Guide: What Is Project Design? (With Components And Steps)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 September 2022

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For project managers, design is often the first phase of a successful project. It guides the team through a project by specifying key specifications, structure, objectives and other guidelines for optimal outcomes. Designing a project may benefit project managers looking to implement a new idea or project for an organisation. In this article, we define project design, discuss its importance, look at its components and enlist the seven key steps of designing a project to help you create your plan.

What Is Project Design?

Project design is the process of describing a project's phases and generating a project plan. It involves an approach of ideas, resources and procedures to achieve the project's objectives and adhere to the budget and deadline. Project managers may include flowcharts, sketches, photos and prototypes to describe the project adequately. Before implementation, the project manager proposes the plan to investors and stakeholders for final approval. They often create multiple strategies for each project, so stakeholders can select the one they prefer.

Related: A Step-By-Step Guide On How To Manage Projects (With Tips)

Why Is It Important?

When designing a project, achieving the desired goals for your team or organisation is important. The project's design usually establishes all the strategy's steps and phases. It is a detailed document that serves as a guide throughout your project. All stakeholders can better understand the objectives, procedures, schedule and budget with a coherent project plan, improving your project's chances of successful completion.

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Here are the typical components of a project design:

The vision of the project

The vision highlights the purpose of the project and its desired results. You could also briefly describe how you plan to achieve the results. This section helps retain stakeholders' attention and interest in the project. Condense your shared vision to a concise paragraph that the stakeholders can quickly read. Then, later in your project plan, you can incorporate more information.

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Reason for the project

This section explains why the project is necessary, for example, resolving a problem or developing a new product for customers. Describe how the issue affects the business or how you anticipate the product or solution can help consumers. To give stakeholders a more precise understanding of the requirement, use metrics to emphasise your reasoning.

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Project resources

Resources comprise the people or materials you require to help solve the project's challenges or fulfil its objective. This may include skilled personnel, software or tools to facilitate the project's execution. When selecting your resources, consider the ‘five Ws':

  • Who: Explain who the ideal individuals are for the tasks you intend to perform to finish the project.

  • What: Determine what supplies, machinery and tools the project requires for successful completion.

  • When: Specify when you intend to begin and complete the project, and consider a rough schedule for the project's milestones.

  • Where: Describe where you intend to locate the project.

  • Why: Consider the reason for undertaking the project to justify the use of resources.

Project goals

Make a goal statement that details how you intend to accomplish each project milestone. Use the SMART method to set specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals. Setting up SMART objectives provides you with a comprehensive roadmap for your project.

Project strategy

The strategy usually begins by describing the project team's duties and responsibilities. It emphasises the vision, resources, objectives and resolution. Here are some ideas to consider as you select a plan of action for your project:

  • Examine previous experiences with similar initiatives.

  • Determine the objectives for your project.

  • Develop a plan with a specific approach for achieving your objectives.

  • Specify the phases, activities, actions and tasks of your project's design according to the strategy.

Contingency plan

You may encounter additional challenges or unanticipated setbacks during the project's execution, so having a backup plan is usually beneficial. You can respond to potential risks by defining a backup plan that outlines corrective actions. Typical challenges might include inadequate staffing, a lack of skill in the team or high attrition. Other potential concerns could include a shortage of resources, tools or office space. Although you cannot plan for every obstacle, attempt to identify those most likely to occur and create backup plans for them.

Project budget

Your budget details the financial resource you require for the project. It may also include the stages which require specific amounts. The budget helps project stakeholders determine if finishing the project is financially feasible. Therefore, it is crucial to be precise, as stakeholders usually expect you to adhere to the budget you establish during the project execution process.

Project proposal

The proposal presents the project details to investors and stakeholders after completion. You can describe the advantages related to each design stage in the proposal. A well-thought-out project plan demonstrates your dedication to the organisation's growth to stakeholders.

7 Steps For Designing A Project

A successful project comprises many steps, from setting goals and initial objectives to strengthening your plan and keeping yourself organised as you begin the assignment. Consider the following steps to help you design a workable plan:

1. Define the project's goals

Define the objectives of your project in the first step. Start by organising a brainstorming session where you briefly determine the overall project schedule and deliverables. Start by taking the project team's and stakeholders' concerns into consideration. Also, look at the problem you are trying to solve. You could start by briefly outlining the project and everyone involved. Then, determine the project's more specific objectives after describing the primary goal.

Related: Importance Of A Project Manager In An Organisation

2. Determine the project's outcomes

Next, focus on the project's results to help you plan the precise tasks to complete during the project. The outcomes are often more detailed than the first goal-planning phase. For example, as one of your outcomes, you might consider adding a new page to the company website for an email registration form. To construct a timetable, list the project goals, outcomes and key deliverables. Then, choose the project management method that matches these requirements.

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3. Identify risks and constraints

Consider your project's risks and constraints after noting the outcomes. To avoid resource wastage, evaluate any project components that might pose a threat. Plan out the resources, cash and timeline for efficient project management to determine risks and constraints. Consulting with the stakeholders and project team can allow you to solve such limitations before the project starts.

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4. Refine the project strategy with visuals

The project strategy is a detailed plan. Utilising visuals can help you express the objectives clearly to team members. Develop your approach by selecting a visual tool to present the project to your stakeholders. There are many visual resources available, some of which include:

  • Flowcharts: A flowchart is a diagram showing the actions and choices involved in a procedure. Flowcharts are useful for successfully organising project deliverables and visualising step-by-step processes.

  • Gantt diagrams: A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar graph to show a project's chronology. In a Gantt chart, bars represent the project's steps, and the length of the bars shows how long each step takes to complete.

  • Work breakdown structure (WBS): A WBS lists all the tasks that make up the project. It is a tool that project managers use to assist teams in visualising deliverables while keeping goals in mind.

  • Program evaluation review technique (PERT) chart: A PERT chart is a tool for mapping, planning and scheduling work. It can be useful for estimating how long it might take to accomplish activities in complex projects.

Related: What Is Project Planning? (How To Create A Project Plan)

5. Estimate the budget

Next, calculate your project budget to allocate resources. Your budget typically includes the project's profitability, available resources and necessary outsourced work. When completing each deliverable, the company's leadership might suggest that you work within a time limit. Depending on management approval, your budget may require modification. Once approved, you can start allocating tasks and designing documents for your project.

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6. Create a contingency plan

Make a backup plan before you distribute tasks. A contingency plan is a fallback for the risks and restrictions you outlined. A well-organised contingency plan enables quick resolution and improved productivity when problems happen. You could group risks according to the schedule or a Gantt chart and decide on a strategy for each risk. For instance, if one of your risks is that supplies may not arrive on time, your backup plan could be to source materials elsewhere or work on a different aspect of the project while you wait.

Related: What Is A Project Scope? (With Template)

7. Document your milestones

Set out the project's milestones and key timeline in this step. It helps ensure the project progresses per the set timeline, making it easy to spot anomalies as they appear. You can accomplish this by using project management software, which gives stakeholders access to data and updates. To help ensure that tasks follow the schedule, oversee these milestones until project completion.

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