How to create a project plan in 3 easy steps

Learn how to create a perfect project plan in 3 easy steps. Or, download the free project plan template available below and get started.
December 1, 2023
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Mukundh Krishna

A project plan template helps you find your way through a project and achieve your goals. Project plan templates prove extremely valuable to project managers, enabling them to expedite the planning phase. A project plan template is like a roadmap for your project. 

The project plan lays out the course for the project like a roadmap. It has the markings of the destination and landmarks on it, paving the way for a successful project. With a project plan in hand, you could feel just like a swashbuckling explorer, think Captain Jack Sparrow or Jim Hawkins. You can now set sail on an adventure to find hidden treasures in lands (and seas) unknown.

What is a project plan?

A project plan acts as a central hub to help define, organize, prioritize, and assign tasks for the duration of a project. It outlines a project's scope, goals, and deliverables and serves as a vital roadmap for project managers and team members. By creating a comprehensive and effective project plan, teams can ensure that their projects are completed successfully and that their clients receive high-quality services in a timely and efficient manner. 

What is a project plan template?

With limited time and resources available to teams, it is not viable for teams to spend their billable hours making a project plan from scratch for every client. So, the best solution is to have a solid project plan template in place. The project plan template will help you stay on track and decide in advance the resources you will need to deliver expected outcomes. Without it, you would be left to navigate blindly; you risk wasting valuable time and resources. The project plan template helps you avoid potential roadblocks and get back on course from detours. It acts as your true north star, guiding you through the entire project from start to finish.

Before we dive deep into the details of a project plan template, let's look at some of the basics, starting with its importance.

Importance of a project plan template

As James Clear says: “Never expect to fail, but always plan for it. The fastest way to get back on track is to have a plan for when you’re off it.” 

Having a plan of action is essential for the success of any project. A project plan template is an absolute must-have for project management, as it not only helps keep the project on track but also leads to higher efficiency and productivity. It gives everyone involved with the project a clear and organized structure to work within, allowing them to complete tasks on time and within budget. With a solid project plan, project managers can rest assured that nothing gets missed out.

Why use a project plan template?

One of the keys to a successful project plan is having a template that can be repurposed and customized to the specific needs of every client. This way, the team is guaranteed a running start with every client—they don’t have to draft a plan from scratch for every project. The project plan template also allows the project stakeholders to have a graphical portrayal of all project components, including its timelines, milestones, and objectives. It helps you avoid potential roadblocks, pitfalls, and detours with dedicated activities for risk management and handling contingencies.

Benefits of using a project plan template

Every project begins with a planning phase. And a project plan template is a true lifesaver during this phase. Not only does it help you save time, it also ensures you repeat your best work with every client. A project plan template is your key to better efficiency and productivity. However, remember that all project plans need to be customized to suit each client's unique requirements. There are no one-size-fits-all project plans.

Project plan templates aim at helping you build a more customized, flexible, and seamless project plan. The benefits of a project plan template include the following:

  • Helps eliminate busywork and increase billable utilization: The project plan template accelerates the project planning process and acts as a monitoring and controlling system, helping keep the project on track to its final destination.
  • Streamlines project delivery: A project plan template ensures that all team members are aligned and working towards the same goals. It identifies potential risks and provides a roadmap for addressing them before the project takes center stage. 
  • Helps with your resource planning: The project plan template facilitates transparency and accountability within the team. It helps the project manager or team lead chalk out dependencies.
  • Improves collaboration with clients for faster delivery: With a project plan template, one can always keep track of a project's progress and ensure it's moving in the right direction. It enables the team to provide real-time updates to clients, and they are no longer left in the dark about project statuses.
  • Enables de-risking projects and fine-tuning processes: A project plan template allows you to spot potential bottlenecks and delays. This allows for reiteration and refinement of processes for future projects.

How does a project plan template help in project management?

Every project plan mentions the milestones, tasks, schedules, goals, and objectives of a project. It includes capacity planning and resource allocation, detailing the budget and skills required to complete specific tasks. These details are hugely important to the project and need to be captured accurately, which can feel quite daunting . However, here's where a project plan template will come in handy and help project managers and the team manage a project successfully.

How to use a project plan template?

A project plan template typically includes all details of the project, including the scope, timeline, budget, and resources required. It also shows a detailed breakdown of the tasks that need to be completed and who is responsible for each task. It mentions the parameters for monitoring a project and automating or integrating processes (if any). However, there is no one-size-fits-all methodology for project management, and it is best to customize the project plan template to suit each project's needs.

What should a project plan template include?

Serving as the central guiding force for all project-related activities throughout its lifecycle, a project plan template should typically include the following elements:

  • Executive Summary: A quick high-level look into the project, including its goals, objectives, and benefits.
  • Objectives: This section enumerates specific, measurable goals that the project aims to achieve.
  • Project scope: A project scope should include a clear and detailed description of the work that will be done as part of the project and any deliverables that will be produced.
  • Schedule: Outlines the timeline for the project, including the start and end dates, as well as any major milestones for project deliverables that need to be achieved.
  • Resources: This should detail the personnel, equipment, and other resources that will be needed to complete the project.
  • Budget: To highlight an estimate of the total cost of the project, including any fees, expenses, or miscellaneous expenses.
  • Risks: This should identify any potential risks or challenges that may arise during the course of the project and outline strategies for mitigating them.
  • Communication Plan: A description of how communication will be managed throughout the project, including who will be responsible for what and how the information will be shared.
  • Change management: A process for change management that might occur during the project, including handling change requests and communicating changes to stakeholders.
  • Quality assurance: A plan for ensuring that the project meets the required standards for quality and accuracy.
  • Stakeholders: A list of all the individuals or groups who will be impacted by the project or who have a vested interest in its success. A stakeholder register can help you encapsulate all members involved in a project from start to end.
  • Project review and evaluation: A process for regularly reviewing and evaluating the project's progress, including criteria for success and plans for making any necessary adjustments.

|Head here for more easy-to-use, customizable, and free customer onboarding templates.

