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Maximize Efficiency and Organization with a Free Excel Project Plan Template

In today’s fast-paced business world, effective project management is crucial for success. One of the most powerful tools in a project manager’s arsenal is a well-designed project plan. While there are numerous software options available for creating project plans, many professionals prefer using Microsoft Excel due to its versatility and familiarity. In this article, we will explore the benefits of utilizing a free Excel project plan template and how it can help maximize efficiency and organization in your projects.

Streamline Planning Process

Creating a project plan from scratch can be a time-consuming task that requires careful consideration of various factors such as timelines, resources, and dependencies. However, with a free Excel project plan template, you can streamline this process significantly. These templates often come pre-populated with commonly used sections and columns required for planning projects effectively.

By using an Excel template specifically designed for project planning, you can save valuable time that would otherwise be spent on formatting cells, adding formulas, or creating custom layouts. Having a streamlined planning process allows you to kick-start your projects promptly and allocate more time to other critical tasks.

Customize to Fit Your Needs

While free Excel project plan templates provide an excellent starting point for your projects, they are also highly customizable. Every business has unique requirements and preferences when it comes to planning projects. With an Excel template, you have the flexibility to tailor it according to your specific needs.

Whether you need additional columns for tracking specific metrics or want to modify existing sections to match your company’s terminology or workflow, an Excel template allows you complete control over the structure and layout of your project plan. This level of customization ensures that the template aligns perfectly with your organization’s processes while providing consistency across different projects.

Enhance Collaboration and Communication

Effective collaboration among team members is crucial for successful project execution. With a free Excel project plan template, collaboration becomes seamless as it allows multiple users to work on the same document simultaneously. This eliminates the need for back-and-forth email exchanges or confusion caused by outdated versions of the project plan.

Furthermore, Excel’s familiar interface makes it easy for team members to understand and work with the template, even if they are not well-versed in project management software. This accessibility promotes better communication and ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding project goals, tasks, and deadlines.

Accessible Anytime, Anywhere

Another significant advantage of using a free Excel project plan template is its accessibility. Unlike specialized project management software that may require installation or access through a specific platform, Excel files can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.

This accessibility allows team members to view and update project plans on their preferred devices, whether it be a desktop computer in the office or a mobile device while on the go. Additionally, cloud storage services like Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive enable real-time synchronization of changes made to the Excel file, ensuring that everyone has access to the most up-to-date version.

In conclusion, utilizing a free Excel project plan template offers numerous benefits for maximizing efficiency and organization in your projects. By streamlining the planning process, customizing to fit your needs, enhancing collaboration and communication, and enabling anytime, anywhere access, you can effectively manage your projects from start to finish. Take advantage of these templates today and experience improved productivity and success in your projects.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


make a business project plan

  • Project planning |
  • What is project planning? (Plus, 7 ste ...

What is project planning? (Plus, 7 steps to write a successful project plan)

Julia Martins contributor headshot

Organize your projects with project plans to keep things on track—before you even start. A project plan houses all the necessary details of your project, such as goals, tasks, scope, deadlines, and deliverables. This shows stakeholders a clear roadmap of your project, ensures you have the resources for it, and holds everyone accountable from the start. In this article, we teach you the seven steps to create your own project plan.

Project plans are essential to keeping your project organized and on track. A great project plan will help you kick off your work with all the necessary pieces—from goals and budgets to milestones and communication plans—in one place. Save yourself time (and a few headaches) by creating a work plan that will make your project a success.

What is a project planning?

Project planning is the second stage in the project management process, following project initiation and preceding project execution. During the project planning stage, the project manager creates a project plan, which maps out project requirements. The project planning phase typically includes setting project goals, designating project resources, and mapping out the project schedule.

What is a project plan?

If you're still unsure about what a project plan is, here's how it differs from other project elements:

Project plan vs. work plan: A project plan and a work plan are the same thing. Different teams or departments might prefer one term or another—but they both ultimately describe the same thing: a list of big-picture action steps you need to take to hit your  project objectives .

Project plan vs. project charter: A project charter is an outline of your project. Mostly, you use project charters to get signoff from key stakeholders before you start. Which means your project charter comes before your project plan. A project charter is an outline of a simple project plan—it should only include your project objectives, scope, and responsibilities. Then, once your charter has been approved, you can create a project plan to provide a more in-depth blueprint of the key elements of your project.

Project plan vs. project scope: Your project scope defines the size and boundaries of your project. As part of your project plan, you should outline and share the scope of your project with all project stakeholders. If you’re ever worried about scope creep , you can refer back to your pre-defined scope within your project plan to get back on track.

Project plan vs. agile project: Agile project management is a framework to help teams break work into iterative, collaborative components . Agile frameworks are often run in conjunction with scrum and sprint methodologies. Like any project, an Agile project team can benefit from having a project plan in place before getting started with their work.

Project plan vs. work breakdown structure: Similar to a project plan, your work breakdown structure (WBS) helps you with project execution. While the project plan focuses on every aspect of your project, the WBS is focused on deliverables—breaking them down into sub-deliverables and project tasks. This helps you visualize the whole project in simple steps. Because it’s a visual format, your WBS is best viewed as a Gantt chart (or timeline), Kanban board , or calendar—especially if you’re using project management software .

Why are project plans important?

Project plans set the stage for the entire project. Without one, you’re missing a critical step in the overall project management process . When you launch into a project without defined goals or objectives, it can lead to disorganized work, frustration, and even scope creep. A clear, written project management plan provides a baseline direction to all stakeholders, while also keeping everyone accountable. It confirms that you have the resources you need for the project before it actually begins.

A project plan also allows you, as the person in charge of leading execution, to forecast any potential challenges you could run into while the project is still in the planning stages. That way, you can ensure the project will be achievable—or course-correct if necessary. According to a study conducted by the  Project Management Institute , there is a strong correlation between project planning and project success—the better your plan, the better your outcome. So, conquering the planning phase also makes for better project efficiency and results.

[Product UI] Brand campaign project plan in Asana, spreadsheet-style list (Lists)

7 steps to write a project plan to keep you on track

To create a clear project management plan, you need a way to track all of your moving parts . No matter what type of project you’re planning, every work plan should have:

Goals and project objectives

Success metrics

Stakeholders and roles

Scope and budget

Milestones , deliverables , and project dependencies

Timeline and schedule

Communication plan.

Not sure what each of these mean or should look like? Let’s dive into the details:

Step 1: Define your goals and objectives

You’re working on this project plan for a reason—likely to get you, your team, or your company to an end goal. But how will you know if you’ve reached that goal if you have no way of measuring success?

Every successful project plan should have a clear, desired outcome. Identifying your goals provides a rationale for your project plan. It also keeps everyone on the same page and focused on the results they want to achieve. Moreover, research shows that employees who know how their work is contributing to company objectives are 2X as motivated . Yet only 26% of employees have that clarity. That’s because most goal-setting happens separate from the actual work. By defining your goals within your work plan, you can connect the work your team is doing directly to the project objectives in real-time.

What's the difference between project goals and project objectives?

In general, your project goals should be higher-level than your project objectives. Your project goals should be SMART goals that help you measure project success and show how your project aligns with business objectives . The purpose of drafting project objectives, on the other hand, is to focus on the actual, specific deliverables you're going to achieve at the end of your project. Your project plan provides the direction your team needs to hit your goals, so you can create a workflow that hits project objectives.

Your project  plan  provides the direction your team needs to hit your goals, by way of your project objectives. By incorporating your goals directly into your planning documentation, you can keep your project’s North Star on hand. When you’re defining your project scope, or outlining your project schedule, check back on your goals to make sure that work is in favor of your main objectives.

Step 2: Set success metrics

Once you’ve defined your goals, make sure they’re measurable by setting key success metrics. While your goal serves as the intended result, you need success metrics to let you know whether or not you’re performing on track to achieve that result. The best way to do that is to set  SMART goals . With SMART goals, you can make sure your success metrics are clear and measurable, so you can look back at the end of your project and easily tell if you hit them or not.

For example, a goal for an event might be to host an annual 3-day conference for SEO professionals on June 22nd. A success metric for that goal might be having at least 1,000 people attend your conference. It’s both clear and measurable.

Step 3: Clarify stakeholders and roles

Running a project usually means getting  collaborators  involved in the execution of it. In your project management plan, outline which team members will be a part of the project and what each person’s role will be. This will help you decide who is responsible for each task (something we’ll get to shortly) and let stakeholders know how you expect them to be involved.

During this process, make sure to define the various roles and responsibilities your stakeholders might have. For example, who is directly responsible for the project’s success? How is your project team structured (i.e. do you have a project manager, a project sponsor , etc.)? Are there any approvers that should be involved before anything is finalized? What cross-functional stakeholders should be included in the project plan? Are there any  risk management factors  you need to include?

Consider using a system, such as a  RACI chart , to help determine who is driving the project forward, who will approve decisions, who will contribute to the project, and who needs to remain informed as the project progresses.

Then, once you’ve outlined all of your roles and stakeholders, make sure to include that documentation in your project plan. Once you finalize your plan, your work plan will become your cross-functional source of truth.

Step 4: Set your budget

Running a project usually costs money. Whether it’s hiring freelancers for content writing or a catering company for an event, you’ll probably be spending some cash.

Since you’ve already defined your goals and stakeholders as part of your project plan, use that information to establish your budget. For example, if this is a cross-functional project involving multiple departments, will the departments be splitting the project cost? If you have a specific goal metric like event attendees or new users, does your proposed budget support that endeavor?

By establishing your project budget during the project planning phase (and before the spending begins), you can get approval, more easily track progress, and make smart, economical decisions during the implementation phase of your project. Knowing your budget beforehand helps you with resource management , ensuring that you stay within the initial financial scope of the project. Planning helps you determine what parts of your project will cost what—leaving no room for surprises later on.

Step 5: Align on milestones, deliverables, and project dependencies

An important part of planning your project is setting milestones, or specific objectives that represent an achievement. Milestones don’t require a start and end date, but hitting one marks a significant accomplishment during your project. They are used to measure progress. For example, let’s say you’re working to develop a  new product for your company . Setting a milestone on your project timeline for when the prototype is finalized will help you measure the progress you’ve made so far.

A project deliverable , on the other hand, is what is actually produced once you meet a milestone. In our product development example, we hit a milestone when we produced the deliverable, which was the prototype. You can also use project dependencies —tasks that you can’t start until others are finished. Dependencies ensure that work only starts once it’s ready. Continuing the example, you can create a project dependency to require approval from the project lead before prototype testing begins.  

