What is Project Planning | 9 Steps to write a successful Project Plan

Melissa Sutton-Seng

Melissa Sutton-Seng

Project Management

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.

In Project Management, 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.

What is a project plan?

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.” This outlines the objectives and scope of your project and serves as an official point of reference for the project team, larger company, and stakeholders.

What is planning in Project Management?

A project management plan (PMP) is more than just a schedule or a task list, though it does include those things. Planning makes the first step in five stages of project management. Your project management plan sometimes just called a project plan is a carefully created document that outlines all the key elements of a project’s execution, monitoring, control, and closure. The PMP is formally approved at the beginning of the project and then progressively updated throughout the course of the project.

Components of the Project Management Plan

At its most basic level, a project plan consists of three components. Creating a list of all these components to help inform your project management plan.

  • Activities
  • Tasks
  • Resources

1. Activities

What are the things your team will need to do in order to get the project done? Activities in your project plan include things like measuring progress, assigning tasks, allocating resources, tracking time spent, and communicating effectively.

2. Tasks

To make any project manageable, it’s broken down into tasks. These are smaller jobs that make up the bigger picture of your project. Having incremental goals makes measuring success and addressing bottlenecks easier, and identifying these tasks is essential to crafting your project management plan.

3. Resources

What are you working with? Your resources include your budget, of course. It’s also important to understand your human and material resource requirements. How many people will need to work on this project and will you need to hire temporary workers or subcontractors? What physical or digital materials are required and where will those things come from?

How to write a Successful Project Plan:

  1. Identify all stakeholders
  2. Define roles and responsibilities
  3. Hold a kickoff meeting
  4. Define project scope, budget, and timeline
  5. Set and prioritize goals
  6. Define deliverables
  7. Create a project schedule
  8. Do a risk assessment
  9. Communicate the project plan

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.

1. Identify all Stakeholders

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.s

2. Define Roles and Responsibilities

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.

3. Hold a Kickoff Meeting

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.

4. Define Project Scope, Budget, and Timeline

After the official kickoff, it’s time to define the project 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.

  • Scope: What are we going to do (and not do)? Given the requests of the customer and the vision discussed by the team, what are the objectives of this project?
  • Budget: Taking into account the scope and the resources required to meet the project objectives, what is the anticipated financial cost of the project?
  • Timeline: The project timeline itemizes the phases of your project and the length of time you can reasonably expect them to be completed.

5. Set and Prioritize goals

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.

6. Define Deliverables

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.

7. Create a Project Schedule

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.

8. Do a Risk Assessment

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,

  • Project Scope
  • Resources (personnel, financial, and physical)
  • Delays
  • and Failures of Technology or Communication.

There’s no way to control for all potential risks, but thinking through them ahead of time can save your project from failure.

9. Communicate the Project Plan

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.

How Project Management Software can help you with Project Planning

A successful project management plan involves effectively organizing all the activities, tasks, and resources that make up your project. Trying to do all that with a collection of spreadsheets and shared documents or worse with notebooks, pens, and sticky notes are overwhelming and inefficient.

Project management software can simplify your project planning, giving you the tools and transparency you need to not only create an excellent project management plan but to actually manage your project well. Good project management software allows you to perform administrative tasks more quickly and efficiently, freeing up time to focus on the actual project.

Project management software can also facilitate effective communication within and among teams, help you track key performance factors, store all project data in a central location, and allow you to generate reports on your project along the way.

Kanban board in the project management gives a visual overview of the project’s progress. You can collaborate with all stakeholders, assign tasks to individuals, and track progress on an intuitive Kanban board. Alerts and notifications ensure everyone is aware of their assignments and initiators know when tasks have been completed.

There are dozens of project management tools available, and you should spend a bit of time researching to determine which one is right for your organization.

Create a successful Project Plan using Kissflow Projects

Project management in Kissflow Projects is simple and intuitive, letting you jump right in and begin planning your project without spending countless hours figuring out new project management tools. Kissflow Projects can help in the creation and execution of your project plan. File sharing facilitates information gathering in and across teams. Built-in analytics lets you set your targets and get real-time reports. Ready-made project templates let you hit the ground running, and customizable templates save you time when you have recurring or similar projects.

You can create project plans with confidence and lead your team to successful project completion with Kissflow Projects. Take it for a spin today.