What Is Project Design in Project Management?

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
project-design

Do you want to execute your projects successfully and impress the relevant stakeholders with the project's outcome? You need accurate information about the world of project management, including project design.

Every seasoned project manager knows that having an excellent project plan is impossible without a detailed project design.

Undoubtedly, the quality of work put in the front end of a project will reflect on the back end. You cannot accomplish a successful project goal without project design.

With this in mind, let's look at what project design entails.

What is Project Design?

Project design is a process that effectively organizes or arranges ideas, structures, features, processes, and materials to achieve certain project goals.

Without going through the project design phase, there will be no project plan, which means the project manager cannot achieve the goals. 

Failure to produce the right project deliverable will negatively affect key stakeholders like your customers and end-users. It will give them a bad impression about your competence and expertise.

A project manager knows that a well-crafted project design is required to carry out a project successfully. Without project design, success in any given project is unattainable.

An effective project design contains vital information like:

  • The goal statement
  • Individuals responsible for carrying out various tasks to achieve these goals
  • The project strategy for achieving these goals
  • The project timeline
  • Certain products or features for completion
  • Project budget, among other important pieces of information.

Project managers can come up with more than one project design, leaving the stakeholders with options to pick from and aiding them in picking the best design suitable for the project.

Agency collaboration
Source: Asana

Who Is A Project Manager?

The job of a project manager is to execute projects. A good project manager must possess certain project management skills

  • Skills in defining projects,
  • Allocating financial resources, 
  • Creating a project plan, 
  • Coming up with a high-level strategy to accomplish goals,
  • Organizing project schedules that are time relevant to the tasks at hand planning,
  • Budgeting.

The role of a project manager is very important to every organization. Effective project managers execute the organization’s projects appropriately with great results.

Seven Steps Project Managers Need To Follow In Project Design

The project design process involves defining projects and creating an implementation plan. A project manager is responsible for creating the project design with inputs from the project team and stakeholders

1. Define Project Goals 

In defining project goals, you must identify the problem or problems you are trying to solve. 

After identifying and highlighting these problems, the next step is for you to outline SMART goals aimed at solving these problems or meeting the identified needs. 

SMART - Goals
Source: Indeed

The key point here is to make your goals easily understandable by your stakeholders and team member.

2. Determine Outcomes 

While embarking on a project, narrowing every task's outcome and setting goals is beneficial. In other words, have a clear and detailed projection of what each task entails and what it will take to complete it.

Document this projection with all the key deliverables needed with the goals. Create a proper project schedule or timeframe to achieve these goals.

Project Title - Project Schedule
Source: Vertex42

3. Identify Risks and Constraints

Every project comes with risks and constraints. As a project manager, you need to identify the risk factors carefully. 

Without the knowledge of these constraints, the project may be frustrated, and progress may be slow. The wise step to avoid this is to identify these risk factors. 

Parameters of Project Risk
Source: Ebrary

You will have to analyze the funds needed to complete the project. Set up monitoring processes for the project management lifecycle and the required resource management tools. It is crucial to identify risks and their resolutions in the project lifecycle before the project begins.

4. Refine Your Strategy

Your stakeholders and team members should clearly understand the project. With the use of visual aids, they can easily have a clear understanding of the projects.

These visual aids allow your stakeholders and team members to understand the parameters involved in these projects and the best ways to execute them.

Since people are visual learners and tend to understand the things they can see better, you can take advantage of visual aids to communicate the strategy of the project and aid project description.

Examples of visual aids include Gantt Charts, Kanban Boards, Flow Charts, Mind Map, Work-Chart, and Down Structure.

Gantt chart example of a project
Source: Pmhut

5. Estimate Your Budget

A budget estimate is essential when allocating resources effectively. You cannot overemphasize the importance of the budget in the project development process.

Your budget must go beyond allocating financial resources and include project profitability and outsourced workers required.

You may need approval for your budget from the relevant key project stakeholders. After approval, you can allocate resources needed for specific tasks and the project. 

