This is a guest blog post from Judy Bartholomew – A Strategic Project Management Expert based in Surrey, UK

Following last month’s excellent guest post by Jean Maund, I continue on the theme of ‘products’ to give some tips from the world of project management about planning how to create your products.

The overall tip is called ‘Product Based Planning’. This means you start with your outputs and work backwards in your planning. There’s a bit more to it as I will demonstrate shortly, but the basic principle is that simple.

Not only is it simple, but it’s widely practised in many organisations all over the world because it’s a robust and reliable technique. It allows you to think about the constituent parts (sub-products) and how they relate to each other before planning tasks and timescales.

In fact the tasks don’t need to be thought up because they naturally arise from creating the sub-products.

Knowing the relationship between the sub-products means several things:

a) you don’t try to create something, only to find that the preliminaries haven’t been set up

b) you can see which products can be created in parallel and which must be done in series

c) the parallel activities can be allocated to different resources e.g. outsourced and so the overall delivery can be speeded up.

Let’s take delivering a course as an example. The end product is satisfied trained customers. To create this you need trained customers, a survey and testimonials.

  • To create the trained customers you need a training course, a training platform and untrained customers.
  • To create the course you need content and a container for the content.
  • To create the training platform you need a booked equipped venue or an online portal.

Do you get the picture? You work backwards from your end product to your starting point.

Below I have drawn up an example but the exercise can just as easily be done with post-it notes and a sheet of paper.

Product Based Planning Example | Judy Bartholomew

The more you know about the sub-products that are required, the easier it is to estimate the duration for their creation and so come up with an end-to-end timescale.  And it helps to think about the products in advance in detail so that less time is spent later on in thinking, when the products are supposed to be being created.

So, once the products and their relationship have been defined, you create a detailed description of each product. One tip in this exercise is, if the descriptions go on and on, you need to break the products down into more sub-products.

Product descriptions consist of:

  • Title – what’s it called
  • Purpose – a single sentence about why the product is needed
  • Composition – eg sections in a document or could be a single item
  • Derivation – sources and preceding products
  • Format – physical characteristics
  • Audience – users of the product
  • Quality criteria – what makes the product fit for purpose NB it’s a waste of resources to over-engineer something
  • Quality method – how will it be tested

Finally, Product Based Planning is best conducted as a team exercise if other people are going to be involved in creating the products; this may include your staff, suppliers and outsourcers.

By involving others at the planning stage, you’ll get their buy-in and expertise so that the delivered outputs are more likely to be of good quality and delivered on time.

To learn how Judy can transform your business with strategic project management, please visit her website HERE