First work out the project’s planning and only then start planning the project itself.The extensiveness of a project plan is determined by the size and nature of the project. Making a complex plan for a simple project is not necessary, and likewise a simple plan is not sufficient for a complex project. The purpose of project planning is to find the best possible solution for execution, weighing the results of different alternative solutions against the aspects of time and money. Finding the best solution for executing a project requires the involvement of all central parties in the planning process. Do not plan the project alone.
The characteristic feature of all projects is phases. Phases are formed from concrete sets of measures that are targeted at the achievement of project objectives. Phases should be established with such levels of precision that a clear picture can be formed of the work to be carried out in the project. This will be followed by a determination of the resources needed in the project’s execution. The duration of the phases and the timing of phases within the overall timeline is described in the plan. The phases and measures are specified in more detail in the task list (working plan), where each measure is given a deadline and the person in charge is named.
Make use of and keep updated the analysis of project parties in which the central actors in the subject field and other interested parties are mapped out during the idea generation phase. It would be a good idea to build a project steering group consisting of these persons in the planning stage at the latest. Think carefully about who should belong to the steering group, as the members of the steering group have a central role not only in planning, but also in steering the execution of the project and in defending the project.
In the course of planning, the problem analysis that was started during the idea phase is also updated. Based on this it is possible to assess the feasibility and relevance of the project idea, and whether these are in line with the central strategies and programme documents. The setting of targets is decided on the basis of the boundaries that have been established in the problem analysis. Use the moderators at the JAMK involvement planning workshops.
Especially in extensive international projects, attention should be paid to building up the consortium, and enough time should be reserved for this purpose. An effective and well built consortium is an absolute precondition for receiving project financing and for high-quality execution of the project. The point of departure in gathering a project consortium is that the competences of consortium parties are mutually complementary. Before you start gathering together the members of a consortium, you should become thoroughly familiar with the criteria of the financing programme. Different financing programmes may set highly precise criteria for the consortium.
Characteristics of a good consortium in a nutshell are as follows:
- mutual trust and respect
- sufficient expertise
- sufficient resources and support services
- readiness for working in teams
- positive chemistry between people.
Five key questions:
- What is the problem that will be solved?
- What is the European, national and regional viewpoint on it?
- Is there already a solution to the problem?
- Why now? What will happen if we do not do it now?
- Why us? Is our consortium the best? Who can solve the problem?
In the project plan you can utilise the following division between issues:
Background and need
Describe the background factors and the need for the project. Answer the following questions at least:
- What is the need that the project is striving to solve?
- Are there any initial reviews, forecast details, or anything similar to cover the need and demand for the project and how has this been utilised in the preparation of the project?
- Which parties have been involved in the preparation of the project, and how have they been involved? Also take into account the representatives of the target groups. Describe how the actors have taken part in the planning process. Who has been asked to provide comments about the project plan?
- Which parties will make use of the project output and good practices and how have these parties been mapped?
- How was the recruitment of target groups and participating organisations into the project conducted, or how will it be conducted?
Target groups and benefiting parties
Describe the direct and indirect target groups and benefiting parties. Answer the following questions at least:
- Who are the actual target groups for the project?
- In addition to the actual target group for the project, who are the indirect target groups and other parties who will benefit from the project and who will be affected by the project?
Purpose, targets, results and meters
The project strives to achieve a specific change. Consider answers to the following questions when describing the purpose of the project:
- Why is the starting of the project justified? What will the benefiting parties gain?
- What is the target of this project? Something concrete and realistic that can be metered.
- What is the task of the project and the resulting change?
- Which results will be achieved during the project?
- What is the specific benefit for the direct target group?
Execution plan and time schedule
Describe the execution method and/or operating model for the project. Prepare the general description as the time schedule for the project. Describe the main phases of the project, the duration of the phases and any inter dependencies. Compile a more detailed working plan of the first year of the project, if needed.
Organisation and management
Describe how the project will be organised and how it will be managed. Plan (an expanded) steering group, project team and other working teams that will possibly be used. The general options for the organisation of a project are as follows:
- The project applicant executes the whole project by themselves. In such a case the applicant manages all those tasks that are related to the content and administration of the project and no measures are outsourced to external operators.
