Skill level: Medium to advanced
A project plan is a tool needed to complete a project successfully. The plan is documented and serves as a road map to accomplish the project’s objectives. It is a living document that is updated and revised as required throughout the project at strategic milestone dates or significant events.
Project plans will vary based on priority, urgency, resources invested, complexity, risk, and sensitivity of the project.
The plan will identify the following dimensions:
- The tasks that need to be completed, including the organization and structure of the work
- Who will execute the tasks
- The time to complete the task (start, duration, end), often displayed in a Gantt chart
- Interdependencies between tasks
- Monitoring and control activities
- Risk mitigation and contingency planning activities
- Resources (people, money, vendors, computer systems, etc.)
- A mechanism to ensure approval to start, continue, modify, and end the project
- Documentation of goals, including deliverables (outcomes) and the completion time frame
- Mechanism to communicate and illustrate progress
- Documents the completion of the project
- May be used in the future as a guide for similar projects
How to Use
- Step 1. Develop a brief description of the project and include goals, budget, and time frame. Also identify key participants and stakeholders. Appoint a project manager (the individual who will manage the project).
- Step 2. Divide the project into logical categories that can be assigned by department or skill set. This process is known as developing the work breakdown structure (WBS).
- Step 3. Develop a project schedule based on the WBS and include key indicators of completion or milestones, interdependencies among tasks, resources assigned to complete each task, and time to ensure stakeholder satisfaction with each milestone accomplished. The project schedule is typically illustrated as a Gantt chart.
- * Note: A Gantt chart is a portion of a project plan, but it is not the project plan.
- Step 4. Communicate the project schedule, budget, and deliverables, and receive approval from the key stakeholders. Modify and adjust the plan as required in advance of execution.
- Step 5. When the project is executed, finalize the project plan and save it for use by another team for a similar project.
Project: A temporary undertaking with definable goals and objectives that is expected to require more effort to execute than to plan and document. Projects have beginning and finishing times, budgets, and performance or delivery targets.
Elizabeth is a manager of operations at an insurance company. In a meeting, she learned of the desire to enhance the billing system to include a field for customer e-mail addresses to resolve billing questions electronically. Realizing that adding the e-mail address field in the system would take a great deal of time, effort, and energy, she believed a project plan needed to be developed.
The plan would include:
- Identifying key stakeholders in all areas of the company that may be impacted by such a change
- Planning with the information technology department
- Working with the training department to ensure training and related materials are updated
- Coordinating with the compliance, legal, privacy, and audit departments
- Updating existing procedures and work instructions, and developing new ones
Elizabeth quickly recognized this qualified as a project and took on the role of project manager. She used the project planning template as her guide. She also found a completed project plan used to add a similar field to the billing system two years ago.
After successfully implementing the project, Elizabeth ensured the plan was finalized and stored for future use.