Every project is different. They vary in terms of industry, scope, goals, teams, deliverables, environment, and countless of other factors. However, regardless of nature and scale, each project requires a realistic and detailed project plan that covers important aspects, such as its milestones, phases, and duration.

What is a Project Plan?

A project plan, or a project management plan, is a document that details a project’s scope and objectives, phases, key activities, and timings, among other components. It’s typically presented as a Gantt chart.

With the development of new apps and software, creating a comprehensive project management plan has gotten easier. There are a number of software available today, with some of the best project management software being Monday.com, Jira, Wrike, and Asana.

Without a project plan, you may end up losing track of the project’s progress, wasting valuable resources, or risking the success of more complex projects.

The Different Types of Project Plans

A project management plan can be classified into three distinct methodologies: Agile, Waterfall, and Scrum. Agile is more flexible and offers a more client-focused approach. Meanwhile, Waterfall, is easier to use and is more ideal for smaller projects.

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The Waterfall project management methodology is also considered as a traditional approach and typically follows a linear and sequential approach, with an emphasis on extensive planning and documentation.

Lastly, Scrum is an Agile project management methodology that’s ideal for highly variable projects that don’t have clear requirements yet.

How to Write a Project Plan

Creating a project plan doesn’t have to be a grueling process. However, keep in mind that it can be a time-consuming endeavor that would need continuous refinement as the project progresses.

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You also don’t necessarily have to start from scratch. You can use a project plan template from a project management software, or you can opt to reuse your own project plan template.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll show you how you can create a project plan that’s realistic and detailed.

Understand the scope of your project

Prior to creating a proper project management plan, you need to understand your project’s scope and value. A comprehensive project plan should be able to answer questions such as:

  • What are the project’s major deliverables?
  • What milestones would be needed to accomplish these deliverables and meet the project deadline?
  • Who are my team members and how will they execute these milestones?

Furthermore, you need to define what you’re trying to accomplish for the project. Determine clear objectives and set relevant success metrics. You also have to plot the project schedule, and from there, establish durations or deadlines for each project milestones.

You can align with your stakeholders and project members to ensure that there’s clarity and agreement on project requirements, baselines, expectations, budgets, and timelines.

Determine your planning horizon

For a project plan to be realistic, it needs to have a planning horizon. Your planning horizon is a feasible and viable amount of time that your project team will look into the future when planning.

Work with what you know about the project and make generous time allowances to avoid running the risk of over-commitment. The rule of thumb is that the higher the uncertainty a project will be facing, the shorter your planning horizon should be.

Go into detail

Determine your goals, and make sure that each one is clearly defined to minimize the risk of project failure. A clear goal serves as an anchor that holds each aspect of the project together.

We also recommend that you break down the project into more manageable subtasks. Aside from making your project plan more thorough, having small subtasks makes it easier for you and your members to estimate the amount of time every task needs for completion. Moreover, having subtasks helps you spot missing steps or elements.

Identify any risks or constraints

Creating a project plan involves risk management. With every project facing unique circumstances, being able to identify any potential risks or setbacks can help you prepare for challenges that may hamper project execution.

Potential risks you should plan for can include missing deadlines, going over the budget, or running out of available resources. You need to consider all the constraints that may affect your project’s progress.

Start creating your outline

Once you’ve pinned down the above-mentioned details, you can start creating your project plan outline. It should include:

  • Project deliverables
  • Steps needed to achieve them
  • Your timeframe for each task or deliverable

When you create a project plan, you also have to account for time that’s needed to review and amend it.

With your outline comes a detailed project schedule. For this, you can use a project management software. Having a Gantt chart or a Gantt chart software also comes in handy.

Create a list of roles, responsibilities, and resources

Begin by taking stock of your resources, which can include personnel, equipment, salaries, vehicles, and materials. Come up with an estimated cost for each component.

From there, you can work on defining the roles and responsibilities that each team member has. You can use a RACI chart, also known as a Roles and Responsibilities Matrix, for this. Note that you should be able to clearly define the expectations from each member. This can help ensure team alignment and work synergy.

Plan out your communication process

One of the most common reasons why a project fails is the lack of clear or proper communication.

Having a clear communication plan can help you avoid pitfalls, such as missed deadlines or exceeded budgets. A good communication plan should have clearly defined objectives, target audiences, and an identified communication method and frequency.

One way to make your communication process more streamlined is by having all your resources in one place. Using a project management software or a collaboration tool can help you and your team monitor, manage, and track the project’s progress.

Come up with alternatives

Things don’t always go according to plan.

So, it’s important to create a flexible project plan. Being able to plan for and accommodate unforeseen changes can help your project succeed.

Conduct a post-project review

Project work doesn’t stop once deliverables are completed and the project plan has been fully implemented. Your project plan should also include a post-project review. This will help better optimize your team’s performance for the next project phase or other projects.

While it may be tempting to create a very intricate project plan, it’s always best to come up with a clear and simple one. It should be comprehensive enough to include all the key components outlined above, but it should also be easy to understand and manage.