If you’re using our free project plan template , you can easily organize your project around deliverables, dependencies, and milestones. That way, everyone on the team has clear visibility into the work within your project scope, and the milestones your team will be working towards.

Step 6: Outline your timeline and schedule

In order to achieve your project goals, you and your stakeholders need clarity on your overall project timeline and schedule. Aligning on the time frame you have can help you better prioritize during strategic planning sessions.

Not all projects will have clear-cut timelines. If you're working on a large project with a few unknown dates, consider creating a  project roadmap  instead of a full-blown project timeline. That way, you can clarify the order of operations of various tasks without necessarily establishing exact dates.

Once you’ve covered the high-level responsibilities, it’s time to focus some energy on the details. In your  work plan template , start by breaking your project into tasks, ensuring no part of the process is skipped. Bigger tasks can even be broken down into smaller subtasks, making them more manageable.

Then, take each task and subtask, and assign it a start date and end date. You’ll begin to visually see everything come together in a  cohesive project timeline . Be sure to add stakeholders, mapping out who is doing what by when.

[Product UI] Brand campaign project in Asana, Gantt chart-style view (Timeline)

Step 7: Share your communication plan

We’ve established that most projects include multiple stakeholders. That means communication styles will vary among them. You have an opportunity to set your expectations up front for this particular project in your project plan. Having a communication plan is essential for making sure everyone understands what’s happening, how the project is progressing, and what’s going on next. And in case a roadblock comes up, you’ll already have a clear communication system in place.

As you’re developing your communication plan, consider the following questions:

How many project-related meetings do you need to have? What are their goals?

How will you manage project status updates ? Where will you share them?

What tool will you use to manage the project and communicate progress and updates?

[inline illustration] Communication plan for brand campaign in Asana (example)

Like the other elements of your project plan, make sure your communication plan is easily accessible within your project plan. Stakeholders and cross-functional collaborators should be able to easily find these guidelines during the planning and execution phases of your project. Using project planning tools or task management software that integrates with apps like Slack and Gmail can ensure all your communication happens in one easily accessible place. 

Example project plan

Next, to help you understand what your project management plan should look like, here are two example plans for marketing and design projects that will guide you during your own project planning.

Project plan example: annual content calendar

Let’s say you’re the Content Lead for your company, and it’s your responsibility to create and deliver on a content marketing calendar for all the content that will be published next year. You know your first step is to build your work plan. Here’s what it might look like:

Goals and success metrics

You establish that your goal for creating and executing against your content calendar is to increase engagement by 10%. Your success metrics are the open rate and click through rate on emails, your company’s social media followers, and how your pieces of content rank on search engines.

Stakeholders and each person’s role

There will be five people involved in this project.

You, Content Lead: Develop and maintain the calendar

Brandon and Jamie, Writers: Provide outlines and copy for each piece of content

Nate, Editor: Edit and give feedback on content

Paula, Producer: Publish the content once it’s written and edited

Your budget for the project plan and a year’s worth of content is $50,000.

Milestones and deliverables

Your first milestone is to finish the content calendar, which shows all topics for the year. The deliverable is a sharable version of the calendar. Both the milestone and the deliverables should be clearly marked on your project schedule.

You’ve determined that your schedule for your content calendar project plan will go as follows:

October 15 - November 1: The research phase to find ideas for topics for content

November 2 - November 30: Establish the topics you’ll write about

December 1 - January 1: Build the calendar

January 1 - December 31: Content will be written by Brandon and Jamie, and edited by Nate, throughout the year

January 16 - December 31: Paula will begin publishing and continue to do so on a rolling basis throughout the year.

You’ll have a kick-off meeting and then monthly update meetings as part of your communication plan. Weekly status updates will be sent on Friday afternoons. All project-related communication will occur within a  project management tool .

How ClassPass manages project plans from start to finish

Kerry Hoffman, Senior Project Manager of Marketing Operations at  ClassPass , oversees all marketing projects undertaken by the creative, growth, and content teams. Here are her top three strategies for managing project plans:

Identify stakeholders up front: No matter the size of the project, it’s critical to know who the stakeholders are and their role in the project so you ensure you involve the right people at each stage. This will also make the review and approval process clear before the team gets to work.

Agree on how you want to communicate about your project: Establish where and when communication should take place for your project to ensure that key information is captured in the right place so everyone stays aligned.

Be adaptable and learn other people’s working styles: Projects don’t always go according to plan, but by implementing proper integration management you can keep projects running smoothly. Also, find out how project members like to work so you take that into account as you create your plan. It will help things run smoother once you begin executing.

Write your next project plan like a pro

Congratulations—you’re officially a work planning pro. With a few steps, a little bit of time, and a whole lot of organization, you’ve successfully written a project plan.

Keep yourself and your team on track, and address challenges early by using project planning software like Asana . Work through each of the steps of your project plan with confidence, and streamline your communications with the team.

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An image of the TeamGantt gantt chart.

How to Create a Realistic Project Plan with Templates & Examples

make a business project plan

As a project manager, a huge part of your role is to write project plans that help you keep projects on track. But that’s not all a project plan should do. 

A project plan is arguably the most important document you’ll create for a project. At its core, a plan should communicate your project approach and the process your team will use to manage the project according to scope.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can develop a rock-solid planning process that guides your team and projects to success.

What is a project plan?

Project plan example: what to include, why you should always write a project plan, 5 steps to an effective project planning process, how to create a project plan in teamgantt, free project plan templates.

A project plan is a document that maps out the tasks, effort, timing, and resources needed to meet project goals within a predefined scope. It’s often presented in the form of a gantt chart because it’s easy to visualize the project timeline and ensure work stays on track.

Any solid project management plan should answer the following questions:

  • What are the major deliverables?
  • How will we get to those deliverables and the deadline?
  • Who’s on the project team, and what role will they play in those deliverables?
  • Which stakeholders need to provide feedback on deliverables, and when?
  • When will the team meet milestones?

A project plan communicates this information in a simple, straightforward way so everyone clearly understands the objectives and how they contribute to project success. It may also be accompanied by other planning documents, such as a project charter , risk assessment , or communication plan .

While no two project plans are alike, they all share the same common building blocks. Be sure to include the following components in any project plan you create:

  • Project tasks : A detailed list of work to be done organized by project phase, process step, or work group
  • Project schedule : A visual timeline of task start dates, durations, and deadlines, with clear progress indicators
  • Key milestones : Major events, dates, decisions, and deliverables used for tracking forward progress
  • Dependencies : A line connecting tasks that need to happen in a certain order
  • Resources : Assignments that indicate the person or team responsible for completing a task

Here’s a simple example of what a project plan looks like with these basic elements highlighted:

An example of a project plan in gantt chart format with the following components highlighted: project tasks, project schedule, key milestones, dependencies, and resources.

Some people don’t understand the power of a good project plan. If you feel pressured to skip the plan and jump right into the work, remind your team and stakeholders that having a plan benefits everyone by making it easier to:

  • Build consensus before work begins : A detailed project plan ensures everyone has a clear understanding of—and agrees on—the overall process, scope, staffing, and even communications from the outset. That goes a long way in keeping project confusion and pop-up requests from gumming up the works.
  • Avoid scheduling conflicts : Project plans enable you to organize tasks so it’s clear who's responsible for what and when. If your team is juggling multiple projects, you can cross-reference other plans to see who’s available to take on new work before committing to a timeline.
  • Monitor project goals and scope : When new tasks creep in, it’s easy to lose sight of the original objectives. Spelling out the work you need to complete in a time-based plan keeps project goals front and center so you can ensure project scope stays intact.  ‍
  • Hold your team and stakeholders accountable : A good project plan sets expectations around the process and pacing you'll follow each step of the way. When plans are shared with teams and stakeholders, it keeps folks honest about what is—or isn’t—happening and forces you to resolve issues in a timely way.

Poor planning can lead to some pretty ugly consequences—from missed deadlines and budget overages to team burnout and client frustration. That’s why it’s important to establish a solid process you can use to plan any project. 

Planning a project doesn’t have to be difficult. These basic project planning steps can help you write a plan that’s both realistic and on target.

A chart that outlines 5 steps of the project planning process: 1. Discover & define; 2. Outline & draft; 3. Formalize & format; 4. Present & confirm; 5. Execute & adjust

  • Start with project discovery & definition
  • Draft a rough outline of your plan
  • Formalize your project management plan
  • Present & confirm your plan
  • Execute your plan & adjust as needed

Step 1: Start with project discovery and definition

A project plan is more than a dry document with dates. It’s the story of your project, and you don’t want it to be a tall tale! So make sure you know all the facts before you start creating a project plan.

Understand the project scope and value

Understanding the ins and outs of the project will help you determine the best process and identify any snags that might get in the way of success. Conduct your own research to dig deeper on:

  • Project goals and outcomes
  • Partnerships and outlying dependencies
  • Potential issues and risks

Review the scope of work , and dive into any documents or communications relevant to the project (maybe an RFP or notes from sales calls or client meetings). Be thorough in your research to uncover critical project details, and ask thoughtful questions before you commit to anything. 

Interview key stakeholders

If you want to dazzle stakeholders with a stellar project delivery, you’ve got to know how they work and what they expect. Schedule time with your main project contact, and ask them some tough questions about process, organizational politics, and general risks before creating a project plan. 

This will give project stakeholders confidence that your team has the experience to handle any difficult personality or situation. It also shows you care about the success of the project from the start.

Be sure to discuss these things with your stakeholders:

  • Product ownership and the decision-making process
  • Stakeholder interest/involvement levels
  • Key outages, meetings, deadlines, and driving factors
  • Related or similar projects, goals, and outcomes
  • The best way to communicate with partners and stakeholders

See a list of sample interview questions to ask stakeholders so you can develop better project plans.

Get to know your team

The last step in the research phase is to take time to learn more about the people who’ll be responsible for the work. Sit down with your team and get to know their:

  • Collaboration and communication styles
  • Availability and workload

Understanding these basics about your team will help you craft a thoughtful plan that takes their work styles and bandwidth into consideration. After all, a happy team delivers better projects.

Step 2: Draft a rough outline of your plan

Now that you’ve gathered the basic project details, the next step is to knock out a rough draft of your plan. Take some time to think about the discussions you had in the pre-planning phase and the approach your team might take to meet the project goals.

Sketch out the main components of your project plan

Sit down with a pen and paper (or a whiteboard), and outline how the project should work at a high level. Be sure you have a calendar close by to check dates.

