Download this free project plan template to scope out your work and break it down into manageable components; then schedule and assign the tasks needed to complete your project.
You can also use this template to manage workloads and tasks as changes occur. A project plan is the foundation of all the work you do in leading a project to a successful completion.
Why You Need a Project Plan Template
Now that you’ve downloaded the free project plan template, you are ready to get your project on track to a successful completion! The project plan is crucial, as it is the fundamental document from which your project is formally managed.
The project plan is made up of activities, tasks and the resources needed to complete the project as outlined in the project business case. So, you want to have a description of the major phases of the project, a schedule of activities, tasks and their duration, dependencies, resources, timeframes, etc. Then list the assumptions and constraints in the planning process.
When you are creating a project plan you need to take the following steps: note project scope, identify milestones and tasks, quantify the effort required, allocate the resources, make a schedule, list dependencies and document it all for approval.
While the business case that you have composed earlier in the project process may have offered a general view of the project, now the project plan will go into greater detail once the project scope and charter have been formalized and a team hired. You write the project plan during the project planning phase, but it doesn’t stay on a shelf or in a drawer once complete. This project plan template should be considered a living document that will be revisited and referred to throughout the life cycle of the project.
And once your document is finalized, it’s time to build out a dynamic project plan and schedule. Project planning software can help you transfer your project plan onto a Gantt chart, so you can create a timeline, schedule work, design phases, attach documents and track your progress along the way. To see just how useful project planning software can be, take a look at the video below:
How to Use a Project Plan Template
But, project planning all starts with a good project plan document. Follow these steps to make sure that your project plan takes all aspects of the project into account. That way you will be less likely to run into surprises that you have not planned for.
1. Planning Basis
Begin with the scope. What activities and tasks as defined in your project must be done in order to make the project a success? Use the project charter as a springboard.
Now you want to note the milestones or major events or phases in your project, and collect them in a chart with three columns for the milestone, a description and its delivery date. Examples of milestones are when the business case is approved, when the project team is appointed or the project office established.
The next step is detailing the phases of the project, which is defined as a set of activities, such as the project’s initiation, planning, execution and closure. These should also be noted in a chart with the phase followed by a description of it and its sequence.
You need to note the tasks that are necessary to complete the project, too. These are called activities and can include when you develop a quality plan, formulate supplier contracts and perform project closure. Write them out in a chart listing the phase, activity, description and sequence.
Going deeper now into tasks, you want to list the items of work that need completion within the project. List them in a chart, again, noting the phase, activity, task and sequence.
This leads to the effort likely needed to complete the above tasks. List the task with the amount of time you believe necessary to finish the task. This in turn goes hand in glove with resources, so you want to take the task and attach a resource or team member to it. This is the person responsible for completing the task.
2. Project Plan
Now you are ready to schedule the project from the summary above. Use the phases and activities to create a Gantt chart to more easily visualize the work needed and its duration.
You want to also add the dependencies, tasks that are linked to others and can potentially block team members if not done in a timely and sequential manner. In fact, there are four types of dependencies: finish-to-start, finish-to-finish, start-to-start and start-to-finish. List the key dependencies in a chart with the activity and then what it depends on and the type of dependency it is.
List any assumptions you have about the project. Then note the constraints. And finally, in an appendix, you will want to attach all the supporting documentation, such as the project schedule, business case, feasibility study, project charter, etc.
When Do I Use the Project Plan Template?
The project management life cycle is made up of four phases. They are the initiation phase, the planning phase, the execution phase and the closure phase. Obviously, planning comes in after you’ve initiated the project but before it’s executed.
For example, during the initiation phase there are many documents that are created to set up the project plan, such as a feasibility study to identify the problem you want to solve, the scope of the project and the deliverables you want. This feeds into the business case, which compares costs versus benefits. The statement of work (SOW) looks at the project objectives, scope and deliverables.
These do not constitute a project plan, but they do lay the foundation on which you’ll build your plan. This is when you take the broad strokes from the initiation phase and break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Each of these tasks must be achieved within the project timeframe.
Who Uses the Project Plan Template?
It’s important to note that the project manager is tasked with the ownership of creating the project plan, but it is not work done in isolation. The project manager must work in congress with the team, experts and others who can provide insight and guidance into developing a realistic plan.
Teams are assembled for their skills and experience working on such projects, so it makes sense that you need to pick their brains for ideas on how to plan the project. Of course the team will have access to the project plan throughout the execution phase of the project, as well. They will be assigned tasks and be responsible for delivering them on time and within budget.
Others who will use the project plan include stakeholders and executives, or anyone who has a vested interest in the successful outcome of the project. The project manager will present to these groups throughout the life cycle of the project to keep them abreast of progress and to make sure that actual progress matches what has been outlined in the project plan.
Free Templates to Help Your Project Plan
There are dozens of free project templates available on our site. Some of them are useful when building your project plan. Here are a few that can be helpful.
Your project plan has to align to a larger strategy. That strategy is outlined in an action plan. The free action plan template provides you a space to lay out the steps & concrete tasks you need to reach your project goal. The action plan will give you a frame in which to capture the main thrust of the project. That in turn helps you prioritize tasks in your plan, for now you have a path to follow.
The Gantt chart is the workhorse of project management planning. It’s a visual tool that organizes your tasks on a timeline. It helps you prioritize and set durations for each task, shows phases and breaks up larger projects into more manageable phases.
Another key tool when building your project schedule is the work breakdown structure (WBS). This is a technique for working backwards from your final deliverable to outline each of the steps that get you there. It’s a thorough way to make sure you don’t miss any pieces of the puzzle that is your larger project. This template takes you through that process.
Now that you have downloaded your free project plan template, and you have created it to reflect your project, you are ready for the job at hand. But, whether you are a journeyman or an apprentice in project management, you never want to stay complacent. It is important to stay curious. Industry and business do not stand still, and you have to do your best to stay up-to-date on new trends.
There are many topics of discussion on ProjectManager.com that can be easily filtered to bring you the content that is most relevant to your interests. Subjects include, but are not limited to, project management software, scheduling, risk and task management, collaboration, time tracking, Gantt charts, reporting and, of course, planning.
But as the subject at hand is planning, we have gone through the content on the site to collect for you three of the most recent and relevant posts on project planning. Enjoy!
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ProjectManager.com is a great tool for project planning. It offers all the features you need to plan, track and report on your project. There are online and interactive Gantt charts that take the pain out of having to build one manually.
The software is also cloud-based, so that it is easy to access from anywhere and any device. Better still, it makes sharing necessary documents and tasks easy, and both the project manager and team members can get automated notifications to streamline the reporting process.
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The software is big enough to handle the largest and most complex project and yet user-friendly and intuitive to make it easy to use. There is no learning curve or long and involved training involved, and a team of customer service reps are available to answer any question you may have. Sign up for a free 30-day trial today and start planning your projects online.
(This post was updated September 17, 2020)