Many people ask us how to create an effective and useful project plan template. In this article, we will provide a template and explain what exactly a project plan is. In this short guide, we will discuss the basics of project planning, what a project plan is, examples, and the basic steps to create it by the help of an infographic.
When you finish reading this guide, you’ll know how to create a project plan and make it useful in your projects.
What is a Project Plan?
Before to answer this question, let’s discuss what a plan is. Basically, a plan is a roadmap that is created to achieve a specific goal. Many people create plans for future, business, education and even for their health. Anybody makes a plan and lists the critical steps before to start something. In a similar manner, organizations, and companies prepare plans steps to list the actions to take to get from A to B. Because they need to understand what their current status is and what their future status will be.
A project plan is an extensive document that includes project schedule, budget, cost baseline, communication plan to guide both project execution and control. As per the definition, we can understand that a project plan does not exactly mean the project schedule. It is a comprehensive document that also includes the project schedule.
Typically, a project plan includes but not limited to the following;
Why Do We Need?
Stakeholders often ask these questions regarding the project deliverables
- What is the completion date of the project?
- What is the budgeted cost of the project?
- What will be delivered and how?
Without having a project plan, it is not easy to answer such questions. Typically all the clients want to know what they are getting, when and how much they will pay for the project.
As a project manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that your project is on track and budget. If you don’t have a properly made plan, you can not make performance measurements to understand how your project performing.
- Demonstrates the process and activities required for the project’s outputs and deliverables.
- Provides inputs to make proper estimations.
- Helps you to visualize the project tasks, deliverables, and their interdependencies.
- Helps you to plan and manage project resources.
- Enables you to revisit resource allocations and make resource leveling.
- Enables you to make comparisons between the planned and the actual figures
- Enables you to make performance measurement
Below are important points for a successful project plan.
- A project plan is much more than a schedule. It should provide a complete view of a project and include estimates and the scope.
- Project plans are not static documents. They should be kept updated.
- You can not create an effective plan by yourself without getting inputs from the project team, the client and the stakeholders. You need to present your plan and ensure that everybody understands the limitations, deliverables and the scope of the work.
- You should have enough knowledge on the project and its deliverables before to start creating a project plan. Without understanding the project goals, methodology, deliverables, and constraints, you can not create a realistic plan.
Once you have enough inputs, you can start to create your project plan.
How to Create?
At this section, we will discuss the steps to create an effective project plan template. You can use the principles below whether you are planning a large construction project or a health improvement project.
1. List the milestones, major project deliverables, and project phases.
At this step, provide the scope and list the milestones, major project deliverables and the phases;
- Project Initiation
- Project Planning
- Project Execution
- Project Closure
2. Define the Workflow
Think about the overall flow of your project from beginning to close-up. Make a rough plan that includes major deliverables and key project milestones.
3. Breakdown the Project
Breakdown the major project deliverables into meaningful steps. Decide the detail level of your planning before to create the work breakdown structure. If you are creating a project plan for a large and complex project, the detail level of planning should be high.
4. List the Major Project Resources to be allocated to tasks
Think about the resources and list them to complete the major project tasks.
5. Provide a Summarized Schedule
In order to keep your project on track, you need a basis to make comparisons. At this step, you need to provide a schedule that has a low detail level. Activities should be grouped and listed under work breakdown structure levels. You can create the schedule by using software such as Primavera p6 or Microsoft Project Professional.
6. List the Assumptions and Constraints
List the assumptions that you made and the constraints that you identified while planning.
Examples for assumptions;
- There will be no change in the scope
- Resources will be available when needed
Example for a constraint;
- Second shift is not allowed by the client.
7. Provide a Cost Baseline
You can provide a list for key stakeholders, the communication plan, charts, graphs and other relevant information.
Project Plan Template
No matter how well you are at managing projects, you can not be successful if you don’t have a properly made plan. Some people argue that project plans are useless and they are just a waste of time. They believe that project plans do not represent the current status of the tasks and projects. These arguments have some reasonable grounds. Many professionals think that project plans are static documents and it is difficult to keep them updated. In order to keep the plans updated, we need new approaches and tools for project planning to let them come to life. Note that best plans are the ones that are accessible, understandable, updatable and adaptable. When they are created properly, they will provide many benefits.