A project plan – sometimes referred to as a work plan – is a series of comprehensive documents that outline the goals, objectives, and tasks needed to complete a project. Project plans are essential for project managers to monitor their project – especially during the execution and control phases. A good project plan will include risk management, resource management, communication management, as well as tools outlining the project’s scope, cost, and baseline. 



The Importance of a Project Plan


Project plans are the foundation for a successful project. Without a project plan, you’d be at greater risk for an unorganized and unclear project, scope creep, cost overrun, scheduling issues and more. That’s because project plans are made to move the project from a hypothetical one, to a tangible project with actionable tasks and data to draw from. Plus, distributing your project plan to your team and stakeholders can keep the project organized and clarify any confusion. So, here’s how to write a project plan in 9 steps to help ensure success down the line: 



How to Write a Project Plan in 9 Steps


There are so many ways, methods, and tools you can use to write a project plan that it can get a little confusing. To help break it down for you, we have compiled a list of steps you can take to start crafting your project plan. 



1 | Define Goals and Objectives and Get Ready to Present to Key Stakeholders


To lay a good foundation for a successful project, you’ll need to have clearly outlined goals and objectives. Not only will you be able to more clearly present your project to key stakeholders, your team will have clarity about the project’s desired result from day one. To set your goals, determine what you want to achieve, what is feasible to achieve, and get ready to present your project to key stakeholders. 


You can also work with stakeholders in the goal planning process to get them aligned with the project. There, you’ll want to discuss their needs, manage expectations, and determine how they measure success. This way, you’ll be able to set goals and objectives that everyone is on board with from the very beginning. 


*a goal is a long term outcome, an objective is a shorter term, measurable action related to the goal. 



2 | Outline Your Goals


Now that you’ve established your goals, you’ll want to make sure they are measurable and outlined clearly. One way to do this is to use a method known as SMART goals. The method is a great way to organize your thoughts and turn lofty and unorganized goals into clear and achievable ones. 


A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound: 


  • Specific –

    Ensure that your goal is specific enough for success. For example, rather than making a goal to renovate a client’s bathroom at a reasonable price, make your goal to renovate it for under $6,000. This is a more specific goal with the same core idea as your original goal. 

  • Measurable –

    Your goal should be objectively measurable so that you can use tools to evaluate your project’s progress. For example, a SMART goal would be to create a report that compares your client’s bathroom remodel budget with that of your previous client’s bathroom budget.

  • Achievable –

    Your goal might be ambitious, but it should also be achievable. For example, setting a goal to finish your bathroom renovation project in a week is a pretty unrealistic goal. Setting a goal to completely finish the bathroom renovation in 30 days is an ambitious, yet achievable goal.

  • Relevant –

    Your goal should be relevant in that it should always be directly related to the results you wish to achieve. For example, you can set a goal to make a project report that compares this bathroom renovation with your previous renovations. Using this chart, your goal could be to get the project done more quickly- or slowly, or at a higher or lower budget.  

  • Time-bound –

    Your goal should always have a start and finish date. For example, rather than saying that you want to finish your project by the end of the month, your goal should be to start your project on August 1st and finish your project by August 28th. 



3 |  Create a Scope Document



Now that you have your goals outlined and your team on board, it’s time to deal with scope. In project management, scope is basically the work your team needs to complete in order to finish a project. For this step, it can be helpful to create a scope document. 


To do this, you can take a look at your goals and determine which ones are deliverables – meaning which ones are tangible or quantifiable actions/tasks you can take. Next, you’ll need to determine “the amount of time it’ll take, the resources necessary, and who will be responsible for execution” of each task you have just determined. 


After you have done this, it can be very helpful to give everyone on your team access to this scope documentation. This way, the whole team will be on the same page about what needs to get done and who is assigned to what task. 



