Virtira

Quickstart Project Planner

We take you through the steps to plan your project including how to measure success – so you’re never left wondering where all that time and effort landed you.

How do you determine what outcomes will be considered successful by the project sponsor and stakeholders?

Our QuickStart Project Planner simplifies the process for assessing the initiative’s feasibility and re-envisioning its outputs and outcomes.

Let's talk about
expectations

Projects are so easy to start in today’s digital workplace.  An executive or C-suite team has an idea, makes a vague request and then a project record is started. Before you know it, people are loosely assigned to the project, assumptions are made, and it’s off and running. Even the start and end dates can be blurry and up for debate.

Enter the Quickstart Project Planner. We’ve designed it to fit everything you need to know about a project on a single sheet. Everyone involved with the project can stay on track with the important information at their fingertips. It encourages the person writing it to ask often overlooked questions before the project begins.

We recommend a project manager prepare the Quickstart Project Planner as soon as they’ve been assigned a project and before doing any real work. Certainly, anyone who finds themselves responsible for a project, initiative, priority, objective, or anything that is goal-oriented and time-sensitive can complete this planner.

For small projects, the one sheet can often be prepared based on initial conversations.

Additional discussions may be necessary for larger projects to clarify and gather high-level requirements.

As it evolves, it provides proof the project manager is on the same page as the person asking for the work to be done.

You can make a template for your project one-sheet from the headlines in this document, or you can tap here to download ours.

What Is It?

Start by briefly explaining the project’s deliverables in plain English. Focus on the output of the project and challenge yourself to keep it high level.

This will give context to the reader for the rest of the sections. Think of it as the information you’d blurt out in an elevator if someone asked you what you’re working on.

Done well, you should be able to keep this to 2 – 3 lines of text.

Why are we doing it now?

This section is the heart of the document. It critically challenges the author of the one-sheet to make a case for why this project now. Every hour sunk into this project will be one that is not invested somewhere else.

Use this section to outline how this project fits into the overall goals of the team, product, department, and/or business. How will it affect customers or internal stakeholders? What will life be like once this project is delivered?

Focus on the impact the project outcomes will have.

Done well, this section should parallel the success criteria section.

Who is this for?

Make a point-form list of everyone who will directly benefit or be affected by the change this project will bring. These are your stakeholders.

  • Will it make someone’s job faster?
  • Will it offer a feature customers have been asking for?
  • Will it save someone’s life?
  • How will it impact them


By understanding all of the stakeholders of the project, you will ensure you are producing the right deliverable.

Done well, you will know who you need to keep informed throughout the life span of the project.

What’s included?

This section can be tricky as you might be inclined to create an exhaustive list of all the tasks or, alternatively, a list of high-level milestones. Both are wrong.

Use this section to list the expected deliverables from the point of view of the internal or external customer. What are they hoping will be delivered? Customers rarely think in terms of discrete uniform packages of work. Not everything fits into a 2-week sprint. They might be looking forward to something huge, like a brand new feature, or something small, like a change to how something looks. The amount of effort required is irrelevant.

Done well, you will develop a point form list of the deliverables that are most meaningful to your stakeholders.

What’s not included?

Sometimes, listing what’s not included is more important than listing what’s included.

If you’re building a product, outline the areas your project will not touch. If you’re making a process improvement, clearly detail which steps you will leave intact. If you previously had a brainstorming session that generated a lot of ideas, list those not accepted into the project scope.

A C-Suite executive will likely skim this document and assume everything they asked for is accounted for. Do everything in your power to direct their attention to this section to confirm you’ve accurately captured their needs, even if it means reading it to them verbatim.

Done well, this section will put walls around your project that will prevent scope creep down the line.

What’s the expected investment?

The cost of business projects is often overlooked. For most, it’s just time. The underlying cost to pay the individuals working on the project is often taken for granted.

You are not expected to provide a detailed budget at this time. In most organizations, project managers won’t have access to the compensation data of their team members. Rather, document what everyone thought the project would cost in time, people, and money.

For example, you might list that it’s expected to keep the project team busy for 4 months or that you will need a specific person for 10 hours a week for 6 weeks.

Done well, this section provides another point of data when prioritizing and selecting competing projects.

How Will We Know We’re Successful?

Often overlooked in business projects is how you measure its success when it’s finished.

Identifying how you will prove the project is successful helps to clarify the purpose of the project. If there will be no measurable impacts as a result of this project, why do it in the first place?

The tendency is to rush this section and include qualitative aspirations that won’t be useful upon reflection. If, for example, you said completing the project will make the team more productive, you will find yourself not being able to prove the team is, in fact, more productive once the project is done.

For those sorts of qualitative success criteria, plan to capture the current state before you start. This might involve sending a survey, interviewing customers, or adding a way to capture a metric into the product.

Another common success measure to avoid is that the project will be completed on time. This is a measure of the project manager’s success, not the project’s.

Your success measurements should involve numbers and be tangible to the change you expect your project to affect. Keep in mind that success for the project is often different from success for the business.

Done well, this section should capture changes to metrics that matter to the business and justify the inception of the project in the first place.

Often overlooked in business projects is how you measure its success when it’s finished.

Identifying how you will prove the project is successful helps to clarify the purpose of the project. If there will be no measurable impacts as a result of this project, why do it in the first place?

The tendency is to rush this section and include qualitative aspirations that won’t be useful upon reflection. If, for example, you said completing the project will make the team more productive, you will find yourself not being able to prove the team is, in fact, more productive once the project is done.

For those sorts of qualitative success criteria, plan to capture the current state before you start. This might involve sending a survey, interviewing customers, or adding a way to capture a metric into the product.

Another common success measure to avoid is that the project will be completed on time. This is a measure of the project manager’s success, not the project’s.

Your success measurements should involve numbers and be tangible to the change you expect your project to affect. Keep in mind that success for the project is often different from success for the business.

Done well, this section should capture changes to metrics that matter to the business and justify the inception of the project in the first place.

Summary

A well-drafted Quickstart Project Planner will summarize the key aspects of a project:

What, Why, Who, and When.

The Quickstart Project Planner challenges the Project Manager to ask the tough questions to ensure the business is prioritizing the right projects and that it gets the most out of its limited resources.

Done well, it provides an important artifact that can be referred to throughout the life span of the project.

Download the Virtira
Quickstart Project Planner Template

Simply fill in the form below to download our template.