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Back to Basics: five fundamentals of strong project management

May 26, 2021

Back to Basics: five fundamentals of strong project management

4 Minute Read

To deliver projects successfully, you need to have these five basics in your planning.

Energy and utilities organizations are facing increased pressure to deliver projects on time and on budget. Given this increased focus on project delivery, there’s no shortage of ideas about how organizations can improve this critical area.

But let’s take a step back and revisit the fundamentals of solid project management. There are five key project artifacts that every project requires to be delivered successfully.

You’re likely already familiar with these fundamentals, but it’s useful to re-examine them. This article can act as a reminder to ensure you are capturing these five fundamental pieces for successful project delivery.

Scope document

A strong scope document clearly outlines the project deliverables and defines success so you can clearly identify and understand what the endpoint of the project looks like.

For larger and more complex projects, the scope is refined as you identify more information and the project progresses from conceptual through the initial and final design phases.


The scope document provides the foundation required to build the plan. The plan outlines the strategy that will be used to deliver the scope. The scope is the what you will build and the plan is how you will build. In other words, the plan is the required steps to achieve the scope.

At this stage, your plan only needs to include a high-level description and timeline of what happens in each phase. This is not a detailed breakdown of the work, rather it provides the overall approach for delivering the project.


The next step is the creation of the schedule that identifies how you will accomplish what has been outlined in the plan. The schedule includes key milestones and completion dates as well as critical path activities.

The level of detail required for the schedule depends on the size and complexity of the project. A larger project typically has a more detailed schedule whereas a smaller or simpler project generally requires a less detailed schedule. As well, the schedule will evolve and expand as the project progresses and more information becomes known to the project team.

You can also consider creating a Work Breakdown Structure that identifies the activities and associated timelines, providing greater clarity of what needs to be accomplished to get your project done on time as well as any dependencies related to the individual tasks and activities.


The estimate is the approximate cost of the project. Similar to creating the scope and schedule documents, the estimate is refined as more information becomes available.

To create an effective estimate the level of accuracy must be identified as well as the methodology utilized. Common methods used include actual costs from similar projects, industry-standard cost benchmarks or actual quotes from material and service providers.

As more information becomes available, the estimate is revised until the level of accuracy is aligned with the risk profile of the organization and a final investment decision can be made. Smaller projects often have a wider accuracy threshold than larger, more complex projects. The key is that the level of accuracy is aligned with the risk appetite of the organization.

Risk register

Creating a register of all risks that could impede the successful delivery of your project helps you understand and plan for the pitfalls ahead. In the risk register you will identify mitigation strategies for each risk to create a team-wide understanding of what potential risks are and the associated strategy to mitigate or address them.

Identify the associated costs and schedule impacts of each risk in the register. This helps you understand the potential cost and schedule ramifications of any risks that come to fruition. The output of this risk register work will be fed back into both the schedule and estimate; typically in the form of contingencies.

Creating and maintaining these five fundamental artifacts greatly improves the chances of delivering a project successfully. To learn more about Portfolio, program and project management and how our MNP team can help your organization, contact Troy Laursen, CPA, Senior Manager, Consulting Services, at 587.441.6034 or [email protected].


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