A Primer on Processes and Templates in Project Management

Project Process

Recipes for cooking are a beautiful thing. A recipe tells you the ingredients and how much of each you should include in whatever you are making. It then describes what you need to do to these ingredients in order to make the dish. It’s great that someone else has already spent the time in putting together a recipe to follow that nearly guarantees success each time.

To a certain extent we use recipes in our profession as project managers. The recipes we follow are the processes and templates that guide our projects to success each time. How can you put a process together and make the most of templates?

Start with Phases

A good starting place is defining the major phases in which a project must go through. Think about how a project moves from beginning to end, and document the major chunks of work. For example, a simplified software development approach would include the following phases: Planning, Design, Development, Testing, and Implementation.

Document the Processes

Think of the logical work that takes place in each phase. In software development, for example, determine the work that needs to be accomplished in each phase and the steps required to compete the work.

Move on to the Outputs

The next area to concentrate on is the outputs, or end results, from each of these major phases. Ask yourself what tangible deliverable needs to be complete by the time you finish each phase. For example, the Planning stage is going to be filled with meetings and conversations that by themselves do nothing to move the project forward. However, the approved Business Requirements Document is an invaluable output that can propel the project forward to the next Phase of Design.

Back up to Inputs

Now that you have the tangible end results (or deliverables) of each phase defined, ask yourself what needs to be present at the beginning of each phase to create such results. Continuing with our example above, the output of the Development phase would be software functionality that can be tested. You will find that the output from prior phases is usually required as input in subsequent phases.

What About Templates?

Templates are incredibly useful for all areas of process you create. You can use templates for your inputs (i.e. Business Requirements Document), your Outputs (i.e. an approved User Acceptance document) and all points in between. Create templates that will provide consistency and make it easy to transition from one phase to the next with confidence.

Templates are created to assist in creating the results of a process. Templates don’t drive a process. The process drives the need for templates.

One word of caution when it comes to process and templates – don’t overdo it! Create just enough process and documentation around your project to get the work done. It can be tempting to have a process or template in place for every little thing. Resist that urge. Remember, too much of a good thing can ruin a good thing.