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Project Plan Template

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Project Plan Template

Introduction to Project Plan Template

Project planning is a critical stage of project management where project managers define the structure and foresight for the execution stage, helping to identify and eliminate inefficiencies. This involves chalking down granular details of every stage of the project while incorporating insights from every stakeholder. In addition, the plan must be flexible enough to help managers recover projects from occasional setbacks.

If you fail to plan, then you must plan to fail. This adage assumes greater significance for a project plan. Particularly when you wish to keep a wide spectrum of stakeholders on the same page.

We offer a beginner’s guide on using a simple project plan template to scope out the project. The template will help you break the project down into smaller tasks and schedule them with confidence. You can start by downloading this template in Microsoft Word and Excel formats.

Simple Project Plan Template to Get You Started

Project Plan Template for Microsoft Word

This project plan template from Replicon is a simple, user-friendly, and easy-to-use document that project managers can employ to collate all the necessary project-related information at their fingertips in one place. This template includes every relevant detail that project managers need to understand their project’s progress. Also, professionals using this template do not require any technical training, allowing project managers to deploy them easily and instantaneously, speeding up the implementation process.

Its components include:

1. Company Details
The company details section has the company name, address, location, zip code, email address, and the contact person’s name.

2. Project Details
This section has specifics like the project’s name, location, deliverables, scope, start, and end date and encapsulates all the relevant project-related information.

3. Activity/Task Name
Professionals working on a project can list the activities and tasks on which they are working, giving complete visibility to the project manager about their resource’s task pipeline.

4. Resource Assigned
Professionals working on the activity/task mention their names.

5. Start Date and End Date
These two columns denote the date on which the resource commenced and completed the task, respectively.

6. Duration (In Days)
Resources use this column to mention the number of days they took to complete a specific task.

7. Activity/Task Status
Resources mention the status of their task, which may be “Under Progress,” “Completed,” “On Hold,” or “Yet to be Taken Up.”

What is a Simple Project Plan?

Simple Project Plan Template

A project plan is a document that outlines and defines the project in terms of objectives, specific tasks and timelines, and end-goals (what constitutes success).

The plan must also cover project specifics, including materials and deliverables like:

  • Gantt charts for project milestones
  • Comprehensive communication plan
  • Work breakdown structure – particularly when your team is spread across different projects and geographies
  • Besides the team, other resources like project management software, cash flow, and management buy-in to make ad-hoc adjustments possible.

Briefly, the project plan serves like a central guiding force for all project-related activities throughout its entire life cycle.

Why Use a Template for a Project Plan?

Uses of Project Plan Template

A project can have multiple milestones, tasks, schedules and teams working closely from across the world. Hence, capturing the project outline correctly can be intimidating in the beginning. It helps to first visually represent the broad components of the project alongside the timelines, milestones, and objectives. The timeline needs special focus as it is the foundation upon which all the other project components will be built.

To Whom is the Project Plan Relevant?

While the project managers are indeed responsible for creating the project plan, it’s vital to enable all stakeholders to contribute towards it. By working in consultation with the team, management, and SMEs, project managers can build a more pragmatic and practical project plan.

As the team is assembled based on the project needs in terms of skill and experience, proactive consultation is helpful. It’s normal for the team to have access to the project plan at the implementation stage. However, a smart project plan is one that has the entire team involved in the planning stage itself. This way, the team stakes claim as co-creators of the plan and feels more responsible.

The plan must be clear enough to be quickly understood by a stakeholder who joins the project at a later stage. In fact, lending itself to be quickly presented to outside groups is one key factor that distinguishes an ordinary project plan from an exceptionally thought-through project plan. This is significant because the project team is required to allay the apprehensions of stakeholders and inspire confidence in them.

How Are Project Plans Used in Project Management?

Each project is different and therefore requires a customized approach. However, all project plans need to feature the following critical elements.

  • Project Timeline View
    The company details section has the company name, address, location, zip code, email address, and the contact person’s name.
  • Project Tracking
    Several parameters like resource allocation and utilization, budget, risk assessment, etc. need to be checked more often. Identify those and make a provision to track them faster.
  • Automation
    A few project tasks are ideal candidates for automation. Much time and effort can be saved by automating these tasks, thus freeing up employees to focus on critical project tasks.
  • Integration
    Given the different IT environments that the project plan would be used in, it’s important to create a project plan that is integration-friendly.