- The project applicant may execute the project partially, and have part of it executed by way of subcontracting. In this case the applicant is responsible for the project’s administrative tasks and carries out part of the activities under the project, and procures part of the actual measures in the form of purchase services from an external service provider. In this case pay attention to the requirements in the Procurement Act.
- The applicant executes the project partially by themselves, partially by way of subcontracting and/or through one or more partial participant or partner. In this mode of execution the applicant is responsible for the project’s administrative tasks and carries out part of the activities under the project, procuring part of the actual measures in the form of purchase services, and part of the measures are carried out by a partial participant who is included in the application, on the basis of a partnership agreement. The share of the project that is carried out by the partial participant may be reimbursed on the basis of actual incurred costs. However, the requirements of the Procurement Act may not be circumvented by the partnership agreement.
Risks are factors that might emerge during the execution of the project and affect the successfulness of the project. Risks can be internal or external. A project cannot prevent external risks from occurring. Internal risks are caused by the execution method used for the project itself. It would be worthwhile to prepare for risks as early as the project planning phase by compiling a risk analysis that is incorporated into the project plan, taking into account threat factors that place the execution of the project at risk. The size of a risk is determined by the interaction of its likelihood and impact. Risk management means the identification of risk factors, the monitoring of risk impacts, reporting and assessment, and the planning and implementation of preventive and corrective measures.
Describe an initial plan of measures for the internal and external communication of the project during the project’s lifespan (eg. the recruitment/marketing phase, the execution phase, the distribution of output). Look into the subject in more detail.
Reporting and follow-up
Describe the reporting and follow-up in the project, taking into account instructions by the finance providers. Also take into account the roles and responsibilities of partial participants or partners. Answer the following questions at least:
- How will the follow-up information be collected?
- Who will collect it?
- How will the interim and final reporting be managed?
Describe how the project’s assessment will be arranged during and at the end of the project. Remember that the project requires continuous self-assessment to be carried out.
During project assessment, it will also be possible to use external assessments. Provide the plan with a brief description of when and how the external assessment will be used and add the costs to the project cost estimate. Describe in more detail the initial plan for the distribution of good practice and output that was developed for the project: what, when, to whom, and which media will be used, will some networks be created or utilised, etc. Remember that providing information about bad practice could also be valuable information for someone else, preventing them from making the same mistakes. Planning is a continuous process within the project, helping it to respond to deviations and changes in the operating environment. After it is ready, the project plan is not final, but is updated as needed. Planning should preferably anticipate the future, rather than react to deviations. In this work the role of the steering group in support of the Project Manager and the project team is especially valuable.
Describe which permanent effects are foreseen by the work that is carried out as part of the project, and how these can be taken into account in the plan. A project is a tool for change.
Preparing the cost estimate
The cost estimate for a project is drawn up, specifying the cost of necessary contributions such as resources. The more precise you can be in itemising the operations carried out in the project into single activities, the better you’ll be able to draw up the cost estimate. In projects that last for several years, costs are divided over the years of execution on the basis of a task list, where the time of execution is specified for each activity.
A checklist for drawing up the cost estimate:
- Discuss drawing up the cost estimate with the R&D Manager of your school.
- Together with the experts from the project accounting team, consider what would be the suitable structure for the project’s cost estimate.
- Familiarise yourself with the financing programme and the costs that have been defined by the finance provider as being eligible for support, and the types of costs used in the financing application.
- Enter the costs into the task list and combine the costs according to the cost types required by the finance provider (=expense type division). Go through the division with the project accounting team.
- Try to draw up a cost estimate that is more specific and detailed than what is expected by the finance provider.
- Consider carefully under which cost type expenses should be classified, since transfers between different cost types during the project is not permitted without a written decision by the finance provider.
- Always find out and verify the actual prices of resources (premises, equipment, salaries) and use these in the calculation.
- Remember to draw up the annual budget based on the plan of execution and the time schedule.
- All cost items that come from outside of the project organisation (JAMK and external partial participants or partners) are subject to competition during the project. Try to specify the correct price level as early as the budgeting phase. Read the JAMK procurement guidelines.
- Overtime work and resulting extra expenses are not paid for in projects.
