As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, April 2009.
Getting from point A to point B is doable with a global positioning system or at least a basic idea of where you are heading. But a detailed map can give you several additional possibilities -- including the shortcut, the most scenic drive and perhaps a route with a coffee shop along the way.
The same philosophy applies to project-planning in today's turbulent mortgage environment. Especially at smaller companies, marketing or lead-generation projects often are assigned without ample time to map things out. As deadlines loom, employees are pressured to move without always thinking.
Instead of jumping into the driver's seat and just heading out, it's best to take an hour out of your schedule to plot a careful course. This can save you time and money -- in addition to ensuring you meet your deadline without getting lost.
Budgeting Your Time ___________________________
Your project-marketing plan should take an hour to an hour-and-a-half to complete. Here's a desired timeline:
1. Identify deliverables and acceptance criteria:
2. Identify processes:
3. Identify conflicts:
4. Construct a tree diagram:
5. Conduct milestone reviews: 20 minutes
Here is a step-by-step plot of your potential trip.
Draw your map
Your first move is to determine the "high-level deliverable" for each step of the project. This deliverable is the one thing you need to move to the next step. If your project involves online lead generation, your high-level deliverable could be to secure a vendor whose platform works with your internal systems.
Next, define your acceptance criteria. How will you know you have reached your destination? What milestones must your team reach for each high-level deliverable? An example could be to contact a certain number of leads per month to achieve the success ratio your business needs to survive. Or you could achieve a certain number of clickthroughs on your company's banner ad to pay for its inclusion on another site.
There are two ways you and your team can identify the deliverables. Your method depends upon how much information you have about each step of your project.
If you know the high-level deliverable of each step of your project, use the top-down method. This means beginning with the ultimate goal of the project and then filling in the details to show how you will achieve the goal.
If you are unsure, then try the bottom-up technique. Begin by brainstorming and identifying all the aspects of the project that you must complete to achieve the final deliverable. Categorize these aspects to create the high-level deliverable and group the categories. If you are the team leader, you must spearhead the effort and provide insight and overview for your team members.
Try to create no more than five main groups. This should take your team about five to 15 minutes. If you think an item belongs in more than one group, note that. Name your groups and break them out into named subgroups. Now, you can see your high-level deliverables, your interim deliverables and your acceptance criteria. Assign a team member to lead each high-level deliverable.
Plot your course
If your deliverables and acceptance criteria are clear, it's time to plan how to make them happen. Rely on team members who have been through similar initiatives before. They can offer advice on past successes and failures.
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