What problems does a project plan template solve?

Project plan templates aren't always foolproof. But here are a few frequent challenges they help you overcome.

1. Scope creep

A scope creep occurs when the project parameters are not well-defined. Without clear objectives, the project scope can quickly expand, leading to unexpected costs and delays. This can happen when the project team is unaware of the original objectives or when there are changes to the initial requirements. Scope creep is one of the most common project management risks. It generally occurs when project clients or other stakeholders add new requirements after the project execution has started. To prevent this, make sure that you precisely outline what the project entails and have complete visibility into every task that's part of the project.

2. Change management

To keep your team agile and able to respond to changes quickly, getting them up to speed on change management from the beginning is essential. If your team isn't familiar with how to handle change when it comes up, they won't be able to react effectively. Make sure you also update your change management plan regularly as the project progresses, as this will give your team the direction and guidance they need to tackle any unexpected issues.

3. Project planning and scheduling

Project scheduling is vital to successful project management. Make sure you keep a dynamic record of the timeline and resources required at every step of the project. For instance, Rocketlane offers a timeline/presentation view that allows onboarding teams to plan their projects, keep customers informed, and collaborate with one another.

4. Resource allocation

Every project manager dreams of putting together the A-team for their project. It's essential to plan out how many resources you need and what skills they need to have when starting a project. If you don't do this, you could find yourself in a tight spot later. Regular check-ins should be part of the process, so everyone knows whether or not the project is on track. If it isn't, stakeholders should be informed right away. And if all else fails, you may need to invest in some outside help - even if it means spending more money than you originally planned. 

How to create a simple project plan?

When planning projects, it's essential to identify exactly what you want to achieve. Working out your goals gives you a strong project plan, which means everyone is on the same page and aiming for the same results. By defining your goals within your project plan, you can link your team's work straight to the project objectives in real time.

Step #1: Define the project scope

A project's scope is all about defining what needs to be done, delivered, and achieved. The scope of a project refers to the specific boundaries in terms of what tasks, deliverables, and goals are included and excluded. It includes a clear and detailed description of the project's objectives and constraints, such as budget or time limitations that might impact the project's completion. Defining the scope of a project is an important step in the project planning process and is used to guide the project's execution and control its progress.

It is crucial to have a well-defined scope to ensure that the project stays on track and meets stakeholders' expectations. It also provides a sneak into the resources required to complete the project successfully.

For instance, Rocketlane offers a better way to avoid any scope creep from early on. It provides a unified tool that gives a collaborative workspace with real-time data. This way, both you and your customers have shared and clear visibility of progress, thereby ensuring transparency and accountability at both ends. 

Step #2: Set goals, objectives, and success metrics

If you're working on a project, there's probably an end goal you're aiming for. But how will you know if you hit your mark without something to measure success? That's why the project needs to have a well-defined and clear direction. Here are some tips to help you set clear goals and objectives for the project.

(i) Grasp the project's intent: Understand the problem or opportunity the project is trying to address and what success would look like for the project.

(ii) Include key players: Gather suggestions from significant stakeholders, including team members, customers, and other relevant people, to comprehend their wants and anticipations.

(iii) Set up SMART goals: Utilize the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to build precise and measurable objectives for the project.

(iv) Recognize aims: Segment the general venture goal into exact, measurable objectives that will assist in accomplishing the goal.

(v) Determine priorities: Choose which objectives are most crucial and address them first.

(vi) Construct a scheme: Make use of the recognized goals and objectives to create a plan for achieving them, consisting of tasks, timelines, and resources needed.

Step #3: Identify resources, timelines, and milestones

Once the project scope and objectives have been ascertained, it's time to identify the activities that go into completing the project. These activities or tasks can be organized into phases depending on the project. The end of each phase will then mark a project milestone. Hitting a milestone marks a significant accomplishment during the project and can be a means to measure project progress. And once you meet a milestone, a project deliverable is achieved. However, optimal resource management is key to meeting milestones and achieving project deliverables.

So, what do you need to keep in mind when managing the resources available to you? You're likely to be missing out on having the right tools. And without a comprehensive view of what you have to work with, processes could turn chaotic soon. When it comes to improving processes and productivity in a company, having a comprehensive resource-tracking system is unbeatable. Teamed with the right tools, it can immensely transform a project's success.

For instance, Rocketlane's Resource Management module gives leaders the insight and visibility they need to make the right decisions, and for project managers to allocate and manage their resources more effectively.

|If you would like to get started on a free, customizable, ready-to-use resource tracker template, here's one for you.

Free project plan template [easy-to-use and customizable]

Congratulations! You are now all set on getting started on your own project plan. Download Rocketlane’s free, ready-to-use template and see how easy it is! The template also allows for easy customization and caters to all your project planning requirements. If you would like any further assistance, feel free to hop on a call with us anytime.

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Shuvedha Subramaniam
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

Marketing analyst @ Rocketlane. An Advocate by choice and a penwoman for the love of it. When the world zips, I like to zoink. Also, being happy by being kind.

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