If you’re at a loss for where to begin, start with the who, what, when, and how of the project. A first outline can be very rough and might look something like a work breakdown structure . Make sure your project outline includes the following components:

  • Deliverables and the tasks required to create them
  • Your client’s approval process
  • Timeframes associated with tasks/deliverables
  • Ideas on resources needed for tasks/deliverables
  • A list of the assumptions you’re making in the plan
  • A list of absolutes as they relate to the project budget and/or deadlines

Considering these elements will help you avoid surprises—or at least minimize them. And remember, you’re doing this as a draft so you can use it as a conversation-starter for your team. It’s not final yet!

Get input from your team on process, effort, and timing

You don’t want to put yourself or your team in an awkward position by not coming to a consensus on the approach before presenting it to your client. That's why a project manager can’t be the only one writing a project plan.

Once you’ve created a basic project outline, take those rough ideas and considerations to your team. This enables you to invite discussion about what might work rather than simply dictating a process. After all, every project must begin with clear communication of the project goals and the effort required to meet them. 

Be sure to get input from your team on how they can complete the tasks at hand without killing the budget and the team’s morale. As a project manager, you can decide on Agile vs. Waterfall approaches , but when it comes down to it, you need to know that the team can realistically execute the plan.

You can also use this review time to question your own thinking and push the team to take a new approach to the work. For example, if you’re working on a digital product, could designers start creating visual concepts while the wireframes are being developed? Or can you have two resources working on the same task at once?

Running ideas by the team and having an open dialogue about the approach not only helps you build a more accurate project plan. It gets everyone thinking about the project in the same terms. This type of buy-in and communication builds trust and gets people excited about working together to solve a goal. It can work wonders for the greater good of your team and project.

Step 3: Formalize your project management plan

You should feel comfortable enough at this point to put together a rock-solid project schedule using whatever tool works for you. 

Build out a detailed project schedule that’s easy to read

Any good online project planning tool will help you formalize your thoughts and lay them out in a consistent, visual format that’s easy to follow and track. (Ahem, TeamGantt works nicely for a lot of happy customers. ) 

Make sure tasks have clear start and end dates so there’s no question when work needs to happen to hit project deadlines. Organize work into phases, and use labels and/or color-coding to improve scannability. The easier your project plan is to understand at a glance, the better!

See how to create a project plan in TeamGantt

Consider how your team likes to work

Be as flexible as possible when it comes to how your project plan is presented. There's no absolute when it comes to how to format your plan as long as you and your team understand what goes into one.

Remember, people absorb information differently. While you might be partial to a gantt chart, others might prefer to view tasks in a list, calendar, or even a kanban board. You can make all of those variations work if you’ve taken the steps to create a solid plan.

For example, here’s an Agile project plan we built that lists each sprint as its own task group with milestones for sprint planning and deployment.

Agile project plan example with 2 sprints scheduled on a timeline

And here’s what that same project plan looks like if you turn it into a kanban board in TeamGantt. Simply click the Board tab and set up your columns so your team can manage their daily workflows more easily.

Sample Agile project plan in a kanban board view with columns for to do, in progress, and done

If your team currently prefers spreadsheets and isn’t quite ready to use TeamGantt yet, try our free Excel gantt chart template .

Step 4: Present and confirm your plan

You’re almost finished! Now it’s time to do your due diligence. It’s easy to throw stuff in a plan, but you have to make sure you get it right.

Run your final plan by your internal team

Your team needs to know the reality of your plan as it stands after you’ve built it out in TeamGantt. And you want to be sure they’re comfortable committing to the details. If they don’t, things will quickly fall apart!

Always review your final plan with your team before delivering it to stakeholders. Why? Because things like dates and tasks—and even assignments—will shift as you formalize the rough sketch of your plan. 

Here are a few things you’ll want to discuss with your team as you review the final plan together:

  • Review times
  • Team work times
  • Dependencies
  • Time off, meetings, and milestones
  • The final deadline
  • Any assumptions you’ve made
  • Major changes since your last talk

There’s nothing more embarrassing than delivering a plan with an error or a promise you can’t keep. Taking a few minutes to get buy-in from your team will give everyone peace of mind about your plan.

Review your project plan with stakeholders

Once you’ve confirmed the plan with your team and have their full sign-off, you’re ready to share your project plan with stakeholders . 

When delivering your project plan, make sure you provide an executive summary. This might come in the form of a project brief . A short recap of the overall methodology, resources, assumptions, deadlines, and related review times will help you convey what the plan means to the project and everyone involved.

Project plans can be daunting, so schedule time to present your project plan to stakeholders at a high level. Here are some things you’ll want to point out about your plan during this review:

  • Overall process and pacing
  • Major deliverables and timing
  • The time they’ll have to review deliverables
  • Overall timing for task groups or phases
  • How far off you are from the deadline
  • Wiggle room on the final deadline

If a stakeholder is interested in the day-to-day details, feel free to walk them through the plan line by line. Otherwise, start by explaining overall sections or phases, and be sure to come back to your plan at intervals throughout the project to remind them of tasks, next steps, and overall progress.

Step 5: Execute your plan and adjust as needed

Some projects are smooth and easy to manage, and others are a complete nightmare that wake you up at 3 a.m. every other night. Thankfully, having a solid project plan is your best defense against project chaos once work gets underway.

Keep in mind that project plans are living documents. Projects change constantly, and someone has to stay on top of—and document—that change. Remember to:

  • Update your plan regularly as work progresses and things change
  • Communicate changes to your team, partners, and stakeholders
  • Monitor and communicate risks as your project evolves

Ready to plan your project in TeamGantt? Follow these easy steps to build a plan that’s structured well and includes the elements you need for project success.

1. Enter your basic project details.

To create a new project plan in TeamGantt, click the New Project button in the upper right corner of the My Projects screen. Then enter your project name and start date, and select the days of the week you want to include in your plan. Click Create New Project to move on to the next step.

Example of the project creation screen in TeamGantt

2. List out your project tasks and milestones.

Now the real planning fun begins! Enter all the different tasks it will take to get the job done. If there are any key meetings, deliverable deadlines, or approvals, add those as milestones in your project plan.

List of tasks organized into 2 task groups in a project plan

3. Organize tasks into subgroups. 

Scrolling through one long list of tasks can be mind-numbing, even to the best of us. Break tasks down into phases or sections to ensure your project plan is easy to read and understand. 

4. Add task durations and milestone dates to the project timeline.

A visual project plan makes it easy to see exactly what needs to get done by when. Make sure every task has a start and end date so nothing falls through the cracks. TeamGantt’s drag and drop feature makes this planning step quick and easy.

Example of TeamGantt's drag and drop scheduling for task durations

5. Connect related tasks with dependencies.

Adding dependencies between tasks ensures work gets done in the right order and also helps you plan for delay risks. If your plan shifts and you need to move tasks around, dependencies speed up the process.

Example of a dependency line connecting a task assigned to Peggy to a subsequent task assigned to Don

6. Assign responsible team members to tasks.

That way there’s no confusion about who’s doing what, and your team can update and manage their daily tasks . Don’t forget to check team availability along the way to avoid overloading anyone with too much work.

Task assignment in TeamGantt

7. Use the RACI chart to define task roles more clearly.

This feature takes accountability one step further by letting you assign more specific roles to each task: Responsible , Accountable , Consulted , and Informed . Learn how RACI charts work and what each role means.

Example of RACI assignments in TeamGantt for a digital marketing campaign project plan

8. Add hourly estimates and/or points to each task. 

This makes it easy to see the lift each task involves at a glance. Including hourly estimates in your project plan also enables you to manage workloads and track overages more accurately.

Example of estimated hours for tasks in a project plan with actual vs estimated hours progress indicators

9. Color-code tasks for better scannability.

You can use colors to categorize tasks by project phase, priority, department, or team member—whatever makes visual sense to you and your team.

Example of color selection menu in TeamGantt for color-coding taskbars on the timeline

10. Add notes to clarify tasks or spell out important details.

There’s no such thing as too much information if it means your team has what they need to deliver quality work on time. Use the Notes section of your Discussion tab to enter any pertinent details your team will find helpful.

Task detail window example with notes on scope and word count, as well as a creative brief attached to the task

11. Upload important documents to the project.

This ensures project files are accessible to everyone in a centralized hub.  For example, you might attach your creative brief to the project so your content and design teams have clear direction for completing their deliverables.

If you’re planning a project for the first time or taking on a totally new type of project, you might be struggling to get your plan off the ground. We created a simple project management plan template to help you get started.

TeamGantt gives you the ability to quickly and easily build and adjust your plan using drag and drop scheduling. Plus, it comes with customizable views to fit every team member’s work style. 

Try our basic project plan template for free!

Basic project plan template in TeamGantt with placeholder tasks that can easily be customized

Looking for more specific project plan examples to jumpstart your process? Use these project planning templates to generate ideas and save time building out your plan:

  • Construction project plan template
  • Event planning template
  • Strategic marketing plan template
  • Tactical marketing plan template
  • Software development plan template
  • Video production schedule template
  • Website project plan template

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How To Write An Effective Project Plan In 6 Simple Steps

make a business project plan

If you’re a Type A personality, project planning might sound like music to your ears. Setting deadlines, organizing tasks, and creating order out of chaos — what’s not to love?

The reality is that project planning isn’t for everyone. In one survey by Association for Project Management, 76% of project professionals said their main project was a source of stress . Poor planning, unclear responsibilities, and overallocation are often the culprits behind the stress. 

An effective project plan helps teams stay within budget, scope, and schedule, while delivering quality work. In short, it gets you to the finish line without the stress.  

What is a project plan?

A project plan, also known as a work plan, is a blueprint of your project lifecycle. It’s like a roadmap — it clearly outlines how to get from where you are now (the beginning of the project) to where you want to go (the successful completion of the project). 

“A project plan is an action plan outlining how…[to] accomplish project goals,” says Jami Yazdani , certified Project Management Professional (PMP), project coach, project management consultant, and founder of Yazdani Consulting and Facilitation . 

A comprehensive project plan includes the project schedule, project scope, due dates, and deliverables. Writing a good project plan is key for any new, complex project in the pipeline.

Why Are Project Plans Important?

Project plans allow you to visualize your entire project, from beginning to end—and develop a clear strategy to get from point A to point B. Project plans steer stakeholders in the right direction and keep team members accountable with a common baseline.  

Project plans help you stay agile

Projects are bound by what is traditionally called the “iron triangle” of project management . It means that project managers have to work within the three constraints of scope, resources (project budget and teams), and schedule. You cannot make changes to one without impacting the other two.    

Modern-day project management has shifted to a more agile approach, with a focus on quality. This means that resources and schedules remain unchanged but a fixed number of iterations (flexible scope) helps teams deliver better quality and more value. 

