanding your organisation’s current business strategy. Without a clear outline of your mission and long-term goals it’s near impossible to create a successful strategic plan.9 Review past and present performance to critically assess your strategic position and identify how to:
- Build on your strengths
- Combat weaknesses
- Take advantage of growth opportunities
- Recognise potential threats10
The University of Cape Town (UCT) Advanced Project Management online short course, with a firm focus on strategic skills, will also help you align project management activities with your organisation’s overarching aims to bring about real change.
Step 2: Assess resources and capabilities
Analysing the business’s resources is incredibly important, as it determines whether you can execute an effective strategic plan.11 The plan should assess all available assets, including finances, employees and equipment. In addition, it should examine business capabilities, and identify any organisational vulnerabilities.12 This allows management to advocate for the appropriate type and amount of resources to accurately support the goals of the organisation.13
Step 3: Establish future projections
The first two steps will help you establish your current business priorities and the corresponding resources for addressing them, but how do you determine the short-term goals to achieve your overall objectives? Consider this list as a starting point:
- Establish clear and specific goals
- Track the progress of each goal to remain motivated
- Remain realistic and set goals which are challenging, but attainable
- Ensure that the goals are relevant and beneficial to your overall business objectives
- Include a time target for each goal to create maximum efficiency
This process allows organisations to establish a vision statement. While the future is impossible to predict, ensuring there is a unified vision within the company will help define the prospective outlook of your business.14
Step 4: Determine the method to meet business objectives
Once you have established your business’s vision statement, the next step is to develop an action plan. Determining the course of action you will take to reach your short-term goals can be the most significant step within a strategic plan and can directly influence the time it takes to achieve your business objectives.15
The action plan should outline the short-term tasks that need to be completed in order to achieve each of your business goals, and effectively communicate how to budget time, human capital, and finances.16 This plan will ensure that each person is held accountable for their contribution to achieving the overarching goals.
If at this point it is discovered that strategic planning has been implemented incorrectly, your business strategy will need to be reanalysed further down the line. The ‘2018 PMI Pulse of the Profession’ survey found that 82% of project management directors believe it is extremely important to incorporate the lessons learnt from failed strategy implementation back into strategy formulation to ensure your business stays competitive over the next three years.17
Step 5: Ensure the plan evolves
It’s important to recognise that a strategic plan is not set in stone. It’s more beneficial to assume that the plan is a continuous work in progress or a “living, breathing document”.18 To ensure the plan continues to function in the intended manner, it’s important to review it regularly and make necessary adjustments as needed.19
The success of a strategic plan relies on the people and systems involved in its creation. Thus, it’s vital that the right people are involved in the planning process and that business objectives, as well as how they will be achieved, are clearly communicated. In order to do this, there should be a greater sense of accountability and lessons learnt in strategic plan development should be incorporated into future planning processes, while continuously redefining the plan to ensure you keep working towards achieving your vision and overall priorities.
Learn to bridge the gap between strategic goals and project delivery. Register for the Strategic project management online short course from Rice University’s Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
- 1 Kerzner, H. (Feb, 2019). ‘Using the project management framework maturity model’. Retrieved from Google Scholar.
- 2 Serino, A. (Oct, 2018). ‘Strategic planning: a definition’. Retrieved from ClearPoint Strategy.
- 3 Kerzner, H. (Feb, 2019). ‘Using the project management framework maturity model’. Retrieved from Google Scholar.
- 4 (May, 2017). ‘Who are project managers?’. Retrieved from PMI.
- 5 (Jul, 2017). ‘Driving Business Performance’. Retrieved from KPMG.
- 6 James, A. (Jul, 2017). ‘Project Management’s role in strategic implementation’. Retrieved from PMI.
- 7 MacAdam, M. (Jan, 2018). ‘Best practices in BRM: deep dive into strategy’. Retrieved from PMI.
- 8 Kerzner, H. (Feb, 2019). ‘Using the project management framework maturity model’. Retrieved from Google Scholar.
- 9 Alexander, M. (Jul, 2018). ‘How to develop a PMO strategic plan’. Retrieved from CIO.
- 10 Deeb, G. (Dec, 2018). ‘The top 6 steps of strategic planning’. Retrieved from Forbes.
- 11 Alexander, M. (Jul, 2018). ‘How to develop a PMO strategic plan’. Retrieved from CIO.
- 12 Deeb, G. (Dec, 2018). ‘The top 6 steps of strategic planning’. Retrieved from Forbes.
- 13 (Feb,2018). ‘Project management: how to develop a strategic plan’. Retrieved from Workfront.
- 14 (Feb,2018). ‘Project management: how to develop a strategic plan’. Retrieved from Workfront.
- 15 Engel, J. (Feb, 2019). ‘A three-step model for creating a strategic plan’. Retrieved from Forbes.
- 16 McClanahan, C. (Feb, 2019). ‘A one-page strategic plan that your business will actually use’. Retrieved from Forbes.
- 17 (Feb, 2018). ‘Pulse of the Profession: Success in disruptive times’. Retrieved from PMI.
- 18 Kenny, G. (Aug, 2018). ‘6 Steps to make your strategic plan really strategic’. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.
- 19 Kenny, G. (Aug, 2018). ‘6 Steps to make your strategic plan really strategic’. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.