You’re in charge of a project. That’s great! Before you actually begin your project, you’re going to need a project plan.
While it may be tempting to jump right into your project and figure things out as you go along, you’ll have much better results if you create a project plan first. Without a project plan, you may find your team directionless, or–worse–heading in multiple directions.
Proceeding without a project plan leaves you in danger of overrunning available resources and failing to achieve the client’s goals.
A project plan ensures all stakeholders share the same vision, sets measurable goals for your project, establishes solid communication among team members and stakeholders, and serves as the foundation for project transparency. Without it, you’re setting yourself and your team up for failure.
Maybe you’ve been doing this for a while or maybe this is your first big project and you just googled “how to write a project plan.” Either way, we’re here to help.
A project plan, according to the Project Management Institute, is “the document that describes how the project will be executed, monitored and controlled, and closed.” It outlines the objectives and scope of your project and serves as an official point of reference for the project team, larger company, and stakeholders.
If you’re thinking, “well, that sounds really formal and serious, don’t be intimidated.
Follow these nine steps, and you’re well on your way not just to create a solid project plan but to execute your project successfully.
Your project has several stakeholders, and not all of them will be involved in every detail of the project. Stakeholders include your customer, the end-users of the product, the company and its leaders, and the team working directly on the project.
Depending on the nature of the project, stakeholders may also include outside organizations or individual community members that will be affected by the project.
Once you’ve identified the stakeholders, you need to determine the skills required for the project. When you have that list, you can define roles and assign responsibilities to individual stakeholders.
Remember that a role is not the same as a person. In some cases, one person can fill multiple roles, such as having a designated emergency contact, a role that adds few additional work hours to a person’s schedule. In other cases, multiple people may hold identical roles, as when your project requires multiple software engineers.
Typical roles include project sponsor, project manager, and project team members. The different project team member roles will vary depending on your project, but be sure to include a vendor relations role and a customer relations role.
The kickoff meeting is a chance to bring all stakeholders together and cast a vision for the project that everyone can get behind. It’s an opportunity to make introductions and establish good working relationships.
At this stage, the specific details of the project haven’t been determined, so you should include a discussion on the project scope, budget, timeline, and goals in your meeting agenda. This is also when roles are announced and a communication plan is explained. The kickoff meeting sets the tone for the working relationship among stakeholders for the duration of the project.
After the official kickoff, it’s time to define the scope, budget, and timeline of your project. Each of these items is worthy of its own in-depth explanation, so we’ll just define them briefly here.
Once your team understands the objectives of the project and you’ve identified the phases to meeting those objectives, break down the big picture objectives of your project into individual goals and tasks. Prioritize them according to importance and dependencies.
Also, you need a system in place to ensure corrective actions when goals aren’t met on time. You may need to adjust your timeline in light of your goals.
A deliverable, as defined by the Project Management Institute, is “any unique and verifiable product, result, or capability to perform a service that is produced to complete a process, phase, or project.”
Deliverables are determined by the project objectives and are an essential part of the project plan. If the customer’s objective is for end users to manage their own content, for example, the deliverables might be a piece of software that enables users to manage content as well as training materials for employees and end users on how to use the newly created software.
More than just a time table, a project schedule is a document that details the project timeline and the organizational resources required to complete each task. Its purpose is to communicate critical information to the team, so it must be comprehensive and easy to understand.
To create a project schedule, you need to further divide the phases of your project into individual tasks and activities, determine dependencies, sequence the activities and estimate the required resources and duration of each task. The information you compile in this process may reveal necessary adjustments in your roles, timeline, and/or budget.
This is an important step in writing a project plan and a beneficial part of the process. It’s much better to make these adjustments before the project has begun than weeks or months later.
A risk is a problem that may or may not arise over the course of your project. It’s important to identify risks and mitigate them at the project planning phase rather than be caught off guard later. Hold a meeting or ask for insight from all team members about the risks you should consider.
Areas of risk include,
There’s no way to control for all potential risks, but thinking through them ahead of time can save your project from failure.
Once you’ve compiled your project plan, make sure to communicate it clearly to the team and all other stakeholders. You may have created a communication plan when you put together your project schedule. If not, do it now!
Establishing solid communications channels and expectations for project communication is crucial. As a project manager, be sure to model the kind of communication you expect from all stakeholders.
That’s it! That’s how to write a project plan. Though there are many details involved in creating a project plan, you can be confident in your plan by following these steps and taking advantage of other learning resources.
Project management software like Kissflow Projects can help in the creation and execution of your project plan. You can collaborate with all stakeholders, assign tasks to individuals, and track progress on an intuitive Kanban board. Take it for a spin today.