With the right resource management software, you can effectively allocate resources to help increase project efficiency and reduce errors.

6. Create a Contingency Plan

Put in place a backup plan to contain risk factors that may want to prevent you from achieving your set goals concerning the project. The contingency plan is very important in the early phase of the project (set it up in the project initiation stage). 

After identifying these various risk factors peculiar to the projects, you need to devise a suitable plan to counter these constraints to execute the projects smoothly. 

Setting this plan in motion will greatly reduce risks and constraints and is a crucial part of project planning. The moment you outline a solution for each risk that appears, then you can begin work.

7. Document Your Achievements

Keeping records of your progress with the project is a vital step toward achieving the project's vision and a crucial part of the project development process.

Documenting your achievements is monitoring the project effectively and ensuring you accomplish every set goal. If certain inconsistencies arise, project documentation helps you immediately address them. 

You can document your milestones with project tracking software that grants stakeholders access to information about the notable progress of the projects.

With these seven steps, project planning is easy. You will develop a good project design if you implement all these steps successfully.

Structure Of Project Design 

Project management makes it possible to design a product to be reliable and effective. Having such desired results is possible when you follow certain steps.

In carrying out these steps, you must involve your stakeholders and team to avoid lapses. These steps are replete with information on the project's implementation process and other details.

Let's look at the structure or steps involved in project design.

1. Vision And Vision Statement

Vision in project design is a picture of what you want to achieve. In other words, the vision is a clear-cut picture of the project's success, which the project manager aims to achieve.

You can find the vision statement in the vision document (a formal document that contains details of the possible potential of the project at hand). The vision statement does not necessarily have to be wordy and long, but proper documentation of the project's result.

Stakeholders use the vision statement to approve the project proposal and give their support.

ITS Iterative Design and Development Framework Planning
Source: StudyLib

2. The Problem

You cannot achieve the goals of a project without identifying the problem or needs the product is to resolve. In this case, a needs assessment will be relevant to identify and develop solutions to meet these needs. Remember, you cannot solve a problem you do not know.

Knowing these needs makes it possible for businesses to easily identify obstacles, threats, and potential risks in the project. 

By identifying the problems or needs, you can easily find the best problem-solving solution and fit in with the project strategy. You may need to gather information through research from relevant and reliable sources. 

After gathering the necessary information, it is vital to properly analyze the identified problems to solve them in line with the project.

3. Resources

Resources could be in the form of both humans and equipment. Proper management of these resources will ensure that the project is successful.

Identifying the required resources is vital in ensuring the project succeeds. 

  • What resource management tools do you require to achieve the project goals?
  • Who are the people you need as a project manager to achieve the project goals?
  • Where is the best location to carry out the project design?
  • When are the starting phase and ending phase of the project?
  • Why are these identified resources needed?

The right answers to these questions will make the project development process easy and progressive.

4. Project Goals

There is no project without goals. Setting achievable goals in line with the identified problem to solve is key.

A goal is an ambition, aim, or the desired result. Your goals must be measurable, achievable, realistic, specific, and relevant to the project. Anything outside this will not produce the desired results. 

5. Project Strategy

Without a project strategy, it is practically impossible to achieve your goals. 

A strategy is a careful plan or method to reach a project's set goals. The strategy must fall within the project constraints like schedule budget, resources, and other relevant factors.

To create a proper strategy for a project, you can take a cue from similar projects and consider their success rate and effectiveness. Considering the pros and cons of the project will help build a solid project strategy.

6. Contingency Plan

A contingency plan is also a backup plan. Based on past experiences, it is clear that not every plan comes to fruition. 

Since this is a factor to consider, wise project managers rely on more than one plan because they know that having a contingency plan in the project design is key. 

Contingency Planning - Praxie
Source: Praxie

A backup plan is essential to the success of every project. The primary aim of the contingency plan is to address risks that the original plan may not cover.