Problems that Project Plans Can Solve

Problems that Project Plans Can Solve

While a project plan cannot preempt all problems, it definitely overcomes a few commonly known obstacles.

  • Scope Creep

    According to a study by PMI, 50% of projects fail to complete within time, and 45% of projects fail to finish within budget. A clear project plan helps you identify the factors that could lead to delays and overspending well before they spiral into unmanageable problems. As the deviance from the project plan becomes apparent early on, it helps the manager to communicate them promptly to the stakeholders.

    Further, it also helps managers explain how meeting the new expectations can push other tasks into the risk zone. It’s therefore important to affix the responsibility of tracking these changes to a dedicated project member.

    Though organizations experience scope creep in as much as 50% of their projects, little care is taken to prevent it. As a result, only 27% of organizations make an effort to create a new scoping document every single time it’s updated. Therefore, it’s crucial to create new versions of scope documents and share it with all stakeholders to avoid future disagreements.

  • Structural Inadequacies

    Building structures that allow autonomous zones of effort helps reduce the adverse effects of too many dependencies. In these zones, there can be a scope for more flexibility. The need to maintain order must not be taken too far as it might result in bottlenecks. The project pathways must retain the balance between these two to ensure collective team success.

    Moreover, allocating sessions periodically for knowledge sharing enables the project team to stay atop project updates. Creating communication structures as a part of a project plan can help streamline the collaboration process right from the start.

  • Inadequate Visibility on Resource Availability

    A team with the right project-skill is 30% more likely to succeed. Yet, as many as 33% of people think their teams do not have the adequate skills required for the project.

    During the project planning stage, managers need to identify the number of resources with the right skill sets that they would need to complete a project within the set time and budget. Unless realistically planned, there might be chances of the project hitting a pause due to resource constraints.

    Further, frequent audits must be conducted to ensure that the project is progressing according to the planned timelines. If any lag is noticed, then it must be informed to the stakeholders so that they adjust their expectations too. Also, in extreme cases, the right talent must be engaged at a premium price given the scope of the project. Therefore, budget buffers should be incorporated into the project plans.

  • Milestones Without Definite Timelines

    Managers can set their projects for success by setting definite milestones. In fact, a recent survey shows that projects with well-defined milestones are 50% more likely to succeed. Yet, timelines are not incorporated in 80% of projects. Unsurprisingly, it’s reported that 40% of organizations are unable to complete projects on time.

    By including the project plan alongside the project schedule, you can always keep an eye on the timelines. This helps manage expectations in the real time and initiate course corrections when required.

  • Inadequately Prepared for Change

    It pays to frame and familiarize your team with change management from the start. There’s little room for maneuver when the unanticipated change actually strikes the team.

    Besides creating the change management plan, it’s vital to periodically update it in tune with the project dynamics. This keeps the team prepared for any unforeseen circumstances and guides them towards resolution.

Benefits of Using Project Plan Templates

Benefits of Project Plan Template

Considering the time and efforts that go into creating a project plan template, a question might crop up: Will the results justify the efforts?

In the hybrid workplace, it’s vital to empower employees with knowledge about the overall project and their contribution from the beginning. It unambiguously communicates to each team member their role at every stage of the project. This offers the team more flexibility to plan their work while adhering to stringent project timelines.

Overall, a project plan template enables you to:

1 Increase project velocity

  • Understand real-time project progress
  • Balance team flexibility with project focus
  • Spot potential bottlenecks and delays

2 Strengthen team capacity:

  • Facilitate transparency and clarity within team
  • Chalk out dependencies and accountability for tasks
  • Manage expectations of team, management, and clients

3 Improve project quality

  • Understand real-time project progress
  • Balance team flexibility with project focus
  • Spot potential bottlenecks and delays

The more complex a project is, the more benefits can be expected from a well-defined, detailed project plan template. Templates help you build a more customized, flexible and shareable project plan.

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