A project plan puts this “agile triangle” in place by mapping out resources, schedules, and the number of iterations — sprints if you’re using a Scrum framework and work in progress (WIP) limits if you’re using the Kanban methodology . 

As Yazdani points out, “Project plans help us strategize a path to project success, allowing us to consider the factors that will impact our project, from stakeholders to budget to schedule delays, and plan how to maximize or mitigate these factors.” 

Project plans provide complete visibility

A project plan, when created with a comprehensive project management software , gives you 360-degree visibility throughout the project lifecycle. 

As a project manager, you need a single source of truth on team members and their project tasks, project scope, project objectives, and project timelines. A detailed project plan gives you this visibility and helps teams stay on track.

screenshot of a Jira Work Management project board

Project plans also help to get everyone involved on the same page, setting clear expectations around what needs to be accomplished, when, and by who. 

“Project plans create a framework for measuring project progress and success,” says Yazdani. “Project plans set clear expectations for...stakeholders by outlining exactly what...will [be accomplished] and when it will be delivered.”

Project plans boost engagement and productivity

A well-written project plan clarifies how each individual team member’s contributions play into the larger scope of the project and align with company goals. When employees see how their work directly impacts organizational growth, it generates buy-in and drives engagement , which is critical to a project’s success. 

“Project plans provide...teams with purpose and direction,” says Yazdani. “Transparent project plans show team members how their individual tasks and responsibilities contribute to the overall success of the project, encouraging engagement and collaboration.”

How To Write A Project Plan in 6 Steps

Writing a project plan requires, well, planning. Ideally, the seeds for a project plan need to be sowed before internal project sign-off begins. Before that sign-off, conduct capacity planning to estimate the resources you will need and if they’re available for the duration of the project. After all, you want to set your teams up for success with realistic end dates, buffer time to recharge or catch up in case of unexpected delays, and deliver quality work without experiencing burnout .

Based on organizational capacity, you can lay down project timelines and map out scope as well as success metrics, outline tasks, and build a feedback loop into your project plan. Follow these project planning steps to create a winning plan:      

1. Establish Project Scope And Metrics

Defining your project scope is essential to protecting your iron, or agile, triangle from crumbling. Too often, projects are hit with scope creep , causing delays, budget overruns, and anxiety.

“Clearly define your project’s scope or overall purpose,” says Yazdani. “Confirm any project parameters or constraints, like budget, resource availability, and timeline,” says Yazdani.

A project purpose statement is a high-level brief that defines the what, who, and why of the project along with how and when the goal will be accomplished. But just as important as defining your project scope and purpose is defining what metrics you’re going to use to track progress.

“Establish how you will measure success,” says Yazdani. “Are there metrics, performance criteria, or quality standards you need to meet?”

Clearly defining what your project is, the project’s overall purpose, and how you’re going to measure success lays the foundation for the rest of your project plan—so make sure you take the time to define each of these elements from the get-go.

2. Identify Key Project Stakeholders 

Get clarity on the team members you need to bring the project to life. In other words, identify the key stakeholders of the project. 

“List individuals or groups who will be impacted by the project,” says Yazdani. 

In addition to identifying who needs to be involved in the project, think about how they’ll need to be involved—and at what level. Use a tool like Confluence to run a virtual session to clarify roles and responsibilities, and find gaps that need to be filled. 

Let’s say you’re managing a cross-functional project to launch a new marketing campaign that includes team members from your marketing, design, and sales departments. 

When identifying your key stakeholders, you might create different lists based on the responsibility or level of involvement with the project:

  • Decision-makers (who will need to provide input at each step of the project)
  • Managers (who will be overseeing employees within their department) 
  • Creative talent (who will be actually creating the project deliverables for the campaign) from each department. 

Give your project plan an edge by using a Confluence template like the one below to outline roles and responsibilities.

confluence template preview for roles and responsibility document

Define roles, discuss responsibilities, and clarify which tasks fall under each teammate’s purview using this Confluence template. 

Getting clarity on who needs to be involved in the project—and how they’re going to be involved—will help guide the rest of the project plan writing process (particularly when it comes to creating and assigning tasks).

3. Outline Deliverables

Now is the time to get granular.

Each project milestone comprises a series of smaller, tangible tasks that your teams need to produce. While a big-picture view keeps teams aligned, you need signposts along the way to guide them on a day-to-day or weekly basis. Create a list of deliverables that will help you achieve the greater vision of the project. 

“What will you create, build, design, produce, accomplish or deliver?” says Yazdani. “Clearly outline your project’s concrete and tangible deliverables or outcomes.” Centralize these deliverables in a Trello board with designated cards for each one, like in the example below, so you keep work moving forward.

trello board that shows tasks organized into status columns

Each card on a board represents tasks and ideas and you can move cards across lists to show progress.

Defining the concrete items you need your project to deliver will help you reverse-engineer the things that need to happen to bring those items to life—which is a must before moving on to the next step.

4. Develop Actionable Tasks

Task management is an important component of any project plan because they help employees see what exactly they need to accomplish. Drill down those deliverables into actionable tasks to assign to your team. 

You can use either Confluence or Jira for different task management needs. If you want to track tasks alongside your work, like action items from a meeting or small team projects, it’s best to use Confluence. But if a project has multiple teams and you need insight into workflows, task history, and reporting, Jira makes it easy.      

“Let your deliverables guide the work of the project,” says Yazdani. “Break down each deliverable into smaller and smaller components until you get to an actionable task.” If a major deliverable is a set of content pieces, the smaller actionable tasks would be to create topic ideas, conduct research, and create outlines for each topic.  

Once you’ve broken down all of your deliverables into manageable, assignable subtasks, analyze how each of those tasks interacts with each other. That way, you can plan, prioritize, assign, and add deadlines accordingly.  

“Highlight any dependencies between tasks, such as tasks that can’t be started until another task is complete,” says Yazdani. “List any resources you will need to accomplish these tasks.”

When a task has multiple assignees, you need to streamline the workflow in your project plan. Say the content pieces you outlined need to be edited or peer-reviewed. A couple of articles may need an interview with a subject matter expert. Lay down a stage-by-stage process of each piece of content and pinpoint when each team member comes into play so you prevent bottlenecks and adjust timeframes.     

5. Assign Tasks And Deadlines

Assign tasks to your team and collaborate with employees to set deadlines for each task. When you involve employees in setting workloads and deadlines , you increase ownership and boost the chances of delivering quality work on time.  

After all, you want to move projects forward at a steady pace, but you also want to make sure your teams stay motivated and engaged. So, when writing your project plan, make sure to “set realistic and achievable deadlines for completing tasks and deliverables,” says Yazdani. “Highlight dates that are inflexible and factor in task dependencies. Add in milestones or checkpoints to monitor progress and celebrate successes .”

make a business project plan

Use Jira and Confluence to create tasks that live alongside your project plan or meeting agendas.

Once you map out all of your tasks and deadlines, you should have a clear picture of how and when your project is going to come together—and the initial writing process is just about finished.

But that doesn’t mean your project plan is complete! There’s one more key step to the process.

6. Share, Gather Feedback, And Adjust The Project Plan As Necessary

While steps 1 through 5 may make up your initial writing process, if you want your project plan to be as strong and complete as it can be, it’s important to share it with your team—and get their input on how they think it can be improved.

“Share the plan with your project team and key stakeholders, gathering feedback to make adjustments and improvements,” says Yazdani. 

A tool like Confluence helps knowledge flow freely within teams and departments, leading to better teamwork, higher collaboration, and a shared understanding of priorities. Coworkers can use comments, mentions, notifications, and co-editing capabilities to provide and discuss feedback. 

After you gather your team’s feedback —and make any necessary adjustments based on that feedback—you can consider your project plan complete. Hooray! 

But as your project progresses, things may change or evolve—so it’s important to stay flexible and make changes and adjustments as needed.

“Expect to update your plan as you gather more information, encounter changing requirements and delays, and learn from feedback and mistakes,” says Yazdani. “By using your project plan to guide your activities and measure progress, you’ll be able to refine and improve your plan as you move through the project, tweaking tasks and deadlines as deliverables are developed.”

Download a  template to create your project plan and customize it based on your needs.

Example of a simple project plan 

A project plan doesn’t have to be a complicated spreadsheet with multiple tabs and drop-down menus. It’s best to use a project planning tool like Confluence — or at least a project plan template — to make sure you cover every aspect of the project. A simple project plan includes these elements:

  • Project name, brief summary, and objective.
  • Project players or team members who will drive the project, along with their roles and responsibilities.
  • Key outcomes and due dates.
  • Project elements, ideally divided into must-have, nice-to-have and not-in-scope categories.
  • Milestones, milestone owners, and a project end date.
  • Reference material relevant to the project.

Project plan Confluence template

Best Practices For Writing Effective Project Plans

A project planning process can quickly turn into a mishmash of goals and tasks that end up in chaos but these best practices can give you a framework to create a project plan that leads to success.

Use Other Project Plans For Inspiration

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel for every new project! Instead, look to other successful project plans for inspiration—and use them as a guide when writing the plan for your project.

“Review templates and plans for similar projects, or for other projects within your organization or industry, to get ideas for structuring and drafting your own plan,” says Yazdani.

To get started, use a Trello project management template and customize it for your project plan by creating unique lists and adding cards under each list.


Build your team’s ideal workflow and mark each stage of the project plan as a list, with cards for each task. 

Get Your Team Involved In The Process

You may be in charge of spearheading the project. But that doesn’t mean that you have to—or even that you should—write the project plan alone. 

“Collaborate with your project team and key stakeholders on crafting a project plan,” says Yazdani. “Input into the project plan supports buy-in to project goals and encourages continued engagement throughout the project.”

With Confluence , you can organize project details in a centralized space and build a project plan collaboratively.

Don’t Let Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good

You may be tempted to write (and rewrite) your project plan until you’ve got every detail mapped out perfectly. But spending too much time trying to get everything “perfect” can actually hold up the project. So don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good—and instead of getting caught up in getting everything perfect from the get-go, stay willing and flexible to adjust your project plan as you move forward.

“Focus on outcomes, not plan perfection,” says Yazdani. “While it would be awesome for the first draft of our plan to require no changes while also inspiring our team and ensuring project success, our goal shouldn’t be a perfect plan. Our goal is a plan that allows us to successfully deliver on project goals. Responsiveness to changing needs and a shifting environment is more important than plan perfection.”

