Maybe you’re new to project plans, or maybe you’re reading this to try to find an excuse to get out of creating one for your next project.
In this article, I’ll convince you that a project plan is important, using 7 key reasons. By the end, you’ll feel secure in the knowledge that project plans are still a good idea.
What Is A Project Plan?
Project plans outline the scope, project objectives, and project schedule. It serves as a road map for all project stakeholders involved by providing clear direction and expectations, and will note what needs to be done, when it needs to be done by, and who is responsible for each project task.
It will help ensure that everyone involved in the project understands their role as well as how their work fits into the bigger picture of the overall project goal.
It's important to note that key stakeholders should be consulted when creating a project plan, as each will have different goals and perspectives which should be taken into account.
With a comprehensive yet concise plan in place, team members can stay organized and motivated throughout the entire process. This guide will show you how to create an effective project plan that actually works!
What’s Included In A Project Plan?
Here are 10 pieces you’ll need to include in your project plan:
- Project phases (ie. parts of the project) according to your chosen workflow or methodology
- Activities, tasks, and project deliverables that will be completed during project execution
- Task start and end dates
- Task dependencies
- Milestones and baselines
- Project scope statement
- List of requirements
- Potential risks, risk assessment, and risk management plans
- Project budget
- Achievable metrics & KPIs to measure project performance
7 Reasons Why A Project Plan Is Important
Once the pride of project managers everywhere, the humble project management plan has lost its sparkle for self-proclaimed ‘agile’ project managers. If you’re asking yourself,
Does a project plan even matter in this post-waterfall era of agile-everything?
The answer is still yes.
After all, clients, project sponsors and stakeholders still want answers for questions like,
- When is the project going to be delivered?
- How much will it cost?
- What exactly will be delivered?
- How will it be delivered?
If you opt for the No Project Plan Alternative, it’s difficult to answer these seemingly basic project management questions. The reality is that clients need to know what they’re getting, when, and for how much before signing off.
And it’s not just for clients—as a project manager and project planner, you’ll need that project plan to ascertain if the project is on track when it comes to project timeline and budget. You can’t know unless you’ve got something to measure against, which increases your chances of project failure.
Even so, there are still plenty of people who’d say, “But aren’t project plans for complex IT projects just a waste of time?” They argue that project plans don’t reflect the reality of the tasks at hand, that they artificially constrain your project teams from self-optimizing, and that they’re perpetually out of date due to constant changes.
These arguments do bring up an important point about project plans. Fast-paced industries with complex projects (such as digital and IT) are demanding a new approach to the project planning phase.
Instead of a static document, modern project plans need to come to life—the best project plans today are ones that are accessible, readily understandable for a wide variety of users, and highly adaptable.
Here are seven reasons behind the importance of project planning, and why project plans are probably the single most important piece of project documentation for ensuring project success.
A project plan:
- Clarifies the process and activities that will lead to the project’s outputs and deliverables
- Gives you information that enables you to estimate properly and define a project’s outputs and the scope of the project
- Enables you to visualize the entire project and see the interdependencies between tasks
- Helps with resource management, resource allocation, and resource planning, and shows who does what task when, and helps forecast your resource requirements
- Provides milestones to track progress against (and timeframes and dates for client approvals)
- Enables you to baseline and track your project progress properly
- Enables agreement on the all-important live date
How To Create A Project Plan
Here are 10 steps to creating a project plan:
- Define your workflow
- Establish your planning horizon
- Break it down
- Ask, don’t guess
- Question when questioning
- Allow time for changes
- Plan for it not going to plan
- Finish well
- Post-project review & optimization
- Milestones & baselines
Time to get started on your project plan! You might not want to, but it’s clear that this is still a critical project document that will make your life easier in the long run. But you don’t necessarily have to create one from scratch—get our template here.
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