These risks may include:

  • Poorly managed funds
  • Lack of expertise among the team members
  • Delays
  • Absence
  • Breakdown of equipment
  • High project cost
  • Unavoidable absences of team members

Identify these problems within the project and create a plan to address them. This action largely determines the project’s success and may affect the development process if not taken seriously. 

Furthermore, achieving the estimated timeframe to accomplish each goal may be impossible. A contingency plan created from a Gantt chart will be very useful.

7. Evaluation Plan

Monitoring the progress of a project is essential. An evacuation plan is vital to the success of every project.

With an evaluation plan, you can easily monitor the project goals and receive alerts if the project is not going according to the design. It enables you to make the necessary adjustments to put the project back on track.

An evaluation plan is a well-detailed document containing the perceived standard to measure the project’s efficiency and how effective a project is by monitoring every part of the project ignored to identify progress or drawbacks.

8. Budget

A budget is a detailed document outlining the necessary or required resources to carry out a project successfully.  

A budget is a key component in every project development process. There is no successful project without a proper budget.

Creating a project budget is essential. A budget makes it easy to estimate costs and allocate funds to various aspects of the projects that need it. 

As a project manager, it is vital to ensure that your budget estimates are accurate to avoid future problems in the project.

9. Project Proposal

A project proposal contains important and specific details about the whole project, the benefits, and how to execute it.

You can find all the key items (the previous steps) contained in the structure of the project design summarised within the proposal. These details may include:

  • The vision
  • Project’s potential 
  • Resource allocation
  • Problems
  • The goals of the project
  • The best strategy to accomplish these goals is all in the project proposal.

With an accurate knowledge of what a project design process entails, you should find it easy to develop a design for your project as a project manager.

Simple Project Proposal Template
Source: Smartsheet

How to Improve Your Project Design

Improving your project design and making it irresistible for stakeholders is possible. 

By following these simple expert tips on how to take your project to the next level, you will undoubtedly achieve the desired result from your project.

1. Have Constant and Early Communication with Stakeholders

Effective communication with everyone involved in the project is key. The absence of this may affect the project result and prevent you from achieving the desired goals.

Holding deliberate meetings, especially in the early project lifecycle stage, to accomplish the project goals is a vital step in project design. 

In such a meeting, inform every stakeholder about the project, the necessary steps to achieve these goals and their respective roles.

2. Make Your Goals the Priority

One way to ensure that you achieve all the set goals at the given time is to connect your goals to major deliverables. 

You can prioritize your goals with the aid of Gantt chart software, which helps you to create a connection with the set goals and work in progress.

3. Using Visual Aids or Elements to Track Progress

Most people are visual learners with short attention spans in this digital age. Using visual aid communication will go a long way in improving your project design.

A visual aid will be effective in convincing stakeholders and helping them visualize the bigger picture of the project. 

You can use graphs such as Gantt charts and Kanban boards, flowcharts, work charts, or sketches as visual aids to better display task dependencies and convey the message and bring it home to the stakeholders.

You can consider a Gantt chart or PERT chart to visualize your project work effectively.

PERT Chart Example
Source: Forbes

Apart from these three expert tips, having the best interest of your agile team at heart is vital. Set reasonable deadlines, give them achievable goals, and properly monitor their progress on the job.

Easily Manage Project Design Documents with Project Management Software 

Various project management software tools are largely available to make your team's work easier and the set goals achievable without breaking a sweat with automated workflows. 

A good project design in project management is easily attainable because of the available software tools. Many provide high-quality general project design templates you can customize to suit your project’s needs. 

The best software tools come at a cost. However, many offer free plans or free trials for new users. 

Some of the best software that helps you easily manage your project design documents include. 

  • Monday.com is the best overall project management software that offers high-quality project process visualization.
  • ClickUp is a budget-friendly project management tool with the best free forever plan packed with high-quality features.
  • Wrike is a versatile project management tool for helping teams and agencies manage complex projects.
  • Teamwork is a top project management application for tracking and managing the project design process. 
  • Asana is a user-friendly project management software with a wide range of customizable project design templates.

Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.