- Always check the VAT liability of other participants as well. The financial services project accounting team can apply for VAT instructions from the tax authority, if needed.
- In the cost estimate, clarify with the project accounting team the principles of and calculation methods used in possible joint expenses, a flat rate, or other coefficients.
It is worthwhile to start looking for a suitable source of funding as early as possible in the planning process. A good idea may remain unrealised if a suitable source of funding cannot be found. Mapping the funding during the planning process reduces wasted effort and often also provides a more specific orientation to the project.
The time to apply for funding is always an individual matter for each programme. In many programmes the application period is once or twice per year. Notification of these application periods are provided in advance, but they are generally repeated around the same each year, so it would pay to be prepared for these. The operating methods vary to some extent between different finance providers and financing programmes, so it would be a good idea to become familiar with these in advance. You should also know that the processing periods for applications are long. The amounts needed in the project are equal to the project’s total expenses. In planning the financing for the project, you could proceed with the following measures:
- When planning the project’s financing, stay in contact with the R&D Manager of your school.
- Discuss the financing options with the project accounting team’s experts and/or RDI services.
- Map the source of funding or funding programme that seems most suitable for the project.
- Check which parts the overall funding of the project must consist of (such as EU funding, state funding, municipal funding, other public funding, or private funding). In many cases the share of each source of funding is in a percentage ratio to the overall funding. When planning the funding share it is important to pay attention to the fact that the funding granted by a finance provider (EU + state) is paid out on the precondition that the other funding shares are executed as planned. Private funding is required in the amount mentioned in the project plan, similarly to municipal or other public funding amounts. These are not mutually compensating, but all financing should be executed according to the approved project plan. Be realistic in determining the financing shares and not too optimistic in estimating other funding that has been gathered together.
- Covering the execution expenses of a project requires cash. What amount is required and from where should it be sourced? Are all the partial participants or partners investing their own money into the project, in cash?
- Specify the possible municipal funding that could be required and uncover possible sources of funding (such as municipalities and their development companies, municipal businesses, or companies which are under the ownership of municipalities, such as JAMK Oy).
- Define the funding shares of companies on an equal basis, such as by differentiating them on the basis of their number of personnel.
- Check that the total costs equal the total funding.
- Check that the financing shares correspond to the shares requested in the programme.
When familiarising yourself with the financing programme and considering its suitability as the source of funding for the planned project, pay attention to the following aspects at least:
- Which of the programme’s targets does the project support? (The project’s targets should coincide with the programme’s targets.)
- Which measures are approved and what is supported?
- Who are the approved beneficiaries of support?
- Which is the approved target group?
- Budget rules (expenses eligible for support)
- Time for executing the programme
- The time at which the application is submitted to the programme, where the application is sent and in what form (a signed application or an electronic application, for instance)
- Financing shares for different finance providers (including cost sharing) in the given set of measures
- The criteria used for selecting the projects
Find out if it is possible to negotiate with finance providers about the financing of the project during the planning and application process. Unnecessary work will be avoided in terms of project planning if you contact the finance provider in advance and present the initial project plan. You should prepare carefully for financing negotiations. At the negotiations the finance provider’s representative assesses the idea and its financing feasibility and may give some instruction in order to move planning forwards. In cases where planning is continued and financing is applied from the negotiated financing programme, it would be a good idea if the instructions received during the financing negotiations were stated in the application.
The rotation of the project plan and financing application in JAMK
The school’s R&D Manager evaluates the project plan and the financing application. They present the project plan and financing application to the School Director, who will decide whether the school will consent to the application of financing. The evaluation is effected in the project management system, from where it is possible to print out the signature form that is required for the rotation of the financing application.
The author of the project plan, the R&D Manager, and the School Director sign the “Financing application rotation” form, to which the project plan evaluation form that was completed by the R&D Manager is appended. These are delivered together with the financing application to the RDI services or the financial administration project accounting team, who will review the financing application in detail. After this stage, the financing application is presented to the president, who will make the final decision over the financing application. In addition, in cases that involve financing programmes such as this, where financing is applied for electronically, the decision on submitting the application is made by the president. The electronic application is entered into the system only after the approval of the president has been made.