Creating a project plan is one of the most important responsibilities of a project manager. This document should include everything the team needs to execute a project, such as its budget, schedule, scope, resource requirements, roles & responsibilities, among other things. However, creating project plans can be challenging for both beginner and experienced project managers alike. That’s why we’ve created this sample project plan to help project managers include what matters most.
Once you’re ready, you can try ProjectManager. We’re online project management software with tools such as Gantt charts to filter for the critical path and baselines so you can track your planned effort against your actual effort in real time. Once you’ve made your project plan, use the Gantt to stick to it. Get started for free.
Sample Project Plan
It’s important to note that the complexity of a project plan might vary depending on your project or organization. This sample project plan covers the basic areas of your project, such as project scheduling, scope management and task management. On top of that, you can add other sections and even other documents to include as much detail as you need.
1. Project Scope
Defining your project scope is one of the critical steps when making a project plan. The term project scope refers to the tasks and deliverables that must be done to complete your project successfully.
Based on your project scope, you’ll prioritize tasks and calculate your budget and schedule. List your tasks in order of importance and make an estimate as to how much money and time will be needed to complete the project.
2. Project Tasks
The tasks are the small jobs that make up the project. You want to create a detailed, prioritized list determining every step of your project. There will be tasks that are crucial to the project, which must be done, but there will also be some that you can sacrifice without impacting the overall success of the project.
Once you’ve collected all the necessary tasks to complete the project, you have to figure out to the best of your ability how long each of them will take to complete. You can only make an estimate, of course, but you should use past experience and any other factors at your disposal to make those guesses as accurate as possible.
To manage your project tasks, we recommend using the following tools:
- WBS: A work breakdown structure (WBS) lets you break down your project scope into individual tasks that can be easily managed.
- Task lists: Task lists are ideal for both project managers and team members. They’re an easy way to plan, schedule and track work.
- Kanban boards: Kanban boards allow project managers to manage workflows with a simple visual task management approach.
- Gantt charts: Gantt charts are a very powerful project management tool that let you manage project tasks and timelines.
3. Project Milestones
These are major phases or events in your project that are collected to break up the monolith of the project into more digestible parts. They can be added to a Gantt chart, with a description and a delivery date—more on this next.
4. Project Tasks
Not all tasks are created equal, some cannot start until the one before it is finished. You need to know which tasks are dependent on one another. A dependent task has the potential to block another team member and throw the whole project off-track. Therefore, be sure to note those on your project plan and link them so you and the team are aware of the importance of completing one before starting the other.
5. Task Duration
To create a project schedule, you’ll need to know the duration of each task. Make sure to include this somewhere in your project plan so team members know the amount of time that’s assigned to each task.
6. Resource Requirements
Your project plan should describe the resource requirements for each task. That includes the work hours, equipment hours and materials. By clearly outlining the required resources for each task, you set up the base for effective resource planning, resource scheduling and resource tracking.
7. Project Schedule
Now that you’ve gathered information about your project tasks such as their duration, dependencies, due dates and resource requirements, you can create an accurate project schedule that also considers the resource allocation for each task. Your project schedule should sequence tasks in a manner that allows the team to complete the project smoothly and gives them enough time.
8. Project Budget
The financial success or failure of your project depends on the accuracy of your project budget. To create a project budget, you’ll need to estimate the costs of each project task based on the resource requirements that were previously outlined. Once you have a cost estimate for each task, you can sum all those costs and have an estimate of your total project cost. This will be the foundation for your project budget. Our free project budget is a great tool to help you with this process.
9. Project Management Phases
The plan needs to outline each part of the project life cycle, and specific deliverables and activities that need to be done during each of them.
- Conception and Initiation: This is a reiteration of the business case, where you described the idea behind the project and how it benefits the organization. You have already explored this and identified how it can be completed in your business case. You now want to expand upon those ideas and flesh out the concept of the project and how you plan to meet those demands.
- Definition and Planning: Now you put the plan down in writing, concentrating on the project’s scope and outlining the work that will need to be performed. Here’s where you prioritize tasks and calculate your budget and schedule. List all your tasks in order of importance and from that list make an estimate as to how much money and time will be needed to complete the project.
- Launch: The execution of the plan you devised begins with allocating the resources and tasks to your team, who are informed of their responsibilities. This is the start of the actual work, though it doesn’t mean the plan is put aside. There will always be changes that you’ll have to adjust for.
- Performance and Control: Speaking of those changes, while executing the project, it’s crucial to monitor the estimated progress of your project plan to the actual progress as recorded by your team’s status updates. This is when you return to the plan to re-allocated resources as necessary to keep on track. The better you can track the progress of the project, ideally in real time, the more accurate picture you have of where your project is and what it needs to stay on track. ProjectManager offers a real-time dashboard that uses live data to get a completely accurate snapshot of your project status.
- Close: You’re not finished when you’re finished, now you have to get client approval, make sure all the paperwork has been signed off on, payments have been delivered, etc. There are a lot of cleanup duties that you’re still in charge of managing, from onboarding team members to payment of team, vendors, contractors, etc.
10. Risk Log
A risk log is a document where project managers can easily list all the existing and potential risks for their projects. A risk log is a critical element of any project plan because it allows project managers to prioritize risks, develop risk mitigation strategies and assign risk owners to each project risks. You can also create a risk management plan to explain all your risk management tactics in more detail.
11. Change Management Process
There will be circumstances outside your control that make it necessary to make changes to your project plan. For example, a key stakeholder might add a new project requirement right after the project execution starts. This of course affects what you had initially planned.
