A project plan is a critical document for the project manager to be able to successfully deliver a project. A project plan is like having a map, itinerary and budget for a trip away. For a small trip, or project, like going to the corner store this may all be in your head. However for commercial projects a written document is essential for optimal project delivery. A project plan will vary in detail depending on the budget and complexity of a project, but as a bare minimum should contain:
- Background / context ‚Äì this outlines any key project work that has been completed prior, reasons the project is being done, and under what framework, policy, program etc. Although, as the project manager, you are likely to be well aware of the background to a project, this is an important section for communication purposes and to show continuity or reasoning for a project.
- Objectives ‚Äì bullet points of what you are going to achieve from the project. It is important to note that objectives are not the same as deliverables. Deliverables might include a report that will be produced or a building that is built. An objective is to “design an air-conditioning system for a building “, “construct a new 100 bed medical facility ” or “understand the impact of X on our business “.
- Key milestones and tasks ‚Äì while the project plan does not need to have a detailed Gantt Chart or time plan (to be discussed in a later post) it is important that key milestones and tasks are clearly listed in the project plan. Where appropriate a Gantt Chart can be provided as an appendix. Break down you project into a size where there are less than a dozen tasks for your project plan. A task may be “Preparation of draft report ‚Äì April ‚Äì May 2014 ” a milestone may be “Delivery of draft report to client ‚Äì 2nd June 2014 “.
- Resource allocation/responsibility ‚Äì clearly state who is doing what and who is responsible for different tasks so this is agreed at the start of the project. This is not set in stone and may change as the project progresses. At the task level the resource that is doing the task and the resource that is responsible for overseeing the task must be listed. In most cases, as the project manager, you will be responsible for overseeing all the tasks at a high level however you may put in supervisors who will be overseeing the allocated resource.
- Budget ‚Äì a high level budget showing the total dollars, and the dollars to be spent at each task level. The project plan is not where you would generally track you budget so does not have to be broken down by forecast monthly spend, as is suggested for a project budget tracker.
In some cases you may feel that documenting the above is excessive for your project, however the project plan is an important document to get right. Completing a project plan and getting it signed by your key stakeholders will set a common framework and direction for your project. Developing the project plan gives you the opportunity to examine your project in more detail and highlight potential problems early.