Use the right tools to succeed with your project plan

Writing a project plan, especially if you’re new to the process, can feel overwhelming. But now that you know the exact steps to write one, make sure you have the tools you need to create a strong, cohesive plan from the ground up—and watch your project thrive as a result. 

Atlassian Together can help with project planning and management with a powerful combination of tools that make work flow across teams.

Guide your team to project success with Atlassian Together’s suite of products.

Good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter ( @trello )!

Here are some related articles you may find interesting:

How to set milestones so even big-deal projects feel manageable.

Learn what project milestones are and how to set them. Plus, see some project milestone examples to inspire your own planning.

How to use Trello for Scrum (and better teamwork)

Learn how Trello’s Scrum features and tools make it essential for Agile development and project sprints. Read this to get the most out of every sprint.

Elevate your workflows with Trello and Jira Work Management

Find out how to seamlessly use Trello and Jira Work Management together to improve your productivity and project workflows

How To Use Trello And Confluence Together For Optimized Project Management

These two project management tools might seem like they overlap, but the truth is, they can work together in perfect synergy. And since there isn’t a complicated onboarding process, you can take existing Trello and Confluence accounts and cinch them together today.


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How to Write a Business Plan: Business Planning Best Practices


Every company needs a plan to determine how it will operate and position itself in the market. This is known as a business plan, which is one of the most important business management documents.

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that describes a business in detail. In a business plan, you’ll find the information you need to understand how a business works and how it plans to grow in the long term. Most business plans explain the business model, mission, vision, objectives, operational plan and financial plan of a company, among other important elements.

Creating a thorough business plan that outlines a business can seem like daunting work. In reality, the job can be done using common project planning methods and tools.

A business plan defines your business mission, vision and overall strategy, but that’s only the start. To turn those things into a successful business, you’ll need to assemble a team and start your business operations. ProjectManager has planning, scheduling and tracking tools that can help you track all your business processes and workflows. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart

When Should You Create a Business Plan?

You should always write a business plan before starting a business because it’ll help you set the stage for your strategic planning and operations management . In addition, writing a business plan helps you find any potential business planning issues, omissions or opportunities for improvement, so your business has a solid start.

Business plans are also very important for business funding. For example, if you’re just starting a business and need a business loan, you’ll need to write a detailed business plan for banks and investors, who will require you to include certain things on your business plan so they can better assess the feasibility of your business model.

What Does a Business Plan Include?

As a business owner or entrepreneur, you can decide on the level of detail for your business plan. However, in most cases, it’s advisable to include as many details as you can because your stakeholders will want to know as much as possible about your business.

Here’s a sample business plan with some of the most commonly used elements. You can customize it to fit your particular business planning needs.

Sample Business Plan Outline

While business plans might differ from one organization to another, there are key elements that should be included in all business plans.

Executive Summary

The purpose of an executive summary is to compile the most important information about your business plan so that stakeholders can quickly get the idea without having to go over the whole document.

Business Description

Also called a company overview, a business description simply defines what your business purpose is, as well as general information such as your company background and your mission and vision statements. This part can also include other basic details you might want to share about your business such as your company principles and core values.

Market Analysis

This section provides information on the market for the product or service offered. A basic market analysis section should include three key elements: an industry analysis that addresses the sector at large, a competitor analysis that identifies direct and indirect competitors and a SWOT analysis that helps business managers understand the current competitive environment of a business.

Marketing & Sales Strategy

You should use the insights from your market analysis to create a marketing and sales strategy that helps you use your business strengths to position your brand in the market and establish your business as a leader in your industry. To create an effective marketing and sales strategy, you should consider these key elements.

  • Business proposition: Your business proposition or value proposition explains how you differentiate yourself from your competitors by better addressing the needs of your target market.
  • Target market: The market segment that includes your ideal customers. There are many qualitative and quantitative research techniques you can use to identify the ideal audience for your product or service.
  • Products and services: Your business plan should explain your product or service portfolio. Include a general description, profit margins and any other relevant information such as substitute or complementary products in the market.
  • Distribution channels: The distribution channels refer to the supply chain and logistics methods that your business uses to transport and distribute products or services to customers.
  • Pricing: Pricing is a key element of your marketing and sales strategy. Make sure to understand your competitive landscape, as well as the socio-economic conditions of your market to choose a price that benefits both your customers and your business.

Operational Plan

The operational plan describes how your business operates to achieve its long-term goals and objectives, highlighting key areas such as inventory control, supply chain, production planning , human resources and business process management.

Financial Plan

This area demands specific information. Financial plans and projections should include income statements, cash flow statements and balance sheets. The purpose of this section is to establish both the current financial state of a business as well as its budget and projections about the future.

Organization and Management

This section shows exactly how the business is organized, from day-to-day operations to its leadership team. For example, you may include c-suite executives, managers and possibly even interns. It can also delve into the roles and responsibilities of different individuals.

Legal Structure

Your business plan should specify the legal structure of your business. You can choose to establish a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company (LLC) and other structures, depending on the business owner and stakeholders’ preference.

Best Practices for Writing a Business Plan

No matter which type of business plan you’re writing, there are tips and tricks that’ll keep you on track to create a successful roadmap, such as using business templates . Following these five best practices helps ensure the information in your business plan is thorough, easy to understand and engaging to audiences. This way, you get your point across loud and clear, while keeping the audience interested.

1. Create a Business Plan Immediately

It’s a common mistake to wait until the last minute to write a business plan. However, if you have the information and are ready for presentation before operations even begin, you can rest reasonably assured that your business is prepared for anything. This “living document” should be written before the business begins and should be updated every step of the way.

2. Write for Your Audience

Before writing your business plan, consider who will be reading it. The audience determines which type of business plan you choose. It may also call for adjustments to tone and style. For example, if you’re writing a business plan to inform employees, the tone might be more casual than it would be for potential investors.

3. Keep It Logical: Focus on Facts, Not Emotions

No matter the audience, a business plan must be logical, not emotional. Passion is important, but the facts are key. For example, when writing financial projections, refer to hard numbers from past quarters about sales, expenses and profits—rather than just writing what you think the future will look like.

4. Remain Concise

Being concise is one of the most important rules of thumb when creating a project plan of any kind. A business plan aims to outline an entire operation, but it must convey the facts as simply as possible. Always keep in mind that this information will be presented to an audience, and it must capture and keep their attention.

5. Remember Your Goal

Avoid tangents and unnecessary information. Each section should tie into the main objective of the business plan, whether that be to inform stakeholders, obtain funding or anything else.

How to Use ProjectManager to Execute Your Business Plan

ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that helps create, execute and track your business plan to ensure that it results in success. With it, you can lay out the day-to-day operations of your business and invite members of your team to collaborate and manage your resources.

Gantt Charts to Plan

On our Gantt view, you can add tasks, their duration and their priority and this information automatically populates the project timeline. With this powerful tool, you’ll be able to get a bird’s-eye view of your entire business plan, laid out in chronological order.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart

Dashboards to Track

As you work your way to making your business plan a reality, you’ll need a tool to ensure that you’re on the right track. With our real-time dashboard , you can view updates on the status of your tasks. Our dashboard also automatically calculates costs and other important KPIs and displays them in scannable graphs and charts.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

Plus, ProjectManager has unlimited file storage, so you can collect all the important documents for your business plan in a central hub.

ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that offers businesses the tools they need to manage projects. Complete with Gantt charts, task lists, dashboards and more, ProjectManager gives teams the ability to plan, launch and report on projects from anywhere. This makes creating and collaborating on documents like a business plan easier than ever before. Try ProjectManager for yourself with our free 30-day trial offer.

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How to Create a Winning Project Plan

By Kate Eby | May 25, 2022

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Creating a project plan can be overwhelming, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. We provide the basics steps for how to write a project plan.

In this article, you’ll learn how to write a project plan . You’ll find helpful tips and a downloadable template starter kit so that you don’t have to worry about formatting and can hit the ground running.

What Is a Project Plan?

A project plan is a document that outlines what’s needed to complete a project. This can cover a project scope overview, a budget breakdown, a detailed schedule of deliverables, and a rundown  of potential risks and stakeholders.

A project plan contains much of the same information as a project charter, but includes finalized details and a more specific schedule and budget. Think of a project charter  as the blueprint for your project plan; the charter lays out your intent before the project begins. A project plan maps out the processes necessary to complete it. Your project plan should always be up to date and serve as a source of truth for a project’s status.

How to Write a Project Plan

Writing a project plan starts with finalizing your project information. Create an overview and a scope statement, determine a deliverables schedule, and define a budget. Include a risk management strategy, a communication plan, and any other documents your project needs.

Project planning is fundamentally about balancing the goals, schedule, and costs in a way that demonstrates that you can control the project’s scope. You may consider adopting the use of project planning templates to maintain consistency between projects and build on them over time. 

A project plan also includes all the supporting documents that walk your stakeholders, clients, and team through the project.

1. Write a Project Overview

The overview is a short introduction to the project, not exceeding a page or so in length. Summarize the high-level details, covering project goals, deliverables, success measurements, and dependencies. Include the project’s sponsors and their titles, and name the project. 

Add links to project portals or dashboards to give stakeholders a place to conveniently check on status and to access more detailed documents in the project plan.

Project Overview Statement Template

Download Project Overview Statement Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Use this template to provide a high-level summary of a project’s goals, scope, risks, schedule, budget, and success metrics. Add links to your company’s risk management plan , a detailed budget, and your project schedule. This template is fully customizable, so you can add or remove text to include only the information you need.

2. Define the Project’s Scope

Outlining your project’s scope is important for controlling scope creep . Define the project’s deliverables and goals. It is just as crucial to highlight what is within a project’s scope as what is outside of it. 

A project’s scope may shift, but consider the changes against the project as a whole and update them in the project plan when approved.

3. Create a Project Schedule

The project schedule should be visual and easy to read, showing how each task contributes to the project’s main goal. Note the people and resources needed for each task and subtask, how long each will take, and the dependencies between them. 

Depending on your project management strategy, you might consider using Gantt charts , Kanban boards , or shared calendars to create the schedule. Whatever you choose, ensure that your project status is updated on the schedule and that tasks are marked when started, completed, or falling behind.

Leave room in your schedule for roadblocks, emergencies, and tasks that may take more time. Consult with your team about how long each task has required in the past and use their feedback to inform the schedule. Create the schedule based on how long the work takes, not how long you wish it would take.

Project Schedule Template

Download Project Schedule Template Microsoft Excel | Google Sheets | Smartsheet

Use this customizable project schedule template to create a visual map of your project’s tasks and phases. The template will use any dates you add to the matrix to create a Gantt chart. You also have space for project notes.

