Planning may take time and resources, but it’s an essential ingredient of a successful project. Just completing random tasks is not an option, even when we put a lot of hard work into it. We need a good strategy to ensure our project is feasible, untangle the list of tasks and prioritize them, hire the workforce, make a resource inventory, calculate a budget, and engage people (e.g., investors, stakeholders, managers, colleagues, etc.). To go from idea to results, we need a project plan.
A project plan is a document that thoroughly defines the execution of a project. It is a complete roadmap that includes outlining goals and objectives, defining tasks, subtasks, and their order of execution, creating a task timeline, identifying resources, workforce necessary, investors, and stakeholders, and establishing activity reporting and controlling tools.
Writing a project plan is included in the second phase of project management, the planning phase.
Project plans make the projects possible. In their absence, people involved in the project will be confused, deadlines will not be met, budgets will be exceeded, and the projects’ goals will not be achieved. Project plans are what make the wheels turn. They establish the projects’ timeline, the starting point, and the objectives, provide a list of activities and outline all information regarding the projects.
Project plans are also important for your workforce because they establish what everyone will do, define HR processes, set milestones and schedule meetings, and define performance metrics. They guide people, help them do their job better, provide a transparent work environment, and build trust. Having clear expectations and straightforward tools boosts people’s morale and engagement.
In a nutshell, the benefits of project planning are the following:
To write a good project plan, you need a bit of perspective. Start from an overall perspective and deepen it until you deal with the smallest details. Do not hesitate to ask someone experienced to provide guidelines or answer specific questions on key sections. It’s good practice to divide project planning into a few straightforward steps and tackle them one by one. Here are the main steps in writing a project plan:
Stakeholders are people affected by the project’s end result. They may be customers, beneficiaries of your products or services, or investors. At this stage, you should know exactly their aims and expectations for your project, present your project’s objectives and how they will benefit the stakeholders, and bring everyone on the same page. You don’t want to leave room for misunderstandings, confusion, or miscommunication.
Tip: Write down their needs and expectations and ensure they are amongst the project’s goals. If the stakeholders are involved in project management, write down their contact details and outline their responsibilities.
Clarify from the start the project’s measurable results (deliverables), key stages (milestones), and resources (requirements). Also, state how you intend to track the project and measure its development (performance metrics). Anyone involved in the project should understand that you act on accurate data and analytics and don’t let anything at chance. These definitions are a reference point in your project management.
Tip: Schedule the project around estimative due dates for the items defined in this step. Try to schedule status meetings and team meetings before intermediary deadlines and important milestones.
This is the scheduling step where you transform all the definitions from previous steps into actions, tasks, and subtasks. Determine their reasonable deadlines and allocate enough resources to ensure their success. At the same time, consider priorities and dependencies (what task needs to be done for another task to be able to start). Discuss with the project’s team members and ask for expert feedback to avoid setting deadlines that can’t be achieved.
Tip: Use professional project management tools to create the project timeline. You can choose a Gantt chart or complex software that provides additional features like time tracking, time off management, calendars, and reporting tools.Related: If you need a GANTT Chart template in Excel, you can use ours.
At this stage, you already know how much manpower you need. It’s time to assign roles and tasks and implement HR procedures. Everyone has to know their job descriptions and responsibilities. They should also tell you who they report to, how they request time off and how much leave they are entitled to, where they can find their work-related documents and the meeting schedule.
Tip: Use dedicated HR apps to avoid mistakes and release your team from repetitive and time-consuming HR tasks. Many of them provide employee self-service, remote access, and transparent team calendars.
Although you can’t predict all possible risks and issues, you can prepare for them with a risk assessment and a risk management plan. Decide who is in charge of risk management and define clear procedures for unexpected situations. Unforeseen circumstances may appear at any stage, but if you are prepared, chances are they won’t delay the project.
Tip: Implement a secure and accurate way of gathering data and performing periodical data analysis—schedule time specifically for creating reports and statistics that help you spot patterns and prevent more significant issues.
The first scheduled communication is a project plan presentation made in front of the stakeholders. However, there are many more to come. Create a well-structured communication plan that includes team meetings, status meetings, reporting meetings for the managers or stakeholders, public presentations, and attending industry events and conferences.
Tip: Make communication clear and transparent by granting secure access to certain documents. For example, stakeholders may receive periodic status reports (i.e., intermediary, first, second, final), while employees may receive full access to their work-related documents.
You can mix and match the previous steps and make them more relevant to your project. However, there are core elements that you can’t overlook when writing a project plan. The core terms of a project plan are:
If you don’t want to start writing a project plan from scratch, download our free project plan template and personalize it to match your project.
Goals and Objectives:
1. Research target audience
2. Develop creative campaign concepts
3. Test creative concepts
4. Create and launch the advertising campaign
5. Track campaign performance
6. Analyze results and refine the campaign as needed
Risks and mitigation strategy:
Project planning is vital for the excellent development of your project. However, the project plan puts everything on paper and keeps people on track. The project plan is the document they can turn to at any stage of the project to answer their questions. And although one can annotate or modify the project plan during the project, its main pillars give the project structure and purpose.