Having a blueprint to follow helps you see the big picture, stay on track, and know what to do next. Being by nature complex and time consuming, you need one if you are going to succeed in the field of analytics. Here is the thought process I go through for any project I am doing (or thinking about doing).
What is the strategic goal of the project? (Who will benefit and why?)
What is the measure of success? (How will things be different if we succeed, and how can we observe that?)
Who (or what) will the output be designed for? (what information will be conveyed, and to what end?)
How will the output be designed?
How will the output be delivered?
Detail the method of analysis?
How will it be done efficiently and automated? (what are the tools and how frequent is the analysis done?)