Career Development

How to Write a Project Plan for Work

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When approaching a project, it can be overwhelming trying to decide the steps you will need to take and the resources that will be necessary in order to accomplish your goal. You can simplify and streamline this task by breaking down your objective into accomplishable goals in a project plan. In this article, learn what a project plan is, discover the steps necessary to create one and review a template and an example of a completed project plan.

What is a project plan?

Sometimes referred to as a project management plan, a project plan is a guiding, living document that outlines the overall objective and scope of a project. Though providing a project timeline is a project plan’s primary purpose, its usefulness extends well beyond that. In addition to the scope and schedule, the project plan tracks the various assumptions and decisions that are related to the project and fosters clear communication among the stakeholders. 

Examples of project variables that can be included in a project plan:

  • Estimated budget
  • Budget management plans
  • Plan for communication
  • List of stakeholders
  • Scope statement
  • Project schedule
  • Project goal

It is vital to the success of the project to have a clearly established plan from the beginning. This plan takes the primary objective or end goal and then breaks it down into the tasks that will be necessary to reach it. Then you can make educated estimations about things like necessary resources, budget and timing. It can be helpful to think about a project plan as a resource for answering the who, what, when, why and how of a project.

Why is a project plan important?

Here are the primary advantages of a project plan:

Better organization 

Most projects have a number of milestones, dependencies and tasks, making it difficult to keep track of the overall progress of the project. By developing a project plan, you are able to determine how much time should be spent on each task as well as how each activity’s timing will affect the rest of the project.

Increased transparency

Project plans provide team members and stakeholders with a clear outline of the project’s timeline, priorities and objectives. This allows everyone to know where to look for project development and what to expect at every point. 

Streamlined communication

Because the plan has been clearly outlined for everyone involved to see, it allows stakeholders to give feedback to ensure that things are progressing in the right direction. Additionally, as a living document, the project plan’s timelines and milestones can be updated to reflect the project’s progress.

How to write a project plan 

Here are the steps to guide you when creating a plan for your next project:

1. First, collaborate with stakeholders to define the project’s goals

Before you can create your project plan, you will need to have a conversation with the key stakeholders in order to determine the value and goals of the project. It’s also a good idea to discuss things like the project’s scope, timeline and budget at this point in the planning process. 

Examples of things to discuss with stakeholders:

  • What are the deliverables for this project?
  • What resources will you need to accomplish your goal?
  • How will success be measured?
  • What are the expectations for all parties involved?

This is your opportunity to define the aspects of the project that will lay the foundation for your plan.

2. Second, outline the project using the established objectives and expected results

Clearly defined goals provide the direction necessary to ensure a project’s success. Now that you have established the requirements for the project, you can begin assigning needs to objectives and key results, commonly referred to as OKRs. In other words, take some time to make connections between the project goals and the stakeholder requirements that they will address.

You will then be able to establish the overarching structure of the project by establishing project milestones and the tasks that will be necessary to reach them. It can be beneficial to have the milestones represent the project’s check-in points, giving everyone a clear idea of what the expectations are, what progress will look like and how it will be measured.

3. Third, create a project scope

With the project outlined, you can now develop a project scope document that details the project’s deliverables and the elements related to them. To do this, break each deliverable up into a series of tasks. Then establish the person responsible, the resources necessary and the amount of time needed to complete each task. Once you have determined and detailed these aspects of the project, share the document with all parties involved.

4. Fourth, develop a project schedule

With all of your project’s essential information already outlined, you can begin compiling the milestones, tasks and goals into a project schedule. Gantt charts, which are interactive bar charts specifically designed to illustrate project schedules, are commonly used for this purpose. During this process, you will need to establish dependencies, or tasks that must be completed before another task is able to begin. It’s also a good idea to break larger tasks into smaller subtasks.

While establishing a timeline, it can be a good idea to account for unexpected delays by adding a little extra time to certain tasks.

5. Fifth, determine the resources, roles and responsibilities

Next, you can determine the resources that you will need to complete the project. This term refers to the money, equipment and people that will be necessary to reach your goals. Remember to factor labor costs into your budget. Now that you have established the tasks, you can assign them to team members and clarify their expectations and responsibilities for the project.

6. Sixth, define the method and frequency of communication

Before the project begins, it’s important to establish a mode of communication and collaboration. This will allow you to easily make edits, share updates and track progress. Using a collaboration tool to facilitate all project conversations can mitigate frustration and streamline communication.

7. Then, factor in unexpected delays

It can be beneficial to take some time to identify potential risks and delays before the project launches. These can come in the form of vacations, holidays or even the use of an external team. Whatever they may be, communicate these concerns to the entire team so that everyone is prepared to handle any issues that arise. Additionally, it’s important to clearly define a list of contacts and a chain of command to be used throughout the project.

8. Finally, launch the project

Once your project plan is fully developed, present it to the stakeholders for final approval. Spend some time going over the goals, deliverables, timeline, roles, responsibilities, modes of communication and the potential risks as well as how you will handle them. Once you have approval, you can begin the project.

Now that you have established a functional project plan, you can save it as a template for use on future projects.

Project plan template

Here is a template that you can use when creating your own project plan:

[Project title]

Introduction [Executive summary that outlines project objective]

Project management approach

  • Project manager: [Name and responsibilities]
  • Stakeholders: [Names and responsibilities]
  • Departments: [Names and roles]
  • Team members: [Names and roles]

Project scope [What the project will and will not do]

Milestones [Insight and a plan for milestones as well as how delays will be handled]

  • [Summary list of milestones with dates]

Schedule baseline [How the schedule will be managed]

Change management plan [The process for making changes to the project plan]

Communications management plan [Communication requirements and conduct, a directory and how and when updates will be communicated]

Cost management plan [How costs will be managed and who will be responsible]

Procurement management plan [Steps and responsibilities for purchasing]

Project scope management plan [Who has the authority to make changes]

Schedule management plan [Approach for creating project schedule]

Quality management plan [How quality management will be used]

Risk management plan [How risks will be identified and managed]

Risk register 

  • [List of potential risks]

Staffing management plan [How the project will be staffed]

Resource calendar [Resources needed, when and for how long]

Cost baseline

  • [List of project aspects with estimated costs]

Quality baseline

  • [List of details and acceptable levels that will be measured to ensure quality]

The look and layout of each project plan varies depending on the industry and the nature of the project itself. Regardless, they all contain the essential information that guides the project as well as the individuals that are a part of its development.