Project plans are crucial for organizing and guiding your project. A good plan includes everything you need, like goals, budgets, milestones, and communication strategies, all in one document. By working on these project management essentials, you can save time and avoid problems, ensuring your project’s success.
What is a project plan?
Also known as a work plan, is a detailed guide of your team’s goals, objectives, and tasks for a project. It should cover the project’s timeline, scope, deadlines, and outcomes for every stage of the project.
However, not all teams use project plans effectively, sometimes even ignoring them. To create a good project plan, it’s important to be organized (follow specific steps), detailed, and clear about your plans and how you’ll carry them out.
Project planning is the 2nd step in the project management lifecycle which was developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and is seen as the most effective strategy for delivering a successful project
It comes after Initiating the project and before putting the plan into action. In this stage, the project manager makes a plan that outlines what is needed for the project. This phase usually involves setting goals, deciding on the resources needed, and creating a timeline for the project.
Why are project plans necessary?
Project plans are crucial because they organize the entire project. Without a plan, you might face messy work, frustration, and unexpected changes. A detailed plan guides everyone involved and keeps them responsible, ensuring you have what you need before starting.
As a leader, it helps you predict and prepare for possible problems early on. This allows you to make changes if needed. A study by the Project Management Institute shows that good planning leads to successful projects. Therefore, thorough planning improves efficiency and outcomes.
How to write a project plan?
To make a good project management plan, you need a method to keep track of everything. Every project plan should include:
Step 1: Set your goals and objectives
You are making a project plan to achieve a specific goal for yourself, your team, or your company. To know if you’ve succeeded, you need a way to measure it.
A good plan must have a clear goal. Setting goals explains why you’re doing the project and helps everyone focus on what they need to achieve. Studies show that employees who understand how their work helps company goals are twice as motivated.
By including your goals in your project plan, you directly connect your team’s work to the project’s aims as they happen.
What is a project?
A project goal is what you want to achieve at the end of a project. It’s written down to make it clear what the project aims to do. Project goals are usually broad and can be hard to measure exactly.
Having goals is very important for a project’s success because it helps the team understand clearly what they are aiming for. A project without a goal is like a ship with no captain – it might sound extreme, but it’s accurate. The types of goals are:
- Outcome-oriental goals
- Process-oriented goals
- Time-bound goals
What are the project objectives?
A project objective is a clear, specific, and achievable target within a project. Several objectives together form the project’s main goal. Objectives should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
The types of goals are:
- Financial objectives
- Strategic objectives
- Quality objectives
Step 2: Decide on performance metrics.
After setting your goals, ensure they can be measured by choosing key success metrics. These metrics help you track if you are on course to achieve your goals. Use SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) goals to make your success metrics clear and measurable.
This way, at the project’s end, you can easily check if you met your goals.
For example, if your goal is to hold a 3-day Project Management conference on December 2nd, a success metric could be having at least 500 attendees. This is both clear and measurable.
Step 3: Make clear who is involved and their roles
When running a project, you need to involve different people and define their roles in your project management plan. This includes deciding who does what tasks and how stakeholders will participate.
You should clearly state the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved. Ask questions like Who is mainly responsible for the project’s success? What is the structure of your project team (like having a project manager or sponsor)? Who needs to approve things before they’re final? What other teams or people should be included in the plan? Are there any risks to consider?
A tool like a RACI chart can be useful. It shows who is responsible for driving the project, who approves decisions, who contributes, and who needs to stay informed.
After defining all roles and stakeholders, include this information in your project plan. This plan will then become the central guide for everyone involved in the project.
Step 4: Set your budget
Managing a project involves spending money, like paying for suppliers, etc.
After you’ve set your goals and identified stakeholders in your project plan, use this information to create a budget. For instance, if your project involves several departments, consider how the costs will be shared. If you have specific targets like the number of event attendees or new users, ensure your budget can support these goals.
Setting your budget during the planning stage, before any spending, allows for approval, better tracking, and cost-effective decisions during the project. Knowing your budget in advance helps with managing resources and staying within your financial limits. This planning phase helps you understand the costs of different project parts, preventing surprises later.
Step 5: Agree on project milestones, deliverables, and dependencies
When planning your project, it’s key to set milestones, which are specific goals showing progress. Milestones don’t need exact dates but mark big achievements. For example, in developing a new product, a milestone could be finishing the prototype, showing how far you’ve come.
A deliverable is what you produce at a milestone. In our example, the finished prototype is the deliverable. Project dependencies are tasks that depend on others. They make sure work starts at the right time. For instance, you might need approval from a project leader before testing the prototype.
In project plan software, you can organize your project with deliverables, dependencies, and milestones. This helps the team see what they need to do and the milestones they’re aiming for.
Step 6: Set out your project’s timeline and schedule
To reach your project goals, you and everyone involved need to understand the project’s overall timeline and schedule. Agreeing on the time available helps with prioritizing during planning.
Some projects don’t have definite timelines. For big projects with uncertain dates, you might create a project roadmap. This shows the order of tasks without setting exact dates.
After planning the main responsibilities, focus on the details. In your plan, break the project into tasks and make sure you cover every step. Large tasks can be divided into smaller, more manageable subtasks.
Next, give each task and subtask a start and end date. This will help you see how your project fits together over time. Remember to include who is responsible for each task and their deadlines.
Step 7: Distribute your plan for communication
Most projects involve many people, so the way they communicate can be different. In your project plan, you can set clear communication guidelines for this project. A communication plan is key to making sure everyone knows what’s happening, how the project is moving along, and what will happen next. If there are any problems, a good communication system can help deal with them.
Think about these things when making your communication plan:
- How many meetings will you have for the project, and what are they for?
- How will you handle and share updates about the project’s status?
- What tool will you use to manage the project and keep everyone updated?
Just like the other parts of your project plan, your communication plan should be easy to find. Everyone involved, including stakeholders and team members from different areas, should be able to quickly locate these guidelines while planning and working on the project.
Using project planning tools or task management software that works with apps like Slack, Trello, etc can help keep all your communications in one place that’s easy to access.
Use project plans to keep your projects organized from the beginning. A project plan includes all important details like goals, tasks, scope, deadlines, and what you need to deliver.
It gives everyone involved a clear view of what the project will look like, makes sure you have what you need for it, and keeps everyone responsible right from the start. In this article, we’ll show you seven steps to make your project plan.