4 | Develop a Schedule


The next step you’ll want to take is to develop a detailed schedule crafted from your goals and scope document. A great way to do this is by utilizing a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is a visualization of the tasks you need to complete. The Gantt chart consists of tasks signified on horizontal bars of different lengths, which represent the lengths of time needed to complete each task. The chart is essentially a way to visualize the project’s scope, dependencies, and progress.


To create your chart, you’ll want to plot out your tasks, subtasks, dependencies, and milestones. Dependencies are tasks that you must complete before other tasks can begin. Subtasks are smaller pieces of larger tasks. Milestones are major events in your project that you can use to break it up into parts or phases throughout the project. Then, you can plug all of this information into your chosen project management tool (like Microsoft Project or Primavera P6), to create your Gantt chart.



5  | Determine Resources, Estimate Cost and Determine Budget


Now that you have your scope and schedule, you can estimate the costs associated with your tasks and resources. Using the estimates you made in the previous steps, you can begin to determine the costs involved in your project.


 A good start would be to add up the costs of all of your resources- this includes labor costs, equipment costs, and resource and material costs.. Then, you’ll have a basic overall cost estimate. You can use your cost estimate to start building a budget for your project. 




6 |  Organize Your Team and Resources


After you’ve determined your budget, schedule, and resources, it’s time to get your team organized. You’re going to want to determine who in your organization should be responsible for which tasks. A helpful tool to do this is through a RACI chart. 


A RACI chart, also known as a RACI matrix, is a chart that you can use to clarify your employee’s roles and responsibilities in the project. A RACI chart looks like a simple table that lists out the tasks of your project and those who are responsible for completing them. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. Each person on your list will be assigned a letter that corresponds to their level of responsibility within the project. 



A responsible party in a RACI chart is a person or multiple people assigned to complete a task or create a deliverable. Every chart should have one or more “R”s, who are usually developers or creators from within your organization. 



An accountable party in a RACI chart is responsible for both delegating and reviewing work. Essentially, they manage those doing the tasks to ensure they are done correctly and on time. Typically “A”s are managers or other those with similar leadership roles. There should only be one A per project. 



Consulted parties are typically those who give feedback on the project and the work being done. Often, consulted parties are key stakeholders or team members who will be impacted by the work done in the project. There should only be a few “C”s per project 



Informed parties on a RACI chart are those who also need to be informed about the goings on of a project, but on a more big picture scale. Basically, they are those who want to be informed of the project’s overall progress, not smaller details or tasks. “I”s are typically part of your organization, but not part of the project team. For example, senior leadership members can be designated on your RACI chart as an I



7 | Establish Clear Communication Pathways


With so many people – from team members to stakeholders – contributing to the project, establishing clear communication is essential for project success. To avoid confusion and irritating mistakes, it is a great idea to create a communication plan. With this plan, you decide when, where and how many meetings you will hold throughout the project, where to post status updates, and what tool to use for team communication/collaboration. 



8 | Analyze Risk and Expect the Unexpected  


Every project comes with risk. There are many different types of risks that could impact your project like scope risk, schedule risks, technical risks, and more. One of the most important ways to prevent and identify risks in the beginning stages of your project is to track your progress through status reports and risk-management software. 


Another way to anticipate challenges during the project is to identify potential problems like team member absences, holidays, and overlapping schedules and try to mitigate them. Next, come up with a simple chain of command list with contact information that you can share with your team. That way, team members will always know who to reach out to about various issues. Lastly, after you’ve identified potential problems and risks that may arise, make sure you communicate them to the whole team so they can collaborate and take them on together. 




9 | Launch your project!


You’ve completed all of the above steps and now have a solid project plan! You’re on your way to being able to launch your project. To recap, your project plan according to the above steps includes:


  • Clearly defined goals and objectives
  • An outline of your goals made using the SMART goal method 
  • A scope document
  • A schedule
  • A budget
  • An organized team using a RACI chart
  • Clearly defined communication and a collaboration tool
  • Possible risks identified and team members informed




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