What Is Project Planning? (How To Create A Project Plan)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 26 July 2022

Published 12 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Project planning is an important stage in a project's lifecycle because it establishes what tasks a project wants to accomplish and who performs and completes them. A project plan provides essential information such as scope, goals and tasks. If you are a project manager or want to enter the project management field, knowing everything about a project plan can help you complete a project. In this article, we explain what it means to plan a project, discover its advantages, understand how you can develop a project and explore the tips for creating a project plan.

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What Is Project Planning?

Project planning is an essential stage of a project management lifecycle because it ensures timely delivery and project success. In the planning phase, a project manager takes input from the clients, business stakeholders and team members to create a detailed plan for a project. During the planning stage, a project manager creates a project plan that contains risk associated, resource and personnel management, procurement, financing, quality control, resources and how to manage and organise the project's team.

Organisations strive for a perfect plan because it increases profitability and customer satisfaction. Lack of a project plan increases the risk of major issues throughout the project. Using a project plan, you can provide all stakeholders with deliverables, scope, milestones and resources.

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What Are The Advantages Of Developing A Project Plan?

Some advantages of developing a project plan are:

Boosts project performance and success rates

Achieving a project's objective is challenging because a manager may face many challenges. A project plan works like an instructional manual that guides everyone through the process of success. When employees know what work to perform, it improves the project's performance and enhances success.

Saves money

A well-planned project can help organisations save money. For companies, failed projects are expensive. Even after completing a project successfully, they can use unnecessary resources and additional budget. When managers plan their projects, it can prevent expected delay, glitches and scoop creep. A project that runs into scope creep gradually grows in size because of unforeseen and unprecedented changes in the project's scope.

Enhances team communication

Effective team communication is essential for smooth project execution and it applies to project of every size. When a project involves multiple teams, outsourced suppliers and team members in different time zones, planning how project leaders and members manage communication becomes vital. Organisations with a project plan in place consider the team's communication needs and give the most effective channel a collaborator can connect with team members.

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Allows a manager to track project goals

Another critical aspect of planning a project is defining the project's objective and goals. With a project plan, project managers monitor the goals throughout the project and ensure that they meet deliverables. When a project planning phase includes detail about key performance indicators and goals, it becomes easy to track the progress of a project. It also helps the manager decide how to adjust the project execution to reach those goals.

Ensures best use of resources

One key component of planning a project is resource planning. Proper planning of a project helps a manager make the best use of the resources such as staffing, equipment, office space, time and budget. A project plan allows a manager to allocate and use resources most effectively and appropriately. Often, a project plan provides detail related to a cost-benefit analysis that ensures a project does not overshoot the budget and timeline.

What Are The Components Of A Project Plan?

The components of a project plan can include:

  • Scope: The scope of a project determines what a project team might and might not do. It considers the customer's requirement, stakeholders' need and team's vision.

  • Budget: After considering the budget, employees and other resources meet the project's goal and estimate a budget. The goal of creating a budget is to ensure that all projects get completed within the budget.

  • Timeline: The timeline of a project describes the time duration of every project phase. It also includes information about every milestone a team is likely to achieve within a set duration.

  • Quality planning: To complete a project on time and within a budget without compromising on quality, project managers set a minimum quality standard. Usually, a project plan entails the minimum quality standard and gives information about who maintains quality output.

  • Communication planning: It is essential for a project manager, team, clients and stakeholders to communicate regularly to provide updates and make additional project-related communication. A project plan contains methods for managing internal and external communication to account for this.

How To Create A Project Plan?

Here are five steps to follow when creating a project plan for your upcoming project:

1. Outline the project's goals

The first step towards creating a project plan is to outline the overall project's goal. Though stakeholders, customers and project managers determine the goals, outlining the goals of a project plan is essential. So, when creating a plan, determine the project's goal. The goals can be removing a business problem or achieving the desired outcome.

2. Define the project's scope

The next important step is clearly defining the project's scope. A project scope provides detail about the expected delivery at the end of the project to meet the project's objectives. It also defines how a project team is going to achieve those goals and defines the project boundaries. When a project plan has well-defined boundaries, it reduces the probability of scope creep. So, focus on defining a project's scope that everyone can understand and agree upon.

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3. Decide on the major deliverables

After clearly defining the project's scope and goals, the next step is defining the project's deliverables. While the project's scope details all project-related activities, a deliverable defines products, services and outputs that a team produces during the project's lifecycle. The deliverable section mentions the responsibility and deliverable of each team member and how the team ensures quality output.

4. Create a work breakdown structure

Next is deciding how managers might allocate work to various team members. One of the top ways to create a work breakdown structure is creating a structured hierarchy of roles, responsibilities and workloads. Usually, managers separate a team into smaller teams with individual team leaders. In this step, managers can bring outside help and expertise, such as consultants and contractors. After creating a work breakdown structure, you can create a milestone list and establish all timelines. This can help managers create project schedules and show when each task starts and ends.

5. Assign roles and responsibilities

After creating a work breakdown structure, managers can assign roles and responsibilities. Usually, managers create a staffing plan that clearly outlines the time the project is likely to use the resources. When managers assign roles and responsibilities, it becomes easier for team members to follow them and understand the scope of work.

6. Perform a risk assessment

Conducting a risk assessment can be beneficial for the success of a project. Risk assessment can outline a project's potential threats and ways to handle and solve the threats. Using SWOT analysis, managers can understand a project's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Threats work as external risks and weaknesses work as internal risks. Often, managers conduct a PESTLE analysis to assess a project's risk. PESTLE means political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental. These are external factors that might affect a project's outcome and deliverables. Such analysis help managers and stakeholders understand the various risks associated with a project.

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Tips For Planning A Project

To effectively manage a project, companies require excellent communication and organisational skills. Here are a few tips for planning a project:

  • Ensure project approval. After creating a plan, ensure that all stakeholders approve it. When managers have approval from all stakeholders, it reduces the chances of miscommunication and misconception.

  • Make regular project changes. A project plan may change because of a change in scope. So, it is essential to employ formal change processes that allow you to review changes before project implementation.

  • Involve team members. Use the expertise of your team members to create a project plan. It might help you plan a project and offer insight into the project.

  • Allow contingency time. When building a plan, it is advisable to consider the contingency schedule because a project might take longer than expected. This can help prevent negative influence on deadlines.

  • Use SMART goals. When creating and developing goals, use the SMART method to develop goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based.

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