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9 steps to create a realistic project planning for product-based businesses

3 daily hacks to combine the role of product manager and project manager
I'm Marie-Louise!

In my 20 years of working as a product & project manager, I’ve got to know some great tools and gained valuable experience to efficiently develop products. I love to share my knowledge and these tools with you.

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Do you recognise the sad feeling of having to update your project planning every week? Moving your milestones further and further away because of unexpected time consuming activities? Activities which you might have overlooked? Then you might like this 9 step approach that enables you to include all the important deliverables of your project team and helps you to create a reliable project planning for tech-oriented tangible products right from the start.

How to create a realistic project planning?


Step 1: Divide your new product development planning into 5 phases.

  1. Fuzzy Idea collection: brainstorm phase, input from market research to come to new ideas.
  2. Product concept creation: determine your new product concept.
  3. Product Feasibility & Refinement: verify the technical, commercial and financial feasibility of your new product idea.
  4. Product Realisation: develop your new product.
  5. Product Launch: start mass production and bring your new product on stock in the warehouse. The new product is now available for sales.


Add an estimated date when you want every phase to be finalized.

By splitting up your planning in phases, you add structure to everyones daily activities and offer clarity on which phase the new product development is currently in.

Step 2: Add actions & deliverables in every development phase.

Next step is to add actions and deliverables to every phase. So, you need to think when you need to do what in every phase.

For example, in the product concept phase, you need to define the features and benefits of your new product idea, you need to investigate the cost price and the selling price, you need to find out if it is technically possible to develop and manufacture your new idea.

By adding these detailed deliverables and activities you can micro manage your project and act fast in case of deviation to the planning.


Step 3: Add these actions and deliverables in your project planning and set the number of days needed to complete them.

Put them in the right order and use the auto schedule feature in e.g. Microsoft Projects to link deliverables to each other. This is important if one deliverable cannot start before another deliverable is finished. Your planning will be automatically updated and dates will shift if one of the deliverables is delayed or better, is ready earlier :-).

You can also do this in a spread sheet like Excel. You need to update all activities manual in case you change a date.


Step 4: Add the name of the responsible team member behind every action.

In order to be able to manage your development project, it should be very clear who is responsible for what activity during new product development. When there is a name behind every action or deliverable, it is crystal clear what everyone in your team should do and when it should be finished.


Step 5: Close every phase with an official ‘move-to-the-next-phase-date’.

At the end of every phase in new product development, you want to decide if the project is still feasible. So, you ask your team the question: is it still worthwhile pouring money in this product development?

You want to make this decision official and in time. Therefore, it is wise to have a clear decision made at the end of a development phase to proceed or not.

These decision moments are called milestones or quality gates and close a certain phase in the development process in order to move to the next phase.

The milestones are linked to investment decisions, for example tooling, demo samples, external development costs.

A good project planning needs to have these investment decisions before you pass the milestones and decide to continue. This prevents a non-profitable project to be continued far tool long.


Step 6: Create a fixed project planning

If you work in an industry where the product introductions are always at the same date (e.g. important trade show, release of customers catalogues),  you are able to fix your project planning activities and milestones at the same date for each project. Only valid if product developments are comparable.

For complex projects this is probably not applicable.

But in case you do run similar projects, you know exactly when to start with what activity and you’re able to really plan main activities throughout the year.

For example, benchmarking can always be planned in March. Preparation of new product concepts in April and May. Internal presentation to stakeholders and approval in June. Focus groups with customers in September. From October till April you will have development time in order to introduce the new product in May on the yearly trade show.

If your projects always differ a lot in planning, you need to adapt the number of days needed to complete each deliverable every time. Make sure to include the milestones in your planning, as they are important quality gates.


Step 7: Built-in experience from previous projects right from the start.

Of course a project is not static, all kind of influences have effect on your planning, so you will need to adjust it regularly. But within certain limits.

Those limits you can set at the start of each new product development, based on the experience you and your team members have with comparable projects.

If you know for example, that the evaluation of product samples always takes longer than the standard five days, plan eight days instead. Does certification regularly take four months instead of the agreed three months? Plan those four months, but always strive to win time back where possible.


Step 8: Include holiday periods

 What we also tend to forget is to include holiday periods in our planning. If your project runs into December, include two weeks of Christmas holidays, because no work will be done. In February you will need to take into account Chinese New Year. Also in summer, you will have a slow down in your project due to several weeks of absence of your team members, suppliers and customers.

These are a few examples but there are many more local and regional national holidays in all parts of the world that are linked to your business.

If you do not take this into account, you will be faced with quite some delay. This is frustrating and can be avoided by building in these obvious ‘delays’ right from the start.


Step 9: Verify your planning with your team members on a regular basis.

As said before, a project is not static, setbacks and new insights will always influence your planning. In order not to delay the project, it is important to anticipate on these changes quickly. When you review your planning regularly with your team members, you will be informed timely on issues that have impact on your planning. The team is able to figure out a solution to win back this delay elsewhere in the planning.

Please click the link above or wander around my website and benefit from the free resources and free formats that I am offering to you.

Hope this helps you to get a step closer in your new product development project management activities!

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Hi, I'm Marie-Louise.

I help project managers and entrepreneurs become successful in managing
new product development projects.
And create space in their day so they work efficient and can manage their teams with confidence.

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