4. Finalize the Project Budget

Your project plan should have the approved spending plan or time-phased budget that lists all costs by time period. Make sure to itemize the budget and keep it as close to reality as possible. Include room in the budget for unforeseen and emergency expenditures, and account for any additional resources you may need. Plan to update it immediately when emergencies arise or when tasks cost more. It is important to know ahead of time what kind of costs need executive approval and to make a plan to get that approval ahead of time.

Project Budget Template

Download Project Budget Template Microsoft Excel | Google Sheets

Use this customizable project budget template to create a detailed, line-item budget for the project. Add labor and materials rates or the fixed cost for each task in your project. The template will automatically calculate the costs and compare your actual budget to your estimates, so it’s easy to tell if you’re going over.

5. Identify a Risk Management Strategy

Make a list of the specific risks your project faces, and outline a strategy to manage them . If your company already has a general risk management plan in place, it may not be necessary to reproduce it in your project plan as long as you highlight the individual risks that apply to your project. Talk to other project managers and your team about the obstacles they faced, and ask for tips for addressing similar challenges.

6. Write a Communication Plan

Create a communication plan to establish how and when you’ll share updates with stakeholders. The plan will list your project’s key stakeholders and team members, as well as their contact information and when they should receive project updates. You can use this document to outline the kinds of updates each stakeholder wishes to receive, and map out a schedule for planned meetings and reports.

Project Communication Plan Template

Download Project Communication Plan Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Google Docs

Download this project communication plan template to document your key stakeholders’ contact details and their preferred contact style and frequency. Input your communication goals and customize the plan to include scheduled meetings, progress reports, and status reports.

7. Finalize All Documents and Get Sponsor Approval

The final project plan should include all of the information above and any additional documents that might be relevant to your particular project. 

Additional elements you might include in a project plan include the following:

  • A link to your project charter
  • A quality assurance plan
  • Your work breakdown structure
  • Your project management methodology or framework
  • Links and access to necessary permits and certifications

Present the final plan to your sponsor and get their approval. If they request any changes, take this opportunity to make them.

8. Save and Share Your Plan

Once you’ve approved your project plan, save it in a centralized, easily accessible location, and share it with project stakeholders and your team. Ensure that all schedule and budget documents are updated regularly so that the project plan always accurately reflects your project’s status. Any critical changes to the plan itself should only be adjusted through the approved change control and management process.

Tips for Writing a Good Project Plan

Writing a good project plan begins with good organization. Use templates and software to keep your plan up to date and accessible. 

Follow these tips for writing a good project plan:

  • Write Clearly: Don’t complicate the plan with details that your audience already knows, such as your organization’s existing risk management or change control policies . Provide the information that your readers need to know about the specific project, not the entire company.
  • Use Formatting and Be Specific: Some people will skim the plan, while others will pore over every detail. To make it consumable for all, use visual charts for schedules and budgets, bullet points for lists, and bold fonts to highlight important details. The skimmers will get the high-level information they need, and the detail-oriented will be able to drill down into the information they want.
  • Keep It Updated: Even though the project plan contains a series of documents, don’t let it become something that stakeholders ignore or forget because it no longer has relevant information. Use an updated project plan to maintain support and enthusiasm for the work ahead. 
  • Use Your Project Charter: The project charter is the basis for your project plan. A detailed project charter includes similar information. Build off of the speculative schedules and budgets you already created.
  • Use Templates and Software: Using project plan templates for your project plan documents is a great way to ensure consistency between teams and projects. Many project management software solutions also provide methods for creating, organizing, and sharing project plan information as well.
  • Involve Your Team: Make sure to talk with your team before the project starts. They are the people who ensure the project succeeds, so get their input and buy-in during the planning process. They will likely have insight that you do not, and they will ask questions that will surface important details. Involving your team in the planning process also builds trust, as they feel closer to the project and more invested in its success.

Project Plan Starter Kit

Project plan starter kit

Download Project Plan Starter Kit

We’ve collected the templates above to create a project plan starter kit that makes it easy to write your own project plan. In this kit, you’ll find customizable templates to create a project overview, a project budget, a detailed schedule, and a communication plan. Together, these documents form the foundation of a solid project plan and will help get your project off the ground.

Use Smartsheet Project Management Tools to Create and Implement Your Project Plan

Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change. 

The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. 

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time.  Try Smartsheet for free, today.

Discover why over 90% of Fortune 100 companies trust Smartsheet to get work done.

How to create a project plan — with templates

Man learns how to create a project plan on his computer

If you have a new project on the horizon but are worrying about how it will go, your concerns are understandable. Thankfully, project managers can prepare for better outcomes by putting in the time and energy required to craft a strong, clear project plan.

To help, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide explaining exactly what a project plan is and the steps needed to create one. This post will cover:

  • What a project plan is
  • Why project plans are important

How to create a project plan in six steps

Project plan template, what is a project plan.

A project plan — also called a project management plan — is a specific document designed to outline the expectations, stages, schedules, deliverables, and metrics for a given project. These plans mitigate the risk of failure or the inability to deliver expected outcomes while making it easier to allocate resources, track progress, and create accountability across teams.

Project plans serve as guides for the entire initiative and a reference point if things should seem to be moving off course. The project manager creates the project plan by listing requirements from the outset and organizing the deliverables and goals into action items to be addressed in a specific order. The project manager uses the project plan to assign team members appropriate roles and tasks.

A project plan should include the following components.

  • Scope. This defines the goals, inclusions, tasks, and deliverables that make up the project.
  • Budget. This determines how much can be monetarily spent in the course of the project.
  • Timeline. This delineates how quickly teams must work and when the project should be completed.

Why are project plans important?

Without the guidance of a project plan, you’re likely to go off course when it comes to scope, budget, and timeline, producing an end result that fails to meet stakeholder expectations. From scope creep to unforeseen issues, any number of distractions and delays can take hold and create havoc on a project lacking a clear plan and objective.

Crafting a strong project plan removes any doubt about the goals and deliverables required to make a project successful and keeps your initiative on track.

Project plans help:

  • Create a shared vision
  • Define goals and objectives
  • Establish schedules and milestones
  • Assign team accountability
  • Improve worker morale
  • Reduce overhead costs
  • Facilitate communication

Teams that invest in project planning meet their goals 77% of the time

While project management plans are driven by the project requirements, stakeholder expectations, and available resources, most plans follow a similar structure to provide clarity and vision to everyone involved. Follow these six steps to create your project plan.

1. Define your project scope

Project scope is the all-encompassing outline defining what the project should include in order to be completed successfully. This entails listing all of the features, requirements, metrics, and deliverables expected by stakeholders as well as the project’s timeframe and budget.

By default, the project scope indicates what a project should exclude. Knowing what the project doesn’t involve can be essential for preventing the problem of scope creep, where the requirements of a project shift and grow over time, making it harder to define or achieve success in a given timeframe.

Defining project scope gives you the opportunity to establish clear goals and objectives. Goals are singular, broad, and long-term outcomes, whereas your objectives are smaller, more easily broken-down tasks required to achieve each goal. Project managers can use the SMART method to ensure the goals they set are:

  • Specific. Define what you need to accomplish.
  • Measurable. Create a metric to define success.
  • Attainable. Choose realistic goals given your available time and resources.
  • Relevant. Align your goals with your business priorities and stakeholders’ preferences.
  • Timebound. Indicate when the project must be completed.

Finally, define your key performance indicators (KPIs) to keep your project scope in line with the company’s bigger picture. Decide also what metrics you will use to measure your success . These can include resource capacity, budget variance, return on investment, and cycle time, to name a few.

2. Identify and meet with stakeholders

Stakeholders are anyone with a vested interest in your project. To identify your stakeholders, start with the people requesting or funding your project. Stakeholders can also include anyone who shares a part in making and delivering your product or service — company leadership, product owners, employees, and even customers.

Typical stakeholder roles for a project include:

  • Project manager
  • Project team members
  • Project sponsor
  • Project steering committee
  • Business analyst

One resource that can help project managers to identify stakeholder roles and responsibilities is a RACI chart , which stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. These adjectives can help define each stakeholder role and clarify expectations for tasks. For example, some team members might be in charge of creating content or developing a project, while the business analyst could be tasked with reviewing requirements and output.

RACI chart

To keep everyone on the same page, teams need to agree upon a communication method that promotes collaboration and transparency. Have a plan ready for retrospectives, feedback, and any necessary clarification throughout the course of the work. Make it clear from the beginning where stakeholders will or will not be permitted to provide input in order to keep processes efficient and on schedule.

3. Structure your project — deliverables, milestones, and dependencies

The next step is to create a blueprint of all the work involved to accomplish the project scope. This outline is critical for demonstrating to the entire team what will be expected moving forward.

When outlining the approach to the project, it can help to choose a project management methodology .There are two popular approaches to choose from — Agile and waterfall . While Agile supports a flexible approach to projects where teams work iteratively and simultaneously, waterfall encourages a linear system where phases and steps are required in order to continue moving forward. The best fit will depend on the scope of the project and the construction of the team in question.

Product roadmaps are also helpful when structuring and outlining a project plan. These are visual representations of how project managers foresee task management with opportunities to demonstrate long-term initiatives and how smaller tasks roll up into them. Roadmaps can promote transparent communication for teams by clearly depicting priorities and the steps to achieve them.

When making you structuring your project, be sure to do the following.

Define deliverables

  • Define deliverables . Make the expected outcomes of the project clear with all requirements based on the agreed-upon scope.

Set milestones

  • Set milestones. Establish the project schedule including dates or phases when specific tasks, iterations, or final deliverables should be completed.

Plan for dependencies

  • Plan for dependencies. Consider how tasks are related and the order they need to be approached to allocate resources and remain on schedule.

Before finalizing your roadmap, conduct a risk management assessment . While unforeseen circumstances can arise during a project, taking time to anticipate pitfalls can help mitigate the impact of these interruptions. This includes considering potential risks and creating a risk response plan to address threats. Examples of project management risks include reduced resources, operational changes, scope creep, and cost problems.

4. Set your project budget

A project is often only as strong as its available resources, and your budget defines these. All the work to be done, including human capital and tangible assets, will rely on the funds in your budget. So it’s crucial to establish your budget during the planning phase. Here are the basics of setting a project budget:

  • Break down all your goals into tasks. Review your scope of work and break down your goals into specific tasks and milestones. Start with your biggest tasks and break those into smaller subtasks until each task is easy to achieve. If you followed the previous step, you’ve already done a large part of this work.
  • Estimate each task and allocate your resources. Research what each task will cost. Then add up the estimates for all the project tasks. Review your available funds and resources and allocate them accordingly. This includes resource management and the proper allocation of tangible assets, like equipment, alongside team members and capacity.
  • Get stakeholder buy-in. Preparing a budget can also ensure stakeholder buy-in and executive approval. In some instances, the initial spending proposal may come from the project manager, requiring extensive review and approval from stakeholders before getting started. Cost management review can also help leaders understand the difference between fixed costs (i.e., one-off fees) and indirect costs (i.e., salaries) for a fuller picture of the project’s total expense.