To manage situations like this, you’ll need a change management process. Most change management processes work with a change request that’s submitted by the person who wants to make a change to the project plan, and then once that change request is approved, a change order is issued and the change is made.
Who approves the change requests might vary depending on each organization. Some have a change control board (CCB) in place, or it might be just one project manager.
11. Project Assumptions
No matter how much you plan and estimate, there will be some assumptions and hypotheses left. Project assumptions refer to all the things that the project management team considers to be true without necessarily having any sort of data or evidence to support it. These assumptions will be proven true or false as your project is executed. It’s important to document any assumptions your team has, as they might be important in the future.
12. Project constraints
There are constraints that apply to every project. Initially, most project management experts agreed on 3 constraints, time, cost and scope, which were known as the triple constraint of project management. However, most project managers today agree there are three more constraints, quality, risk and resources.
Project Plan Template
Our free project plan template is a great tool to start creating your project plan. Customize it as needed to include specific details about your project to keep everyone informed. You can also use other free project management templates from our library to create a detailed project management plan.
Project Plan Example
The best way to understand the planning of a project is by doing one. Let’s walk through the steps of a simple project, say, finally hanging that artwork your daughter made in grade school.
The project initiation tasks are simple: your daughter has been asking why you haven’t hung her drawing. “Do you not like it?” she asks. Of course you do. In fact, you’re going to hang it up in the living room so everyone can see how proud you are of her work. The main project goal is to frame and hang the piece, which benefits the organization through returning peace and harmony to the family.
Next step is defining and planning. Write down the plan and scope of work, noting any risks and how to resolve them. This project requires a trip to Target and the purchase of a nice-looking but inexpensive frame, one that stylistically complements the work, but doesn’t overshadow your daughter’s piece.
So, you have to factor in the time to get to the store, pick out the proper frame and then get home and assemble your team and tools. You’ll get her brother to help and proceed to assign roles and responsibilities within your project team. Then you launch the project and assign the tasks to your children that you wrote out earlier in the planning stage. As you work, there might be conflicts to resolve, as your team is not the cohesive whole you hoped.
Change is part of a project. Maybe there will be not enough nails, or you can’t find the hammer. These risks were identified earlier, so if they do occur, use the contingency plan you created.
While you’re executing the project, as project manager it is your responsibility to monitor the performance and control it, so that the whole thing stays on track and you don’t waste time having to go back to Target to buy the nails you thought you had at home.
One way to keep track of the project’s progress is to get status reports from your team as they work on their tasks. You gave them a certain amount of time to complete the task, so ask them to report back to you if that timeline is being met or they’re falling behind. If they are behind schedule, you’ll have to work at adjusting the scope, either adding more time to the schedule or allocating resources, which might mean getting off the couch and helping.
The picture is framed, hung and even looks straight. Your children are proud and want to celebrate with lemonade and cookies. But you’re not done yet. There’s cleanup, but more importantly, you must make sure the stakeholder of the project is happy with the quality of the deliverables. Get mom in there to give the final okay. Then the party can begin. You and the team deserve it.
Using Project Management Software to Track a Project Plan
As you can see, even a simple project requires a lot of information to collect and organize. You can do it the old-fashioned way on paper. Certainly many in the past have been able to complete big and small projects successfully this way. But there are planning tools that make that work so much easier for you and more efficient and productive for the project.
As stated above, there are project management templates you can use that helps you step-by-step in building a project plan. While those are a step in the right direction, they’re standalone documents that are problematic to share. They can be overwritten or duplicates can float around in people’s emails, all of which can lead to muddied communications at best and at worst seriously dire consequences for the project.
It’s not that you should throw away project planning templates. They’re a great way to start the process of planning for your project. But an online project management tool is going to give you greater flexibility, more features and a platform on which you can build true collaboration for great project success.
ProjectManager Is Ideal for Project Planning
No project management tool does more for project planning than ProjectManager. Our award-winning software has a number of powerful features to help with every aspect of project planning.
One such feature is our Gantt chart of which we wrote about above. Gantt charts are great tools to visualize your schedule, with a bar chart that creates a linear timeline showing you tasks, duration and even task dependencies. The latter are linked, so you can see where team members potentially may be blocked.
But when you take your Gantt chart online you open up a whole new world of managing possibilities. First, you can easily import your project plan into ProjectManager from whatever template you composed it on, be it MS Word or an Excel spreadsheet, and it keeps your formatting and automatically populates the spreadsheet and bar chart of your Gantt chart.
Because the online Gantt chart is cloud-based it’s easy to use. All your tasks are saved and stored remotely, they’re easy to share over any device, and collaboration is conducted on the task level. You can attach files and keep the conversation tied to the task at hand.
As we noted, things will change, and an online Gantt chart allows you to adjust task durations with a simple drag-and-drop of your cursor. This saves you time, as does the automated notifications that can alert you when a task is completed or about to go off-track, so you can see it in real-time and fix it before it becomes a problem.
Online Project Planning Tools Makes for More Productive Planning
That’s just one of the advantages of planning with ProjectManager. You still have to collect all the data, but now it’s collected in the cloud where it can be easily accessible and shared with team members and stakeholders. Each time you import your task list into project management software it creates the project plan for you, leaving you free to deal with the management of a successful project.
When you’re planning a project and managing all its phases through a successful completion, you want the right tools to streamline the process and foster collaboration and communications. ProjectManager has all the features you need to plan your project and it’s a cloud-based PM tool, which reports in real-time, so you are always clear on the plan versus the actual execution of the project. See for yourself by taking our free 30-day trial.