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What is a Project Plan and How to Create One? 

02 Sep 2022
What is a Project Plan and How to Create One? 

The Project Plan is crucial for successful project delivery. In addition, the project plan saves time and resources.  

For example, imagine a project manager faced with uncertainty and the project failed to go as planned. The time and resources invested in the project will be wasted. 

Nearly thirty-seven per cent of projects fail because of a lack of clearly defined project objectives and milestones. In addition, a study suggests that forty-seven per cent of projects fail to achieve the targets when team leads don't effectively manage requirements. 

You can create a well-thought-out and effective plan for your next project by following simple steps.  

Project planning is a critical step in project management.  

Therefore, project management skills are necessary to complete such projects efficiently, whether you are a team lead or leading significant projects and their execution process.  

But how do you learn the required project management skills? What are the effective ways to successfully deliver the projects? 

The IPM's Certified Project Management Diploma course may interest you if you wish to learn how to manage project resources effectively. 

What is a Project Plan?  

What is a Project Plan, and How to Create One? 

The project plan defines how the project is executed, monitored, controlled, and closed. In addition, the project plan shows the chain of events that need to happen throughout the project. 

Project planning as a process is output oriented. The project plan is concerned with deciding what, when, how, and who will take the necessary actions to accomplish established objectives. 

The project management plan's content varies depending on the application area and complexity of the project. 

The project plan integrates and consolidates the subsidiary plans and baselines from the planning processes. The project management plan contains subsidiary plans concerning all aspects of the project.

Project baselines include, but are not limited to: 

  • Scope baseline
  • Schedule baseline, and
  • Cost baseline. 

Subsidiary plans include, but are not limited to: 

  • Scope management plan,
  • Requirements management plan,
  • Schedule management plan,
  • Cost management plan,
  • Quality management plan,
  • Process improvement plan,
  • Human resource management plan,
  • Communications management plan,
  • Risk management plan, 
  • Procurement management plan, and 
  • Stakeholder management plan. 

The project management plan may also include the following components: 

• Project life cycle selected for the project and the processes that will be applied to each phase; 

• Details of the tailoring decisions specified by the project management team are as follows: 

  • Project management processes selected by the project management team, 
  • Level of implementation for each selected process throughout the project, and 
  • Descriptions of the tools and techniques to be used for accomplishing those processes. 

• Description of how project tasks will be executed to accomplish the project goals; 

• Change management plan that documents how changes will be monitored and controlled; 

• Configuration management plan that documents how configuration management will be performed; 

• Requirements and techniques for communication among stakeholders; and 

• Key management reviews for content, the extent and timing to address open issues, and pending decisions. 

Why are Project Plans Important? 

Project plans form the foundation for future actions, using the planning document as a guide. Behind every successful project is much planning. 

The project planning process is one of the most critical steps in ensuring the successful execution of a project. 

During this process, the project manager creates a detailed plan that outlines all aspects of the project, including the project schedule, scope, and budget. 

Project planning is essential for several reasons:

  1. It allows the project manager to understand the project and its objectives better.
  2. It helps to identify potential risks and issues that may impact the project.
  3. It ensures that all stakeholders know their roles and responsibilities.
  4. It allows the project manager to track and monitor progress. 

Thus a project plan can help you to: 

  • Stay on track and meet deadlines 
  • Allocate resources effectively 
  • Anticipate and solve problems 
  • Communicate with stakeholders 

How to Create a Project Plan in 12 Steps 

How to create a project plan in 12 Steps 

Creating a good project plan is essential to the success of any project. Yet, many project managers struggle to create a project plan or what should be included. 

Knowing what is required, who will perform specific tasks, how they will be performed, and when the events should be scheduled allows project managers to organise their activities more efficiently. 

Following these 12 project planning steps, you can create a project plan to help you manage your project successfully. 

Step 1. Understanding Stakeholder's Requirements 

Gathering requirements is essential after creating a project charter and identifying the key project stakeholders. The planning process starts with collecting requirements from stakeholders. 

This discussion will be used to understand their needs and expectations and set a baseline for the project scope, timeline, and budget. 

This information in the process will help define the project's scope. 

Step 2. Establish the Scope of the Project 

The scope statement forms a strong base for the rest of the project. The scope statement lays out the number of tasks that must be completed to achieve each deliverable.  

In this step, you'll need to determine the scope of your project. What is the project's purpose? What problems is it trying to solve? What are the goals you hope to achieve? What are the deliverables you need to produce? Once you clearly understand the scope, you can begin creating your project schedule. 

The scope statement should include the following:  

  • Justification 
  • Scope description 
  • Business needs and business problems 
  • Project deliverables 
  • Project exclusions 
  • Project constraints  
  • Assumptions 

Step 3. Craft a Work Breakdown Structure 

Break down the project's scope into smaller, more manageable deliverables and groups of related tasks, also known as "work packages." 

The step will help assign resources to different project parts based on the skills needed. In addition, the work breakdown structure facilitates planning and coordination, two essential project management functions. 

