Wednesday 2 February 2022

How to Write a Successful Project Plan

The project plan is one of the most important and useful documents in your toolkit, and it needs to be accessed and updated throughout the project lifecycle. Its first task is to give impetus to the project by convincing management (usually people managing finances, for example, the project council or the management committee) that the project is cost-effective and meets their requirements and deadlines, budget, expectations.

If a project plan is poorly written or doesn't have enough detail, the project may not even go beyond the first stage of decision-making and never start. 

Many feasible projects experienced serious difficulties at this stage due to poor planning and communication. On the other hand, developing a great project plan strengthens your reputation as a project manager, runs the project on a solid foundation, and gives the team a range of responsibilities to execute and a clear direction to follow.

Don't confuse the project plan with the project schedule. A graph is only an integral part of a project plan that takes the form of a timeline or a Gantt graph depicting tasks against a timeline. The project schedule is an important tool and should complement the project plan. Larger project plans contain several graphs, usually in the form of annexes, mentioned throughout the document. Such graphs consist of a common timeline, a test schedule, an implementation schedule, a critical path analysis, a resource allocation schedule, etc.

Part 1: What should the project plan consist of?

The project plan is an action plan for the entire project team, gives guidance on the priority of the activity, the scope of work, the management methodologies used, who the stakeholders are, what general strategy to choose, how costs and people will be managed, quality standards in the project, how the project will keep in touch with stakeholders, how productivity and benefits will be measured, etc.

The plan should include the following main categories:

• Project


• Objectives
• Scale
• Limitations
• Assumptions
• Dependencies and Impacts
• Challenges and Risks
• Methodologies and Strategy
• Controls: Scale, Time, Cost, Quality, Resources• Communications
• Supply


• Performance Measurement
• Realizing Benefits

There are many elements to the project plan, and some of the larger plans span over a hundred pages. Therefore, it is important to structure this document. A uniform format with logical order and clear headings will allow readers to quickly navigate the document and get to the data that is important to them.

Do not miss any of the above main categories, as this can come back to you, costing you dearly later in the event of a controversial issue. For example, if you don't reliably document what goes in and out of the scope of the project, you could get involved in an argument about who is releasing what. Or you may find that the project produces a product that you consider acceptable, but which does not meet the client's expectations, as its quality criteria are different from yours. These situations are undesirable and easy to avoid by writing a solid project plan. The more necessary information and details are included in the plan at this stage, the better, but there is an emphasis on necessity! Do not clutter the document with unnecessary items and do not repeat yourself.

If you need to underline an item again, cross-reference the original section in the document (using headings) rather than repeating the entire section. Readers will thank you for this, and it will also make it easier to edit the document. It is not easy to determine the optimal degree of detail, and such a skill comes only with experience. After writing a few project plans, you'll understand how to tailor each plan to the size of the project and the expectations of the audience.

Fit your audience

The project plan is the first starting point for stakeholders, whether they are new employees, managers, customers, users, suppliers, or interested third parties. Therefore, when writing a plan, remember that it should be suitable for a wide audience and should be understandable to a person without prior knowledge of the project. Always add project context and background to what you're doing. Add a glossary or terms of reference to explain all abbreviations and abbreviations. When linking to other documents, include detailed data in apps for the benefit of people who haven't read those documents before.

Part 2: Selling the Project Plan

Writing a project plan is only the first part of the work. An equally important next step is to successfully sell the project to stakeholders, otherwise all your efforts were wasted. While individual project managers already have final approval of the project, most projects have to compete for funding and prioritization with the area of other priority areas of activity, whether within the program, the portfolio of work or between different activities. 

This makes it very difficult to sell the project plan. As a rule, the business case is the main tool for selling the project, as it formulates why the project is undertaken, lists all the potential benefits and costs of performing the work.

However, the project plan also forms a key component of your strategy, as you must be able to demonstrate persuasiveness and feasibility. Management needs to make sure that you are able to complete the task, know exactly how to produce the project, that the project is feasible and worthwhile, and that it will be produced according to their expectations. 

Therefore, be realistic, do not make bold statements and do not express overly optimistic expectations that you cannot justify. It will come back to you later! It's much better to be careful and include fairly moderate and realistic wording that you're sure you can implement. Don't trap yourself!

Cooperation with stakeholders

Collaborate with management and involve them in the process in advance if possible. It is much easier to interest these people at first than to sell a project to indifferent people at the end. Consult with them about their requirements and expectations, discuss your ideas in detail, and review the first drafts with them. 


Be sure to address all the issues they raise before embarking on a final review, so that by this stage they are completely satisfied with the contents of the plan, and so that there are no surprises. Working individually with all key stakeholders can be time-consuming, but it's worth the effort, especially if you haven't built a relationship with those people yet. 

This process will allow them to see how you work and will give you important allies who will be decisive as the project progresses. Early acquisition of allies simplifies life with the complication of the situation in the future. This approach should mean that the final version of the project plan goes through the planning phase and is authorized to move on to the next phase of the project.

Create a Target Plan

Once the project plan is approved, be sure to create a target document plan and implement a clear and understandable process to manage subsequent changes. Note: You should have documented it in the "Project Controls" section of the plan! It is very important to do this, as the plan must maintain its integrity as an approved document so that it can be called a target plan for the rest of the project. Always, when you make a change to a plan, it is updated to a new version and accepted as the target plan, which then becomes the last version referenced.

Once your plan is approved and accepted as a target plan, you're ready to move on to the next phase of the project.

No comments:

Post a Comment