Why Do You Need a Project Plan and What Should You Include in It?

Before you get started with the execution of a project, it is a good idea to prepare a project plan, detailing out the strategy, process and resources required for its efficient execution.

Why do you need a project plan?

project plan

A project plan explains the scope of the project and helps track its progress. It acts as a roadmap to focus resources and efforts toward accomplishment of the project goal. Following are the major benefits of having a project plan:

  • Ensures that everyone is on the same page: A project plan clearly defines the expectations of the project and assumptions used in its planning. This ensures that everyone involved in its execution has understood the requirements in the same perspective. Thus, the team members are better equipped to manage risks and make decisions toward a common goal.
  • Defines priorities: A project plan sets out priorities of the project in clear terms and tells you what each member of the team is expected to do.
  • Provides better collaboration: A project often comprises a number of tasks and dependencies. Without a project plan, it can be difficult to track the progress of individual tasks. A project plan tells you how each of the tasks is progressing and what its effect is on the remaining project.

What should a project plan include?

A project plan should include a list of stakeholders, the scope of the project, completion schedule and timelines, estimation of cost involved, and the communication plan. Note that all of these components can change anytime during the course of a project and you may have to update your project plan accordingly.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for writing a project plan. It’s meant for the internal use of your team and you can write it in a manner you think would best serve your purpose. However, it should be well-organized and engaging so as to keep your team motivated.

Here are some of the important elements of a project plan:

  • Project details: Include the details that would be helpful to identify the project. These may include the name, ID and description of the project, client’s name and name of the project manager.
  • Project deadline: Mention the start and completion dates for the project. You may also want to include a countdown counter displaying the number of days left for completion of the project.
  • Progress status: Indicate the extent of project completed in terms of defined milestones.
  • Tasks or deliverables: Define the project in terms of tasks to be performed in order to achieve the goal of the project. In smaller projects, you may define the exact tasks, while in larger ones, you may want to emphasize on the deliverables.
  • Individual task details: Include the details of each individual task or activity. These may include start and completion dates of the task, person or people responsible for execution of the task and the current status of the task.
  • Timelines: Include the timelines for completion of various stages of the project. You may want to use a visual representation tool like Gantt chart to depict the schedules alongside the resources required for each stage.

How to prepare a project plan

Unlike a project charter, a project plan need not be comprehensive. You just need to tell your team what is to be accomplished and how. A project plan typically begins with the project goal or what you intend to achieve from the project. You should then break down the goal into an actionable plan. Once you have documented the course of actions to be taken to achieve the project goal, you can start making provisions for budget, resources and execution schedule.

Ask yourself the following questions while writing a project plan:

  • Why do we need this project?
  • What problems are we looking to solve with this project?
  • Who all will be working on the project and what will be their extent of involvement? What role will each of them play?
  • What will be the main deliverables of the project?
  • When should we start and complete this project? What will be the deadlines and timelines?
  • What resources do we need to complete the project?