The best budgets are as itemized as possible, demonstrating resource allocation, accurate spending expectations, and areas for leeway in the event a task does not go quite as planned.

5. Outline your schedule and timeline

Use your project’s outline to formalize a timeline and schedule. Note these are two completely different entities, and both are essential for a project to thrive.

A project timeline is a graphic, chronological representation of all tasks indicating due dates along with dependencies, assignees, and scope for each task. A schedule is the list of forecasted dates of when specific tasks and project milestones should be completed.

Here are some tips for figuring out both your timeline and schedule:

  • Start from the deadline and work your way back. You can often work backward from the final delivery date to ensure everything is completed according to the deadline.
  • Create a work breakdown structure (WBS) . This can help show the number of different tasks required to complete the project and also show you each part of your project one at a time so you’re not overwhelmed. You should place your tasks in order, paying attention to any dependencies along the way. As you place these in sequence, you can also consider the anticipated time it will take to complete each one, filling in dates as they go along.
  • Use Gantt charts and Kanban boards. It can help to visualize these timelines and schedules through the use of project management workflows. A Gantt chart uses horizontal lines to represent sequential and concurrent tasks while demonstrating the resources needed during planned periods of time. Kanban boards depict tasks as cards moved across a series of columns representing different project stages.

Use Gantt charts and Kanban boards

6. Present the project plan to stakeholders

With the project details in place, the last piece is the executive summary. While it appears first in a project plan, you’ll write it last as a high-level overview of the detailed plan you’ve created. The executive summary gives stakeholders a high-level review of all the essentials for a project plan that necessarily goes into minute detail. Stakeholder understanding and approval are critical for clear communication of expectations for what will be completed as well as when and how the work will be done.

Your executive summary should include the following sections.

  • Introduction. Give a statement of purpose for the project and your role in it.
  • Problem. Clearly state the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Solution. Broadly show how you plan to solve the problem.
  • Proof of value. Show why your solution is worthwhile.
  • Timeline and budget. Give the condensed timeline and overall budget amount.
  • Conclusion. Re-emphasize the importance of the project.

It can also be helpful to create a communications plan to keep stakeholders current throughout the project. Look for ways to make these updates easy to follow and quick to review. Regular stakeholder meetings or email summaries can help ensure essential feedback makes it back to the individual contributors working to fulfill the project requirements.

Once you present your project plan to executives and get their approval, the project can finally kick off with a higher expectation of success.

Project managers looking to get started on a project plan of their own should not feel intimidated. You can rest assured all plans are unique to the project, industry, and business they represent. However, there are project plan templates you can use to get started.

Here are the elements to include as you write your own plan. Feel free to customize the sections or elaborate as needed to make sure all of your individual needs are covered.

  • Executive summary. Provide an overarching description of the plan’s inclusions, direction, and deliverables.
  • Scope. Define everything the project should include to achieve success — features, goals, and high-level tasks — while also considering constraints.
  • Budget. Align expectations with the set spending cap or by itemizing expenses to determine a total cost. Note that this should include pass-through costs for tangible resources as well as indirect costs for human capital tied to the project.
  • Schedule and timeline. Establish the project delivery date along with the dates for milestones and individual task assignments. This can be done as a schedule of deadlines as well as a visual timeline demonstrating resource allocation and overlapping responsibilities.
  • Requirements. Dig deeper by defining the requirements needed to achieve the project objective. Make sure these align with stakeholder expectations for the project output.
  • Quality criteria. Set the standards by which successful iterations or project work will be completed. Include steps for review, revision, and cross-checking quality by team members and stakeholders.
  • Project resources. Determine the resources needed to complete the project to meet expectations. People representing the desired skillsets should be included along with the tools or assets they will need to perform their work to the highest standard and efficiency.
  • List of stakeholders. State all of the responsible and accountable parties including roles for review, administration, approvals, and project work. Remember stakeholders can encompass everyone from project managers to executives and individual team contributors.
  • Communication plan. Outline exactly how, and how frequently, stakeholders will be updated regarding project progress. Choose an interval and format to encourage feedback and make it easy for everyone to share input while feeling heard and appreciated.
  • Procurement strategy. Plan ahead for any assets or tools that will need to be acquired in order for teams to work effectively. Research different vendors to ensure the best price available also fits the budget.
  • Risk management. Identify any threats that could disrupt project progress and create a contingency plan to mitigate the impact. This can include accommodations for employee leave, timetable delays, or setbacks due to quality testing.

You’re now ready to get going with your project plan. You can also keep yourself on the right track with online templates designed to simplify the process. Learn how to create templates in Adobe Workfront .

Creating your first project plan with the right tool

Project plans are designed to improve productivity and ensure efforts remain on task to deliver expected outcomes. Ultimately, project plans create a greater opportunity for success across the businesses and teams using them.

When you’re ready to begin a new project plan, jotting down your goals and projected outcomes can be a great starting point. Consider what is being asked of you and what you will need in terms of resources in order to accomplish the goal. From there, you can start to outline your requirements, define a budget, create timelines, and prepare a comprehensive project plan that will keep everyone, and everything, on track.

There are also tools you can use to make this process easier to manage, audit, and share. Adobe Workfront is designed to drive collaboration and help leaders tie metrics to outcomes, so you can be sure your project is delivering on all points. Manage the entire project lifecycle from a single system that users can access from anywhere, empowering teamwork and centralizing projects to create greater efficiencies.

Learn how Workfront can help you create effective project plans and get more details by taking a free product tour or by watching the overview video .




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What is a project plan and how to write a killer plan in 6 steps

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A project plan is an essential document for keeping your project on track. It states the purpose of your project and identifies the scope, structure, resources, goals, deliverables, and timelines.

Without a solid plan, projects typically get delayed and run over budget.

In this high-level guide, we’ll show you how to write a project plan in six steps and share five monday.com templates to get you up and running quickly. But first, let’s define a project plan and its various components.

What is a project plan?

monday.com board for a project management plan

A project plan is a formal document that outlines an entire project’s goals and objectives, specific tasks, and what success looks like.

In addition to setting the purpose of your project, it should include other materials and deliverables relevant to the project, such as:

  • Timelines and Gantt charts for key milestones — like start and end dates, getting your 200th customer, or launching an event or app.
  • Communication plans — to keep everyone informed of progress, achievements, and potential roadblocks.
  • Work breakdown structure — especially if you have multiple team members working on different or simultaneous tasks, in which case, you may also need a Project Planner .
  • Resources needed to complete the project — like project management tools, cash, freelancers, and more.

In short, your project plan serves as a central hub to define, organize, prioritize, and assign activities and resources throughout your project’s life cycle.

What is project planning?

Project planning is the second phase in the project management lifecycle :

  • PHASE 1: Project Initiation  — where you identify a business need or problem and a potential solution.
  • PHASE 2: Project Planning  — where you define specific tasks, assign responsibilities, and create the project schedule.
  • PHASE 3: Project Execution  — where you touch base with resources, monitor the timeline and budget, and report back to stakeholders.
  • PHASE 4: Project Close-out — where you review the success of the project.

During the project planning phase, you extend the project charter document from the initiation phase to create your detailed project plan. Typical tasks within the project planning phase include:

  • Setting a budget.
  • Defining a project schedule or timeline.
  • Creating work breakdown structures.
  • Identifying resources and ensuring availability.
  • Assessing any potential roadblocks and planning for those scenarios .
  • Defining project objectives , roles, deadlines, responsibilities, and project milestones .

Project plan elements

Here’s how a project plan differs from other project planning elements.

Project plan vs. work plan

Although similar, work plans are not as comprehensive as project plans. A work plan focuses on helping project teams achieve smaller objectives, whereas a project plan provides a high-level overview of an entire project’s goals and objectives.

Project plan vs. project charter

A project charter provides an overview of a project. It’s a formal short document that states a project’s existence and authorizes project managers to commence work. The charter describes a project’s goals, objectives, and resource requirements. You create it in the project initiation phase before your project plan and present it to key stakeholders to get the project signed off.

Project plan vs. project scope

Part of your project plan includes the project scope , which clearly defines the size and boundaries of your project. You document the project scope  in three places: a scope statement, work breakdown structure (WBS), and WBS dictionary. It serves as a reference point to monitor project progress, compare actual versus planned results, and avoid scope creep.

Project plan vs. work breakdown structure

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a hierarchical outline of the tasks required to complete your project. It breaks down large or complicated goals into more manageable tasks so you can execute the project plan. The WBS breaks down the project scope into phases, subprojects, deliverables, and work packages that lead to your final deliverable.

Project plan vs. agile project

An agile project is the opposite of a traditional project plan. Agile projects use an incremental, iterative approach to deliver a project, whereas traditional projects — also known as a waterfall approach — use a cascading, step-by-step planning process. Agile projects are synonymous with software development teams, but you can use them in any field.

Why are project plans important?

Over a third of all projects experience something called scope creep . This is where the team ends up doing more work than originally planned. Much of this can be avoided by accounting for unexpected hold-ups or changes in circumstances within your project plan. A project plan also makes it easy to pinpoint when problems arose, so you can be better prepared for future projects.

If you look at the numbers related to project management, it’s easy to understand where a project management plan could have a positive impact— 45% of projects aren’t completed on time, and 38% of projects are over budget.

Project outcomes from the PMI Pulse 2021

A project plan can help to curtail wily overspending and late turnaround by identifying these issues early. This leaves no room for confusion and delays in the workflow and progress of your projects.

How to create a project plan in 6 steps

There are no hard-and-fast rules for a project plan. However, we recommend you use the following six steps as a springboard for creating one.

1. Start with an executive summary

The executive summary goes at the beginning of your project plan and should summarize the key points of the project plan . It should restate the purpose of the project plan, highlight the major points of the plan, and describe any results, conclusions, or recommendations from the project.

Even though it is at the beginning of your project plan , it’s something you will write last , as you’ll be pulling out the main points from the rest of your plan.