Step 4. Define Project Tasks 

Break down work packages into a list of project tasks. Consider this an action plan. It can help to ask yourself: "What are the important activities to create the project deliverables?" 

You'll need to identify the tasks that must be completed to reach your goals. Then, for each activity, you'll need to estimate how long it will take to complete. Once your tasks and estimates are mapped out, you can start creating your project timeline. 

Step 5. Sequence Project Tasks 

When planning a project, it's important to sequence the tasks so that you can complete the project efficiently and effectively. To do this, you'll need to create a project schedule. This schedule will detail all the tasks that need to be completed and when they need to be completed. Once you have your plan, you can start working on each activity in the order that makes the most sense. 

For example, if you're working on a design project, you might want to start by sketching out some ideas, then move on to refining those designs, and finally, create a prototype or mock-up. Sequencing your activities this way ensures you're making the most efficient use of your time and resources. 

Step 6. Estimate Tasks Duration, Cost, and Resources 

Estimating activity duration, costs, and resources are essential when creating a project plan. This will give you a good idea of what is needed to complete the project and whether the goal is viable. It also helps ensure your project is completed on time and within budget. 

Step 7. Define Roles, Responsibilities, and Resources 

Once you have your timeline and tasks finalised, it's time to start assigning roles and responsibilities. For example, who will be responsible for each activity? When do they need to have it completed? By giving roles and responsibilities, you can ensure that everyone on your team knows what they need to do to help the project succeed. 

Resources may include humans, materials, equipment, space, and technology. Any organisation has limited resources; after identifying the resources required, defining who will perform which activity and the skill level needed for each activity is crucial.  

Defining roles and responsibilities from the beginning is necessary to avoid vagueness over parts. Some of the key players in project management are:  

  • Project sponsor 
  • Designated business experts 
  • Project manager
  • Project team 
  • End users 
  • Stakeholders and the wider business  

Step 8. Building Contingencies 

You might be an expert in project planning, but you cannot ignore twists and turns in a project, making it challenging. Before you start your project, take some time to identify potential problems, like team members going on leaves, resigning, or changes in sponsorship.  

Be upfront about the risks with the whole team so they can be prepared to tackle them and build backup plans.  

Step 9. Create a Performance Measurement Baseline 

Develop an integrated scope-schedule-cost baseline for the project work, which will serve as a control tool for your project. Then, compare the execution of the project to your baseline to measure and manage performance. These baselines can be established through status reports within project management software applications. 

Performance should be measured throughout the project lifecycle. This way, you can identify issues and take corrective action before it's too late. It's equally important to measure performance upon completion of the project. This allows you to compare actual results to their baselines to evaluate overall and individual performance. 

Step 10. Develop All Subsidiary Plans 

Developing a comprehensive and realistic project plan requires time and effort. However, planning can make life easier during the project execution by preventing nasty surprises and misunderstandings. 

Most project plans need to incorporate the following subsidiary plans: 

  • Scope management plan        
  • Schedule management plan   
  • Cost management plan 
  • Quality management plan      
  • Resource management plan 
  • Communications management plan   
  • Risk management plan 
  • Procurement management plan         
  • Stakeholder engagement plan 
  • Requirements management plan 
  • Change management plan    
  • Configuration management plan   

Step 11. Document The Project Plan 

Document the scope, schedule, and cost of the project. In most cases, plans include cost management, quality management, resource management, communication management, risk management, procurement processes, and ongoing stakeholder engagement through the project's lifecycle. 

Step 12. Build a Knowledge Base 

In some organisations, project managers document and share their plans when it is mandatory. In other organisations where the knowledge is not recorded, speaking to other project managers to gain insights may be essential.  

Tips to Write an Effective Project Plan 

An effective project plan is crucial to the success of any project. By outlining the tasks, milestones, and resources required, a project plan provides a roadmap for the project manager and team to follow.  

Writing a project plan can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be with the right tools and tips. Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating a project plan: 

Involve Your Project Team in The Process 

Collaborate with your team and key stakeholders on creating a project plan. Remember, you need input to generate the output. 

Refer to Past Project Plans 

It takes time and effort to write project plans. At the beginning of every new project, you may look at other successful project plans for knowledge—and refer to those as a guide when writing the plan for your project. 

Go through the project management templates and plans for similar projects or other projects within your organisation or industry to get insights for structuring and drafting your plan. 

Be Flexible and Open to Adjusting Your Project Plan  

In project planning, you might want to write and rewrite your project plan to write a perfect one. Be willing and flexible to adjust your project plan when required.  

Don't forget that the objective is to successfully deliver on project goals, which may require you to be responsive to changing needs and situations as you move forward.    

Regularly review and update the plan as needed. It will ensure that it remains relevant and accurate as the project progresses. 

Stay Organised  

Make a list of all the tasks that need to be completed. It will help you stay organised and on track. 

A project plan is an essential skill for any project manager. It allows you to track your progress, identify risks and potential problems, and keep your team on track. Following the steps outlined in this article, you can create a project plan to help ensure your next project's success.