The importance of having a project plan cannot be underestimated. It is the backbone that holds your objectives, strategies, and resources together in order to get you to the desired results.
A good project plan will help keep you on track while allowing for flexibility along the way.
Let’s take a look at what it takes to create an amazing project plan so that you can stop stressing and start taking effective action.
What is a Project Plan?
First things first: what is a project plan?
A project plan is basically a roadmap that includes the steps needed to accomplish your goals, along with dates and timelines for each of those steps. You can think of it as a map guiding you towards your destination on time and without any unforeseen detours or roadblocks.
Why is a Project Plan Necessary?
One of the biggest reasons project plans are necessary is because they help to prevent scope creep. Scope creep is when the scope of a project changes and expands during its life cycle, taking up more of your time and resources and thus decreasing your profits.
If you do not have a plan in place, it will be difficult to stick to the original goals and deliverables for your project.
Furthermore, a project plan is necessary for when things go wrong, because it will allow you to pinpoint the source of the problem with greater accuracy. It will also enable you to identify overspending and delays before they grow out of control.
Lastly, having a strong project plan allows for flexibility along the way in case things change unexpectedly. You will have a framework that allows you to make adjustments and revisions as needed.
Step 1: Executive Summary
You should start your project plan with an executive summary. This is basically a brief overview of your project and its major goals. The purpose of this section is to quickly get the attention of anyone who reads it — even if they only have a few minutes, such as during a meeting or conference call.
Your executive summary is the first section of your project plan but it makes sense for it to be the last section that you actually write, since it should accurately summarise the main details of your plan, such as:
- Objectives and goals
- Scope risks
- Key milestones
- Project timeline
- Spending estimates
Step 2: Define the Scope of the Project
It’s crucial that you set clear boundaries regarding the scope of your project, and these should be easy for both you and your client to understand.
This is important to prevent scope creep. You must be crystal clear on the deliverables, timeline, and costs.
It’s also vital to put countermeasures in place in case the client suddenly wants to add new features.
Step 3: Project Structure
This section should include the structure of your project, which includes deliverables and resource allocation. You will also need to indicate how you plan on managing risks along the way, including any contingencies you have for possible problems that may arise.
It’s also important to ensure that there aren’t too many dependencies within the structure of your project, as this could lead to bottlenecks, delays and even a total collapse.
If your teams can work independently and autonomously, then your project will move swiftly and efficiently.
Step 4: Resource Planning
It’s important to define the resources you have available for a project. You’ll want to list the following:
- Costs and expenses (including equipment, software licenses and travel costs)
- Risks related to outsourcing or subcontracting
- Team members
- Steps that need to be taken if you run into any problems with resources. You may need to outsource some of your work or hire extra people temporarily. These contingencies should be outlined in your project plan.
Step 5: Set a Realistic Time Frame
Your project plan should include a realistic timeframe in which to complete your work. This is an essential part of the plan, because you will have deadlines that must be met and it’s important to know when they are coming up so that you can meet them on time or seek assistance if needed.
Step 6: Plan for Change
Project plans are dynamic documents, and they need to be flexible enough to accommodate change. The more foresight you have when making your plan, the better chance you will have of being able to adjust it easily as needed. Using project management software can help enormously with this, whilst simultaneously maintaining strong lines of communication with the client. Some popular choices include:
Overall, the best project plans are those that have been created with clear goals in mind. It’s important to ensure that you’re setting realistic expectations for your client and yourself when it comes to timelines, deliverables, costs and risks.
Your plan should also be flexible enough so that if something were to come up midway through the process, then you can accommodate this change without causing any major problems or delays on either side.
Project management software can help tremendously by providing a collaborative workspace where team members can work together efficiently while still maintaining strong lines of communication with each other and their clients.
A strong project plan truly is the difference between success and failure, so don’t overlook this vital step.