A project plan is a series of formal documents that are designed to control and execute a project. Having a robust project plan helps project managers, team members, partners, key decision-makers, and stakeholders to identify inefficiencies and helps in achieving project milestones. Creating the project plan is one of the most important processes in project management since it clearly defines the project scope, objectives, resources, and key deliverables.
The project plan, also known as the project management plan, outlines the process of managing a project according to its scope. Without a project plan, it’s impossible for the team to track the project status, resulting in cost overruns, scope creep, and deadline delays. Hence, creating a project plan is important for businesses and project managers so they can manage their projects effectively.
Why Is Project Planning Important?
The project plan is the foremost step in effective project management. Project planning gives you a clear insight into the project scope and delivery process and helps achieve the desired project outcomes. According to the Project Management Institute report, organizations lose an average of $97 million for every $1 billion invested due to poor project performance. A better project plan and a more structured approach could significantly reduce this sort of loss and improve project delivery.
In recent years, businesses that plan their projects – right from ideation to deliverable – are seeing vast business growth. The right project plan can:
- Increase productivity, efficiency, and project performance
- Allow you to make the most of your resources and gain control over your projects
- Let collaborators, project managers, and stakeholders align with the workflow
- Gives a clear picture of the responsibilities of each team member and stakeholder in the project
- Helps communicate the project’s workflow from idea to deliverables
- Prevents extraneous work from crowding out critical tasks
How Do We Create a Project Plan?
The project plan is vital to the success of any project. To create a project plan, it is important to understand the project scope, objective, timeframe, and dependencies. Once the project plan is defined, you can create a detailed project schedule, allocate resources, and execute your projects successfully.
No matter what type of project you’re planning, creating a comprehensive project plan helps you track your workflow. Here are the nine steps that will help you create and execute a project plan effectively.
1. Identify Stakeholders and Key Players
Project stakeholders are the key individuals who play a vital role in the project’s success; they can support the project through their experience and sound understanding of the project process. In order to execute the project plan effectively, it is important to understand the project objective and the expectations of its stakeholders. Collaborating with stakeholders helps you identify the project expectations and thereby increases the chances of the project’s success.
2. Define Tasks and Roles
After identifying your stakeholders, the next step is to determine the core project skills and competencies required to achieve the project deliverable. Initially, map out project roles, define tasks, and assign responsibilities to team members based on their skills. Make sure your team members are keeping track of the assigned task. The success and performance of any project depend entirely on the dedicated efforts of all team members. Clearly, the project’s success relies on teamwork.
3. Outline the List of Deliverables
Create a list of deliverables and break down the project into smaller subprojects, tasks, goals, or deliverables. Breaking down your project into manageable tasks makes it easier to figure out which resources can best accomplish each task. Ensure that the estimated timeline is sufficient to allow your team members to complete their assigned deliverables or tasks within the stipulated time frame.
Miscommunication of assignments may lead to delays and situations where team members have to redo their work therefore, it is better to map out a rough draft of the project plan that helps your team members understand who is working on what. Get your team’s input on the process, timeline, and effort required to meet the project goals. Setting short-term goals can help you achieve project milestones faster.
4. Create a Detailed Project Schedule
Once you break down the deliverables, creating a project schedule with clear plans, processes, and responsibilities will help your team know who’s working on what. Streamlining the project schedules may take some time upfront, but it increases efficiency, accountability, and clarity.
Here is a step-by-step process for creating a results-driven project schedule:
- Create a project plan. You can also use a project plan template to break the project down into smaller tasks and schedule them with confidence
- Set milestones for project start and end dates. Also, add resources and their availability
- Add an official “holiday calendar” for each resource based on their location and understand all team members’ vacations and days off
- Import a list of tasks and deliverables. Set a timeline and start assigning the task to your resources
- Identify dependencies, risks, and bottlenecks. Understand each case and offer the right solution
- Finalize the baseline project schedule
5. Communicate the Project Plan
Communicating the project plan clearly to the stakeholders and team members is the next step after creating the project schedule. Without clear communication, it’s impossible to keep all the stakeholders up to date on the changing status of the project. Lack of transparency eventually leads to inefficient and counterproductive decisions, which hamper the project’s objectives. With effective communication in place, it’s easy to maintain transparency in all parts of project management, which in turn allows the best decisions to be made, resulting in efficient project delivery.