It should be no longer than a page, offering a brief overview of:

  • The project objectives and goals
  • Your chosen project methodology/framework
  • The final deliverables and acceptance criteria
  • Key scope risks and countermeasures
  • Summary of milestones
  • An overview of the project timeline and schedule-based risks
  • Resource and spending estimates

This snapshot of your project makes it easy for key stakeholders who aren’t actively involved in the mechanics of the project to understand it. For project managers, the executive summary serves as a quick reminder of the key project goal, scope, expectations, and limitations. Since almost a third of projects don’t meet their original goals, it’s important that project managers review the project plan regularly to stay on track.

2. Define the project scope

There are few things worse than starting on a project only for it to balloon. By defining a project’s scope , you set the boundaries for a project’s start and end dates as well as expectations about deliverables and who approves requests—and what merits approval— throughout a project.

It also involves outlining the potential risks associated with meeting these expectations and providing countermeasures to mitigate these risks. Identifying exactly who’s accountable for tracking these risks is essential.

This step will help you prevent scope creep, or how a project’s requirements tend to increase over a project lifecycle. Organizations complain that 34% of all their projects experience scope creep, yet only 52% of organizations go to the effort of mostly or always creating a scoping document every time.

3. Structure your project

There are several frameworks you could use to guide your project and this will affect your workflow’s organizations and how deliverables are produced and assigned.

For example, if you’re using the waterfall framework , you’ll be planning everything in advance, working through each stage of development sequentially, and specialized task owners executing their work at a defined time.

Remember that creating too many dependencies within your project structure can negatively impact success, so try to work out ways that teams can work autonomously to achieve deliverables in a timely manner. It’s also good to consider how many approvers are needed to maintain order but also to prevent bottlenecks.

Above all else, it’s important to incorporate set times for team knowledge-sharing, so your projects can be more successful. Make a note of the communication structures you’ll use to encourage collaboration .

4. Check what project resources you have available

Define the resources you have available for this project:

  • Physical resources

You need to be precise when you’re assessing what you’ll need, otherwise you’re baking a cake with all the wrong ingredients. A resource manager or project manager can lead this.

As an example, when teams have the right highly skilled people, projects are 30% more likely to succeed. Yet, a third of people don’t believe their teams have all the right skills for the project—a recipe for failure.

The quantity of team members is also important—if the ratio of work to available people is off, efficiency and quality will suffer. If you want to effectively allocate your resources to meet expectations, you’ll need to be realistic about resource limitations.

This may, for example, mean adjusting timescales if you’re short on staff or increasing your budget if you need more specialist equipment.

5. Map out your project timeline

Organizations that implement time frames into project plans are more likely to succeed. Despite this, 52% of projects don’t always set baseline schedules. That’s probably why 45% of organizations say they rarely or never complete successful projects on time.

In this sense, it’s wise to add a project schedule section to your project plan. This part of your plan should set expectations on when you’ll deliver and how you’ll stick to your project timeline.

Use a Gantt timeline to plan project activities and timings

Your project schedule will look a little different depending on which framework you choose.

The tasks that you have a ‘Work in Progress’ (WIP) will depend on your team’s capacity. In this section, you should set your maximum number of WIPs you can have in each column at each time.

6. Manage your project changes

Organizations put change control in their top three project challenges. If you don’t solidify a change management plan , your team will be clueless about what to do when unplanned change hits. A dynamic change management plan will outline the steps to follow and the person to turn to when unforeseen changes occur.

A key part of this is having a change management tool in place. And monday work management is flexible enough to help you manage all parts of the project life cycle — from planning and monitoring to reporting and resource management. Let’s take a look at a few of our templates that can help you get started.

5 project planning templates to help you write a good project plan

monday.com templates can be lifesavers when it comes to visualizing each section of your project plan, and they make it easy to get started. Try these 5 project plan templates to kickstart your project planning process.

1. Project Plan Template

Looking for a general project plan template? Try one of our project plan templates .

make a business project plan

Using this highly visual template by monday.com, you can structure your subprojects by set time periods and allocate accountable personnel to each phase.

Prioritize each project and add a timeline to show when deliverables are expected.

2. Resource Utilization Template

Resource management allows teams to focus on executing tasks, projects, and processes efficiently and achieve shared goals at scale.

monday.com resource management

You can allocate resources to individuals and tack on timescales so your staff knows what resources they’re responsible for in which phase. Adding a location makes it easy for teams to know where to hand over resources as they transition from one phase to the next—and they can check this on our mobile app.

Use the Workload view to manage your team’s time proactively and get an overview of the workload and capacity of each person on the team.

Use the Workload view to manage your team’s time proactively and get an overview of the workload and capacity of each person on the team.

3. Project Cost Management Template

It’s far easier to plan a budget when you can see all your costs in one place.

That’s why this Project Cost Management Template from monday.com is so incredibly handy.

monday.com Project Cost Management Template

Add each subproject and plan out projected costs, allocating totals to each department. You can use the document to estimate the budget you’ll need and to record your approved project budget. You can then use our dashboards or reports to see the information in a different, more colorful way.

4. Project Timeline Template

Plan out your schedules with this Project Timeline Template .

monday.com Project Timeline Template

While this dashboard isn’t really suitable if you’re working with the Kanban framework, it’s ideal for those operating under Waterfall or Scrum frameworks.

For Waterfall projects, add in your milestones, attach a timeline, and allocate a set number of workdays to complete the tasks for each milestone.

Tag the team leader for each phase so project managers know which milestones they’re responsible for.

During project execution, teams can use the status bar to track progress. They can also add updates to each milestone by clicking on each item, which encourages inter-team collaboration.

For Scrum projects, you can organize the dashboard by Sprints, adding in the specific tasks as they’re decided.

5. Program Risk Register Template

Visualize all your project scope and schedule risks in this Program Risk Register Template .

monday.com Program Risk Register Template

Use color-coded status bars to illustrate risk status, risk probability, and risk impact for your project scope and schedule.

You can even categorize risks, add a risk owner, and suggest mitigation strategies. That way other project team members know what to do if these risks start to blossom into real glitches.

Optimize your project management plan with the right tool

Project plans are an essential part of your team’s success.

While they are detail-oriented and complex, creating one and managing it shouldn’t be a struggle. Use monday.com’s pre-built planning templates to help you break down each section of the plan as you go and monitor everything in real-time.

Try monday work management, and see for yourself how much smoother your next project will run when you can consolidate all your project planning materials in one place.

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How to Make a Project Plan in 4 Steps

A project plan contains the schedule, tasks, roles, and other key information of a professional project.

[Featured image] A project manager meets with her teammate in the office to work on a project plan.

What is project planning?

Project planning refers to the phase in project management in which you determine the actual steps to complete a project. This includes laying out timelines, establishing the budget, setting milestones, assessing risks, and solidifying tasks and assigning them to team members. 

Project planning is the second stage of the project management lifecycle . The full cycle includes initiation, planning, execution, and closing.

Read more: Project Manager Career Path: From Entry-Level to VP

What is a project plan?

A project plan is a document that lays out the key information of a project. This can vary depending on the organization and project. The components of a project plan typically clarify:

Scope and goals: A project plan should make clear what the project is aiming to achieve.

Schedule : The schedule outlines when the project will start and end, how long tasks are expected to take, and when milestones should be reached.

Tasks and milestones: Tasks are the components of work that have to be completed in order to achieve milestones, and eventually the entire project. Milestones are a set of tasks, and define the end of a phase of the project. For example, completing a website prototype in a project to redesign a company’s website would be considered a milestone.

People: A project plan generally defines which individual is in charge of what task.

Documentation: A project plan might include links to other important charts and documents, like RACI charts, a project charter, budget, or risk management plan, so that it’s easy to find key information.

Project plan template

A template can provide project managers with a starting point that they can customize to their needs. Many are available for free download online like this project plan template , from the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate , which uses Google sheets. Other templates use Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or Microsoft Excel.

Microsoft Word project plan template from Smartsheet

Google Docs project plan template from Smartsheet

Microsoft Excel Gantt chart template from Microsoft

Google Project Plan template

Image from Google Project Management: Professional Certificate.

How to create a project plan

Your exact project plan might look different depending on the preferences of the project manager and the organization. Generally, however, you can start with determining your timeline before going on to solidify tasks, milestones, and roles, and compiling other important documents.

1. Determine a timeline.

The cornerstone of the project plan is often the timeline or schedule. A timeline should include the date you’ll begin and expect to end the project, how long it’ll take to finish each task and milestone, and the dates you expect tasks and milestones to be completed.

Project managers often begin creating schedules around hard constraints determined by stakeholders. Do you need to design and produce a new toy before the holiday shopping season? You’ll want to make sure your schedule reflects this. Be sure to speak with team members to get a sense of how long each task typically takes. You may also want to include time buffers for tasks that involve some risk.

Tools at this stage you can use include:

Gantt chart

Work breakdown structure

2. Build out tasks and milestones.

Once you know when tasks, milestones, and the whole project should be completed, you can determine what resources are needed at what point in the project, and which of your team members will work on each task. This exercise is called capacity planning . 

You can also use this time to determine the critical path in a project. The critical path is the bare minimum of tasks you need to complete in order to meet the project goal.

3. Establish roles.

In this phase, solidify the tasks each team member is assigned, and communicate with them to make sure they’re informed and have their questions answered. 

If you’ve created a RACI chart in the project initiation phase, this’ll be a good time to refer to it. 

4. Link to important documents.

A project plan often becomes a central document that is referred to often as the project progresses. It might be a good idea to attach or link documents that will be useful to have on hand. If your project plan is in a spreadsheet, you might link to other documents in separate tabs for easy access.

Important documents might include:

Project charter

Project budget

Communication plan

Risk management plan

Change management plan

To learn more about the components of a project plan, watch this video from the Google Project Management Professional Certificate .

Getting started in project management

Creating a project plan is one step in ensuring that a project is carried out successfully. There are many other tools and phases you’ll want to have some knowledge of as you pioneer your first project. 

To learn project management essentials and earn a credential, consider the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate . This program takes about six months to complete and covers project documentation, stakeholder management, Agile and Scrum approaches, and problem solving in real-world scenarios.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Why is project planning important ‎.

Project planning is important because it helps teams collaborate efficiently, identify possible issues and risks at the outset of a project, as well as prevent scope creep, which is when teams do more work than is necessary for completing a project. Without a project plan, projects can be delayed and incur extra costs. ‎

What are some project planning tools and software? ‎

Popular project planning tools include:

These tools allow you to visually represent a project timeline, assign tasks to team members, and more. You can start a project plan for free on both (as of time of writing). ‎

Who prepares the project plan? ‎

The project manager creates the project management plan, which should be approved by at least the stakeholders and project team. ‎

Keep reading

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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