You can use this project planning template to define the project scope and identify major deliverables. You can also use it to manage the project risks and constraints as well as the resources it requires. On every new project, you need to decide what Project Planning Template elements to include, what to exclude and how to develop them on each particular project. For 90% of the projects done in most organizations, your project plan should be 1–2 pages long. Managers are more likely to read a short, concise document.
Project Planning Template 1st Step – Define the Scope
You need to define the project scope as a deliverable with measurable acceptance criteria. To do that, you talk with the project sponsor, ask questions and then develop the scope statement. Next you define 4 to 7 high-level deliverables and their associated acceptance criteria. Those criteria tell everyone exactly what the project must deliver. They also help you control expectations by making it clear what the project will and won’t deliver. Fast Track Project Plans
When you ask the sponsor what he or she wants, they might say something like, “We really need to have this project cut costs for us.” You immediately try to get to quantified acceptance criteria by asking, “How much cost reduction would make this project a success?”
When the sponsor says, “$15,000 of cost reductions,” you have the scope definition with an acceptance criterion that tells you how much cost reduction the project has to deliver. This is the key to the project plan template. You can then drive the rest of the project from that number. (On larger projects consider the scope reach) How to evaluate a project plan
This is a simple example of top-down planning but most project managers don’t ask the right questions. They are satisfied with a To Do list of the first dozen things the project sponsor wants them to do. That is a terrible basis for your a project plan and it’s disastrous if you start work with no more information than a To Do list. To successfully plan a project and have high odds of project success, you need to know what the boss wants in measurable terms. How to Plan Top Down
Project Planning Template 2nd Step – Define Major Deliverables
You then break down the measurable project scope into its major supporting deliverables. There are several different ways to do this. The simplest is where the high-level deliverables literally add up to the scope and its acceptance criteria. Therefore, in a conversation with the sponsor, you might talk about how to break down the scope. The sponsor might say, “I want each department to develop their share of the overall savings.” During further discussion, you might identify the savings amount for each of those departments. You use them as your high-level deliverables with the acceptance criteria being the dollar amount of savings each department has to produce.
You see the major deliverables below and how they add up to the project scope of $15,000 of cost reductions.
- Reduce order intake monthly operating expense by $4,000
- Reduce production monthly operating expense by $2,000
- Reduce order production monthly operating expense by $3,000
- Reduce inventory monthly operating expense by $2,000
- Reduce shipping monthly operating expense by $4,000
Project Planning Template 3rd Step – Identify Major Risks
Depending on the size of the project, you may invest a great deal of time identifying the risks that threaten the project. You can do this in brainstorming sessions with the project team and stakeholders. But on a small project, you might develop your list of risks over coffee. In either case, you’ll include them in the project plan along with ideas for mitigating those risks. See example risks you would enter into the project plan template below:
- Layoffs may result in labor actions which disrupt operations
- Production may drop as much as 25% for 3 – 5 months.
Project Planning Template 4th Step – Identify Project Team Resource Requirements
Using the major deliverables, you now identify the number of hours of work and the skill sets required to create each deliverable. You would total those estimates up to the level of the entire project and make very rough estimates of the people and skills required. Below are examples that you would enter into the project plan template.
- Bill – full time 3 months
- Mary – half time 2 months
- Raj – full time 3 months
- Sharmaine – quarter time 4 months
- Henry – full time one week
Project Planning Template 5th Step – Break Down to Individual Tasks
The last of the five steps in creating the project plan is to decompose those major deliverables developed in the second step. You break them down into smaller deliverables until you reach the level of a deliverable that’s an appropriate assignment for one team member. That’s the level of your work breakdown structure (WBS). It completes the project planning process in the project plan template. Then you can move on to the scheduling process.
Project Planning Template in Practice
In many organizations, project planning is a combination of vague generalities about the objective of the project. But the one thing that is often rock solid is the completion date. That date is frequently the only measurable project result. 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. As a result, the objectives change weekly. Project team member assignments are vague and ever-changing. That is why estimating is inaccurate and why 70% of projects fail when they are planned that way. Let’s look at the best practices for project planning and then look at a project plan template for projects of different size.
Project Planning 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 and not assets. The project plan template will help. The purpose of this intense project planning process is to make all the decisions before starting work. The approach of making the project plan and then executing it is much more efficient than a “plan as you go” process. However, it is very difficult in many organizations.
For this approach to work, the organization, its executives and 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 using 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. That means they are able to take the clear acceptance criteria, specified by the executive/sponsor, 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 and that is why we rarely see an ideal project planning process. There are two major ways to go Large Project Planning Techniques or for less paperwork and meetings, Small Project Planning Techniques.
Project Planning Templates by Scale of the Project
We utilize three tiers of project plans techniques in the project plan template. They depend on the scale and complexity of the project:
- Tier 1: Small Project Plans – Done within a department with the boss as the sponsor.
- Tier 2: Medium Project Plans – Affect multiple departments or done for customers/clients.
- Tier 3: Strategic Project Plans – Organization-wide projects with long-term effects.
- Tier 1 – Identifying stakeholders is not necessary on an in-department project where the manager is the primary stakeholder.
- Tier 2 – We must identify stakeholders across the organization and find out their requirements early. Requirements cost more late in the project than they would have at the beginning.
- Tier three – Requires an elaborate process of surveys and interviews to identify internal and external stakeholders so we can consider their requirements.
Project Business Case
- Tier 1 – We often skip this since we don’t need formal project approval on an in-department project.
- 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 usually requires detailed justification and demonstration of the strategic impact of the project.
- Tier 1 – A 1-page broadbrush plan with achievement network, risks, resources and PM authority.
- Tier 2 – This 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 entire organization.
Gather Project Requirements
- Tier 1 – Usually limited to a meeting with the boss where the PM defines the project’s scope and decomposes it into the major deliverables.
- Tier 2 – We survey project stakeholders for their requirements. Each requirement is reviewed and either included or explicitly excluded from the project.
- Tier 3 – We follow an extensive process of identifying and analyzing requirements gathered from the stakeholders. It includes assessing stakeholders in terms of their interests and their ability to influence the project’s success.
Project Scope Statement
- Tier 1 – A short statement of the project’s desired result and the acceptance criteria.
- Tier 2 – A more detailed scope statement that also covers assumptions, constraints and the major deliverables.
- Tier 3 – A full scope baseline development with exploration of alternative means of delivering the project scope.
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
- Tier 1 – Decompose high-level deliverables into the deliverable for each team member’s assignment.
- Tier 2 – Decompose high-level deliverables and use WBS sections from previous projects that are similar.
- Tier 3 – Usually developed in sections with the people responsible for that major deliverable doing the decomposition.
Project Planning Template Summary
This project plan template uses a five-step project planning process. You can modify the planning to fit projects of different sizes depending on their complexity. You can learn to use this template in our online Project Management Basics courses. You’ll work privately with Dick Billows, PMP, an expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.
During an introductory video conference, you and Dick Billows, will design your program and what you want to learn. You will choose you course and select your case study from business, marketing, construction, healthcare, or consulting options. Your case study-based assignments that include project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your project specialty.