So, you need to create a project plan, and I’m assuming you need to do so quickly. A project plan template will help you there.
What Is A Project Plan?
A project plan outlines the project scope, project objectives, project goals, and project schedules for a new project. It serves as a road map and provides clear direction and expectations on what needs to be done, when it needs to be done by, and who is responsible for each project task.
Your project plan might be presented as a roadmap or Gantt chart, made in Smartsheet, Microsoft Project, or a similar alternative planning tool. There are also project plan templates out there that are in the form of a written document, with the Gantt chart or roadmap included in that written document.
Why Is A Project Plan Important?
Project management plans are one of the most important pieces of project documentation, no matter what methodology you’re using, whether agile project management, Kanban, waterfall, or another method.
A project plan will:
- Clarify the process and activities that will lead to the project’s outputs and project deliverables
- Provide information to estimate properly and define outputs and project scope
- Enable you to visualize the entire project and see interdependencies between tasks
- Help with resource management and show who does what task when, helping forecast your resource requirements
- Provide milestones to track progress against (and timeframes and dates for client approvals)
- Enable you to baseline and track your project progress properly according to set metrics and KPIs
- Enable agreement on the all-important live date
Read more about why project plans are important here.
Project Plan Template
One of the easiest ways to learn how to make a project plan is to start by editing another one.
Our project management expert team has created a project plan template for a website project that’s way better than just a blank Gantt chart template (which you can find anywhere).
The project plan is part of our resource hub in DPM Membership, and it’s great because:
- It includes 140 line items—pre-filled, so you can really see how they work together
- It’s already detailed as a website redesign project plan
- It comes with access to 50+ other expert-curated project templates, samples, agendas, ebooks, checklists, and more.
How To Use The Project Plan Template
The sample project plan is available in Microsoft Project, Smartsheet, and an XML file which can be used across a variety of project management tools as well as Google Sheets and Excel. The goal here is to help you get started!
Follow these tips for getting the most out of our simple project plan template.
- Treat it like a Gantt chart: Our template is laid out as a Gantt chart, so all the usual best practices for Gantt charts apply. Define your critical path, lay out your dependencies, and make sure you consider resource availability and utilization.
- Leave enough room for changes: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Build contingencies into your plan for risks, changes, and delays. Our template makes it fairly easy to make changes, as long as you haven’t squeezed your timeline too much.
- Keep it accessible: The best project plan is one that is accessible for all team members and key stakeholders so they can keep track of progress, milestones, and whether there’s been any risks or delays. This streamlines reporting on project status, as well. This is even easier to do if you’re using our template in a tool like Smartsheet or monday.com.
- Edit what’s already there: Our template is already mostly filled in. Instead of deleting everything and starting from scratch, just edit what’s there. This will save you plenty of time, and if you’re new to creating project plans, you can be confident you’re on the right track.
- Pair it with other project docs: It’s also critical to have a communication plan, work breakdown structure, and project budget document.
10 Best Practices For Creating A Project Plan
The process of creating a project plan goes hand in hand with the project planning process. Each step of the way, add your notes, findings, and further questions to your document.
Here are the steps:
- Define your workflow: Sketch out the overall flow of your project and map out each project phase in your project’s life cycle. From there, note the activities and tasks to be completed in each stage.
- Establish a planning horizon: Determine how far into the future you can accurately plan ahead. Be realistic, don’t overcommit the project team, and don’t plan what you don’t know.
- Break it down: Break down your tasks and activities into smaller subtasks to make it easier for your team to estimate. With your team, identify any tasks that are missing.
- Ask, don’t guess: Work with your team to determine estimates for tasks, start dates, due dates or end dates, and overall timelines. Don’t promise something the team can’t deliver.
- Question when questioning: As you’re gathering estimates, keep asking ‘why’ and ‘how’ to help team members think through the approach, and so you can identify efficiencies.
- Allow time for changes: Change is inevitable. Leave time in your plan for changes, reviews, and other delays, whether on the client side or internally.
- Plan for it not going to plan: Give yourself and your team extra contingency time and put backup plans in place. Have a Plan A, Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C.
- Finish well: Plan a strong finish and leave enough time for things like launch, QA, and final approvals.
- Post-project review & optimization: Include a specific phase for this in your project plan. This also gives you time to record lessons learned and/or hold a retrospective.
- Milestones & baselines: Include milestones and baselines in your plan, and refer back to these throughout the project to make sure you’re on track.
Go forth and build your project plan! Our project plan template and the notes in this article will leave you well-equipped to tackle any project with a clear and efficient plan.
Once your project plan has been completed, you’ll need to add all tasks, dates, and project milestones into your project management software or app.
For more tips on project planning and other key processes in project management, subscribe to The Digital Project Manager newsletter and find more useful project management templates here.