Use a Project Plan Template for Your Next Project

Project Plan TemplateIn a 2017 PMI estimate, businesses wasted about $97 million for every $1 billion they invested due to poor project performance. Project performance always suffer without careful planning, yet project professionals still rush the project planning step. Reasons may be due to unrealistic expectations from sponsors or lack of understanding or patience by the project manager. In project management, failure to plan is certainly planning to fail. Project planning takes time and effort, but one way to expedite this crucial process is with the help of a project plan template.

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Reasons for using a project management plan template

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Project managers do not have to reinvent the wheel for every new project. If they can build a project plan from a template, then they should take advantage of the opportunity. Here are some of the benefits in using a project plan template:

Maximizes previous experience

Previous project managers in the organization created and revised a template that captures the unique nuances and subtleties of successful company projects. The template reflects the specific project management methodology the company and its clients follow. It also adheres better to the company culture and setting, such as in getting approvals or reviewing documents.

Saves time and effort

Starting from scratch is unnecessary. Copying from a similar project can be a shortcut, but a project plan template takes into consideration lessons learned from previous projects, any updates in standards and conventions, project feedback, improvements, or modifications from the most recent projects across the organization. All these minimizes the chances that the project team needs to make changes later on.

Ensures complete coverage

A template can serve as a checklist so that the project team misses nothing. It helps a project professional at any level or experience have a comprehensive if not complete project plan. Also, every project manager gets an opportunity to discover and contribute to a version of the project plan template that others can benefit from.

Read also: Why is Project Planning Vital for Successful Outcomes?

Before using a project plan template

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Working on a project plan includes activities such as as breaking down the large project into smaller tasks, assembling a team, and determining a schedule. But the planning stage only comes after the project initiation stage. The activities in this first stage serve as the foundation for the project plan. But if the foundation is weak, then the project plan will be on shaky grounds. The project team should complete the following to make sure the project plan stays solid:

  • Feasibility study to identify the problem to solve
  • Scope statement to identify and list the deliverables, work packages, and high-level activities
  • Business case to compare costs against benefits
  • Statement of work to detail all deliverables, activities, and the timetable to complete the scope of the project

Getting started with a project plan template

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The project plan template is a tool that enables project managers to create a project plan. However, the template will not complete itself and requires the participation of the project manager and the team. Project plans differ from company to company and depends on the type, size, and complexity of a project. A simple project plan template will have the following basic sections and components:

Project scope

Write the scope statement of the project and identify the deliverables, work packages, and activities to consider the project a success. You can also include what is out of scope for clarity.

Milestones

As the project progresses, it will reach several important milestones. Set milestones across the different phases of the project as it moves toward completion. Identify and list all the milestones and add a description and an estimated delivery date.

Project phases

Divide the project into the phases it will undergo and define these phases. The phases of a project fit the lifecycle of the project. It can be as few as four or as many as six, depending on the nature of a product. Add a description for each phase and identify the sequence. Each phase will have its own set of milestones, deliverables. and activities.

Activities/Tasks

List all the activities to complete the project. For every phase of the project, identify the activities needed to reach the milestones and the final deliverable that completes the project. Break down activities further until they become manageable tasks and sub-tasks. Add an estimated duration to complete the task and assign a resource responsible for the completion of that task.

Gantt chart

With all the collected information, it is now possible to create a Gantt chart to visualize the different phases of the project, the listed activities, the identified milestones, and the duration of each task. A Gantt chart can also clarify the sequence of tasks and identify dependency between tasks. Project management software can automatically generate Gantt charts from lists and tables. They can also provide more views for all project phases.

Project plan examples

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Project professionals can create a simple project plan template using spreadsheets or other productivity tools as long as it captures all the needed information.

Simple project plan template

However, as more businesses use project management to deliver initiatives, there is an increase in the variety of project plan templates and formats. The sample project plan can focus on one section more than others, such as timelines, or exclude other information not critical to the project.

Timeline-focused project plan

Timeline project plan template

Priority-focused project plan

Priority project plan template

Read also: Project Management Best Practices: Prioritizing and Planning

Deliverable-focused project plan

Deliverable project plan template

Things to remember

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Project plans still matter today whether you use traditional, agile, or hybrid project management methodology. Clients still want to know when the team will deliver the project. Sponsors still want to know how much the project will cost. And the project team still want to know exactly what they need to deliver and the manner of the delivery. Project plans provide clarifying information that provides understanding to all involved. Make project planning easier with a project plan template.

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose is a subject matter expert and member of the writing team for Project-Management.com and Bridge24. He has written hundreds of articles including project management software reviews, books reviews, training site reviews, and general articles related to the project management industry.

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