6. Manage Your Workflows Efficiently
Defining a workflow/action plan is the cornerstone of project planning. A project workflow outlines the sequence of activities, responsibilities, and data that must be exchanged or completed to move a project forward. Having a robust project workflow enhances project visibility and efficiency. To avoid rework, it is essential to define an actionable project workflow.
Here is a step-by-step process for creating a results-driven project schedule:
- Centralizes your project workflows
Using the right project planning software, your team members and stakeholders can easily access project information and the status of the project.
- Gives clear visibility and transparency
Having visibility across the project workflows can increase the odds of success and prioritize the task.
- Improves overall efficiency
The right workflow management software reduces paper trails, automates the process, and keeps everything in one centralized system.
- Cuts down risk and redundant tasks
A pre-defined project workflow lets all stakeholders and team members visualize the process and quickly highlights who’s working on each task. Aim to eliminate redundancies and make sure each task flows logically from one to the next, so your resources stay on top of the project.
- Increases productivity
Implementing a well-defined project workflow helps team members get instant access to project information and stay in the loop.
7. Assign Tasks and Deadlines
Once the project deliverables are finalized, it is important to create a work breakdown structure (WBS) of all deliverables and map out all tasks. Then, assign those tasks to your team with deadlines and confirm that your team members can accomplish the assigned tasks in the allotted time. Depending on the response from your team members, you may need to make certain changes to the deadline or split complex tasks if necessary.
When creating the project plan, make sure you set realistic and achievable deadlines to complete the deliverables. Also, it is essential to track the project’s progress in real-time and rectify any constraints based on your workflow status.
8. Organize Kick-Offs
More than 70% of the workforce is working remotely. Conducting a project kick-off meeting gives clear visibility into the project status, helps remove roadblocks, and updates everyone on deadlines. Project kick-offs bring all high-level stakeholders, project sponsors, and team members together, streamlining communication and thus allowing you to meet the business goals faster.
Here are the benefits of holding a project kick-off meeting
- It helps team members and stakeholders get to know each other
- Lets team members get complete visibility into the project lifecycle and help them understand the project objectives
- It also enables stakeholders to understand the milestones, risks, assumptions, and constraints of the project
- Kick-off meeting helps you define, manage, and track your project cycle and keep all your stakeholders in the know
9. Identify Risks and Bottlenecks
As a project manager or anyone piloting a project through a workflow, a bottleneck can become a significant pain point. However, during a critical point in your project timeline, a bottleneck can be more than just pain; it can derail the entire project, wipe out hours of work, force rework, and negatively affect your project’s bottom line.
To mitigate risk, it is important to determine risk factors that may stop you from completing a project lifecycle efficiently. Once you identify possible threats and their causes, you can initiate an action plan aimed at mitigating the bottleneck to ensure success.
10. Achieve Deliverables
Deliverables are the concrete results of your project. Completing the right project deliverable at the right time increases the probability of the project’s success. A project deliverable refers to the output — tangible or intangible results — that is produced within the project scope.
Components of a Project Plan
Here are the components of a project plan project managers should be aware of
The final results of a project that must be provided to a client or stakeholder for approval.
The key players who have incredible experience and a sound understanding of the reliable project process.
- Project scope
Work required to accomplish the project objectives and generate the required deliverables.
- Project Charter
A document that holds complete, high-level information about the project and its process.
- Work breakdown structure (WBS)
A document or chart that breaks the project down into manageable tasks.
- Kick-off meeting
The first project meeting that formally starts a project and usually involves key stakeholders, team members, and clients.
These indicate specific progress points or events in project timelines that mark important moments.
