The Key Steps Process for Writing a Project Plan (with Free Template and Example)

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.

What Is 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.

Why Are Project Plans Important?

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:

  • Organize, assign, and prioritize tasks
  • Organize and schedule task dependencies and milestones
  • Track development, expenses, and resources
  • Work together as a team and with external stakeholders more effectively
  • Make reports about the project’s plan evolution.

How to Write a Project Plan?

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:

Step 1: Identify key stakeholders

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.

Step 2: Define deliverables, milestones, performance metrics, and project requirements

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.

Step 3: Outline the project timeline

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.

Step 4: Organize your team

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.

Step 5: Assess risks

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.

Step 6: Create a reporting and communication plan

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.

Core Elements of a Project Plan

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:

  • Scope – The project scope includes the project’s objectives and deliverables and the list of tasks required to get there. 
  • Stakeholders – Stakeholders are the project’s beneficiaries and include everyone interested in seeing the project finished.
  • Team members – Team members are people in charge of working on the project.
  • Project data – Project data represents all documents, files, and data gathered throughout the project’s development. They may be personnel files, meeting minutes, time-tracking spreadsheets, leave balances, productivity reports, financial reports, etc.
  • Task tracking – Task tracking means closely following the status of a task from assignment to completion.
  • Task lists – Your project plan needs to have a general task list. Each task might contain a unique set of sub-tasks, which could be associated with a specific employee or partner. Completing these tasks will ultimately lead to the final delivrable.
  • Budget and a cost management plan – The budget represents the cost of the project, while the cost management plan ensures the budget will not be exceeded. If you need to track time employees worked on the project, AraHR can help.
  • Resources – Here we include personnel, supplies, materials, tools, and other resources are all required to finish the project.
  • Risk assessment and a risk management plan – Risk assessment is the initial prediction of the issues that might appear during the project. A risk management plan is a methodology to overcome problems.
  • Quality assurance metrics – Quality metrics are measurable values that evaluate the project. They may assess the quality of products and services, employee performance, customer feedback, and so on.
  • Communication plan – The communication plan represents the meeting schedule, reporting procedures, and publications that keep everyone updated on the project’s progress.
  • Milestones – Milestones are intermediary checkpoints that ensure the project will be finished on time.
  • Deliverable – A project's output, including a finished good, service, report, etc.

Free Project Plan Template

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.

Project Plan Template

Project Plan Example

Launch a new advertising campaign for client XYZ Fashion by August 1st

Goals and Objectives:

  • Increase brand awareness of XYZ Fashion by 20% 
  • Drive at least 1,000 new customer visits to XYZ Fashion's online store 
  • Increase sales of the new summer collection by 15%.


  • Client (XYZ Fashion)
  • Advertising agency team
  • Media partners (websites, social media platforms, influencers)
  • Focus group participants and survey respondents


  • Account Manager: Main point of contact for the client, responsible for overseeing the project and ensuring it meets the client's objectives
  • Creative Director: Leads the development of creative concepts and oversees the production of final creative assets
  • Media Planner: Identifies and negotiates media placements, manages relationships with media partners
  • Market Researcher: Conducts target audience research, focus groups, and surveys
  • Data Analyst: Analyzes campaign performance data and provides insights for optimization
  • Copywriter: Develops ad copy and messaging for the campaign
  • Graphic Designer: Creates visual assets for the campaign
  • Social Media Manager: Manages social media-sponsored posts and influencer partnerships


1.    Research target audience

  • Conduct focus groups with 50 current and potential customers
  • Analyze customer demographics, fashion preferences, and purchase motivations

2.    Develop creative campaign concepts

  • Brainstorm 3-5 creative concepts that align with brand personality and objectives
  • Create mood boards and sample ads for the top 2 concepts

3.    Test creative concepts

  • Conduct A/B testing of the top 2 concepts with a sample audience
  • Analyze results and select the winning concept for the campaign

4.    Create and launch the advertising campaign

  • Negotiate media placements, including:
  • Online display ads on fashion blogs and websites
  • Social media-sponsored posts on Instagram and Facebook
  • Influencer partnerships
  • Produce final creative assets for all campaign elements
  • Launch advertising campaign
  • Manage campaign launch across all selected media

5.    Track campaign performance

  • Monitor website traffic and online sales daily
  • Track social media engagement and influencer performance weekly
  • Administer a post-campaign survey to capture customer feedback

6.    Analyze results and refine the campaign as needed

  • Compare key metrics to objectives to assess the success
  • Analyze customer feedback to find ways to improve future campaigns

Budget: $200,000 


  • June 1 – Jun 15 Research target audience
  • June 15 – June 24 Develop creative campaign concepts
  • June 24 – June 30 Test creative concepts
  • July 1- August 1 Create and launch advertising campaign 
  • August 1 – September 30 Track campaign performance
  • October 1 – October 15 Analyze results and refine the campaign as needed


  • Completion of target audience research
  • Finalization of creative concepts
  • Selection of winning concept after A/B testing
  • Launch of the advertising campaign
  • Mid-campaign performance review
  • End of campaign
  • Post-campaign analysis and reporting.


  • Target audience research report
  • Creative concepts presentation
  • A/B testing results and winning concept selection
  • Final creative assets for the campaign
  • Media placement agreements
  • Campaign performance tracking reports (weekly and final)
  • Post-campaign analysis report
  • Proposal for the next advertising campaign.

Risks and mitigation strategy:

  • Inaccurate target audience research: If the study does not accurately represent the target audience, the campaign may not resonate with potential customers.
    Mitigation: Ensure a diverse and representative sample for focus groups and surveys—cross-validate findings with secondary research and industry reports.
  • Creative concepts are not appealing to the target audience: The creative concepts may not effectively capture the audience's attention or drive the desired actions.
    Mitigation: Test creative concepts with a sample audience through A/B testing and gather feedback to refine the concepts before the campaign launch.
  • Low engagement or conversion rates: The campaign may not generate the expected levels of engagement or sales.
    Mitigation: Monitor campaign performance closely and make data-driven adjustments to optimize the campaign. Consider additional promotional tactics, such as limited-time offers or contests, to boost engagement.
  • Influencer partnerships not delivering results: Influencers may not generate the expected level of engagement or sales for the campaign.
    Mitigation: Carefully vet influencers based on their audience demographics, engagement rates, and content quality. Establish clear expectations and guidelines for influencer partnerships and monitor their performance closely.
  • Budget overruns: The project may exceed the allocated budget due to unexpected costs or scope changes.
    Mitigation: Develop a detailed budget with contingencies for unforeseen expenses. Regularly track expenses and communicate any potential budget issues to the client and team members.

Communication Plan:

  • Weekly status meetings with the advertising agency team to discuss progress, challenges, and next steps
  • Bi-weekly progress updates to the client via email or conference calls
  • Ad-hoc meetings with the client as needed to discuss specific issues or decisions
  • Regular communication with media partners to ensure smooth execution of the campaign
  • Post-campaign presentation to the client to share findings and discuss future plans.


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.