Use this project plan template to define the scope, identify major deliverables, risks, constraints and the resources you require. This process will give you a concise project plan that will usually fit on 1-2 pages which encourages managers to read it. Follow these steps:
Project Plan Template – 1st Step is to Define the Scope
1. Define Scope as a deliverable with measurable acceptance criteria. We develop the scope statement and the associated acceptance criteria which tells us what’s good enough by talking with the project sponsor. The sponsor might say something on the lines of, “we really need to have this project cut costs for us.” The savvy project manager on hearing immediately tries to get the acceptance criteria by asking how much cost reduction would make this project a success. When the sponsor says $15,000 of cost reduction we have the scope definition with an acceptance criteria that tells us how much cost reduction we have to deliver. The project manager can then drive the rest of the project from that number. This is a simple example but most project managers don’t ask the right questions.
Project Plan Template – 2nd Step Major Deliverables
2. Decompose the project scope into its major supporting deliverables. There are several different ways to decompose the scope into major deliverables. We teach all of them in our courses but the simplest is where the high level deliverables literally add up to the scope and its acceptance criteria. So in conversation with the sponsor we might talk about how to break up the scope and the sponsor might say I want individual departments to each develop their share of the overall savings. With further discussion you might identify savings amount for each of the departments, and use those as your high-level deliverables with the acceptance criteria being the dollar amount of savings each department had to produce. You see the major deliverables below.
3. Project Plan Template Identify Major Project Risks
Depending on the size of the project, we may invest a great deal of time in identifying project risks in brainstorming sessions with the project team and stakeholders. A small project we might develop our list of risks that that threaten the project over coffee and include them in the project plan along with ideas for mitigating those risks.
a. Layoffs may result in labor actions which disrupt operations
b. Production may drop as much as 25% for 3-5 months
4. Project Plan Template: Project Team Resource Requirements
Using the major deliverables identified previously, we would identify the number of hours of work and the skill sets required to create each of those deliverables. We would aggregate those estimates up to the level of the entire project and in the plan make very rough estimates of the people and skills required.
Bill – full time 3 months
Mary – half time 2 months
Raj – full time 3 months
Matussa – quarter time 4 months
Henry – full time one week
5. Project Plan Template Decompose Individual Tasks
The last of the five steps in creating the project plan is to further decompose those major deliverables developed in the second step by breaking them down to smaller deliverables until we reach the level of a deliverable which is an appropriate assignment from one individual. That is the level of our work breakdown structure or WBS and it completes the project planning process
Project Plan Template in Practice
In many organizations, project planning is a combination of vague generalities in terms of the objective of the project and a rock solid completion date. That date is often the only measurable project result that is quantified. Because project managers don’t know what the executives want them to deliver, they have no ability to exercise control over the scope of the project and so the objectives change weekly. Project team member assignments are vague and are also ever-changing, which is why estimating is so inaccurate and why 70% of projects that are planned this way fail.
Project Plan Template “Best Practices” In the Real World
Very often, project managers face a difficult organizational environment. The organization lacks the processes to do project management right and the executives don’t know how to play their role correctly. In these situations, the PMs need best practices that allow them to do things effectively, even though the executives and the organization’s processes are obstacles rather than assets. The project planning checklist/template below will help.
The intent of this intense project planning process is to make all of the decisions before we start work. That approach of making the plan and then executing it is much more efficient than a “plan as you go” process for projects. It is also very difficult in many organizations. For this approach to work, the organization, its executives and the project managers must do things correctly. That is, the executives must specify exactly what they want the project to deliver. They cannot make the project assignment in vague generalities where the only thing that is specific is the due date. The organization must have processes for evaluating and prioritizing projects and giving them access to resources based on those priorities. Last, the project managers must know how to do top-down project planning where they are able to take the clear acceptance criteria, specified by the executive, and decompose it down to the level of specific assignments for each team member. Most organizations fail to meet one or more of these criteria which is why the project planning ideal is so rarely achieved.
Project Planning Steps Depending on the Scale of the Project
Tier 1: Small Project Plans – Done within a department with the boss as the sponsor
Tier 2: Medium Project Plans – Affects multiple departments or done for customers/clients
Tier 3: Strategic Project Plans – Organization-wide projects with long term effects
Tier 1 Usually skipped; this step is not necessary on an in-department project where the manager is the primary stakeholder.
Tier 2 Identify stakeholders across the organization so the project team is not surprised by late arriving requirements which must be added and cost more.
Tier 3 Elaborate process of surveys and interviews to identify internal and external stakeholders who may be affected by the project so their requirements can be considered.
Project Business Case
Tier 1 Often skipped since formal project approval is not needed.
Tier 2 Organizations with sound project management processes require a business case to justify a project’s priority versus other projects in the portfolio.
Tier 3 The scale of financial and human resources almost always requires detailed justification and demonstration of the strategic impact of the project.
Tier 1 1 page Broadbrush Plan with achievement network, risks, resources and PM authority.
Tier 2 Project charter addresses the project acceptance criteria, business justification and rough estimates of the resource requirements (human and financial).
Tier 3 The size of the investment in these strategic projects usually requires extensive documentation of risks, benefits and impacts on other strategic initiatives and the organization as a whole.
Gather Project Requirements
Tier 1 Usually limited to a meeting with the boss where we define the project’s scope and decompose that into the major deliverables.
Tier 2 Stakeholders are surveyed for their requirements. Each project requirement is assessed and either included or explicitly excluded from the project.
Tier 3 Extensive process of identifying and analyzing requirements gathered from the stakeholders. Includes an assessment of stakeholders in terms of their interests and their ability to influence the project’s success.
Project Scope Statement
Tier 1 Short statement of the project’s desired result and the acceptance criteria.
Tier 2 More detailed scope statement that covers assumptions, constraints and the major deliverables.
Tier 3 Full scope baseline development with exploration of alternative means of delivering the project scope.
Work Breakdown Structure
Tier 1 Decompose higher level deliverables into the deliverable for each team member’s assignment.
Tier 2 Decompose high level deliverables and use sections of WBS from previous projects that are similar.
Tier 3 WBS usually developed in sections with the people responsible for that major deliverable doing the decomposition.