The rough estimate of the total cost involved in completing a project.
The Project Planning Phase
An effective planning phase is essential to a project’s success. Having the right project plan will give the project team clear insights into their workflow for success. During the project planning phase, the project manager creates a project plan with the technical design, task list, resource plan, communications plan, budget, and schedule for the project and establishes the roles and responsibilities of the resources and stakeholders.
The Five Phases of Project Life Cycle
The five project phases are Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and control, and Closure.
Project initiation is the first phase of the project. In this stage, you have to understand the project scope, goals, and deliverables and identify stakeholders. To streamline the project and create a project charter that documents the project scope, the project’s objective, timeline, deliverables, resources, key stakeholders, and other further information related to the project should be outlined and shared with the stakeholders for approval. Once the project document is approved, the project team should:
- Create a business case and understand the project scope
- Define dedicated tasks and roles, and
- Break the project into a list of deliverables
The planning phase is when you figure out how to execute a project from scratch. During this phase of the project management lifecycle, it is important to break down the larger project into smaller tasks, assign the task to the right resources, prepare project schedules, and define the project workflows to execute the project successfully. While creating and assigning tasks, make sure they are achievable within the time frame. As part of your project planning, you’ll also have to consider the following factors:
- Create a task list and deliverables
- Develop a project schedule plan
- Assign the task to your resources and
- Set a budget baseline
Execution is the next phase when you implement the plan that has been outlined. During this phase, resources are onboarded, and tasks should be clearly communicated to teams. Resources will take up their tasks and stick to the project workflows as instructed by the project manager. Here, the project manager keeps track of the workflow, manages timelines, and ensures that tasks are executed as per the project plan. Having a single dashboard to track workflows, timelines, tasks, dependencies, and budget makes project management easier.
If you are searching for a tool to manage all your project workflow, time, resources, and budget in one go, project management software does it all. At the execution phase, project managers need to keep team members in the loop as they:
- Create tasks and organize workflows
- Organize project kick-off meetings
- Manage costs, resources, and time efficiently
4. Monitoring and Control
In tandem with the execution phase, progress and performance metrics are monitored to ensure that the project progresses as planned. During the monitoring and control phase, the project manager and team should confirm whether the task aligns with objectives and deliverables. As part of this phase, the project teams must juggle a number of tasks, including keeping to the schedule, sticking to the budget, preventing scope creep, and managing risk.
During this phase, project managers must:
- Take control of deliverables, budget, and schedules
- Monitor and optimize project performance
- Perform quality checks
Closure is the final phase of the project management process. During this phase, you can organize the final meeting with the stakeholders and perform a project review. Once all the tasks are completed, the deliverables should be sent for the client’s approval, then you should take some time to evaluate the project’s success. But, among all these tasks, don’t forget to celebrate your achievement with a team lunch. Also, ensure the project is stored in a secure place where project managers can access it.
During this phase, project managers should finalize the project and ensure that a certain project life cycle is vetted. They should:
- Analyze project and team performance
- Document project closure
- Initiate billing and revenue
Plan Your Projects With Polaris
Using spreadsheets to manage your projects is frustrating since they don’t reflect workflows, don’t typically visualize project progress, don’t reflect actuals of time worked and are difficult to share with teammates and stakeholders,
Choosing the right project planning software will make your life easier and your projects more successful since they give you complete visibility into project workflows in one dashboard.
If you are looking for simple, intuitive project planning software to help you manage your project lifecycle, give Polaris a spin. Polaris project planning software enables you to keep track of project progress, manage timelines, and monitor resources efficiently. Also, Polaris PSA software gives you an unparalleled view of project progress and fosters project planning processes such as project scheduling, resource management, cost estimation, task allocation, and risk monitoring.
To create an incredible and successful project, the right planning plays a pivotal role. If you want to streamline your project planning and workflow all-in-one platform, you should try Polaris. Get started with a demo; our experts will help you discover the right project planning software to supercharge your project workflows.