Project management documentation are non-negotiable resources that directly influence a project’s final outcome. To achieve a high success rate, the project plan serves as a dependable and effective roadmap that teams rely on throughout the entire project lifecycle, from initiation to completion. 📍
This guide is packed with the resources you need to send a project on the right path. We’ll break down the steps to build effective project plans, optimize resources, and coordinate communication efforts.
We know you’re a busy bee, so here’s a resource to jumpstart your project planning process right now: The ClickUp Example Project Plan Template. The List and Board views are already set up with key requirement fields, so all you have to do is add your project tasks!
Check out more project roadmap templates!
Before we dive in, let’s explain what a project plan is. Because it gets chaotic with a revolving door of project documentation…
Ok if we’re honest, we like a little chaos. But only if Organized comes before Chaos. 😊
- What is a Project Plan?
- How to Create a Project Plan in 5 Steps
What is a Project Plan?
The project plan is a living document to provide a clear understanding of the project’s objectives, so stakeholders can align their efforts towards a collective goal. It defines the project’s scope, specifying what is included and what is not, to prevent scope creep and meet target deadlines.
At its best, it equips team members with the context to spend their time on the right things, including:
- Risk assessment and mitigation strategies
- Individual and team responsibilities
- Resource management strategies
- Task dependencies
- Key milestones
Learn strategies for seamless project execution!
How to Create a Project Plan in 5 Steps
From establishing clear project objectives to building the project timeline, we’ll get into practical insights and best practices to guide you in drafting project plans.
Basically, here’s the over-caffeinated version of how to create a fail-proof project plan in 2023. 🏆
Step 1: Specify the expected deliverables and end results of the project
Not all requests in the queue should be full-scale projects. By prioritizing the right projects, teams can maximize their chances of success and optimize resource utilization for the best possible outcomes.
Do the deliverables and outcomes align with your organization’s growth goals? When stakeholders see the relevance and alignment of a project with the organization’s KPIs, they are more inclined to actively participate, provide necessary resources, and advocate for project success. (More about project stakeholders in the next step!)
Who will be the primary users or recipients of the deliverables? Customers or end users may have distinct preferences, expectations, or levels of expertise, and understanding their characteristics allows the project team to create deliverables that effectively meet their unique needs.
Are there any specific requirements, templates, or guidelines for the deliverables? This question upfront saves everyone time by providing a structured framework or starting point, so the project team can focus on the content and value-added aspects of the deliverables rather than spending unnecessary effort on formatting or presentation.
Now that you’re prepped with the project deliverables and goals, it’s time to begin drafting the project plan. 📃
Depending on your preferred project management methodology, the project plan’s format varies. Documents, tables, and Gantt charts are a few popular options. As long as it gives a clear description of each element in a project plan, you’re on the right track!
Here’s what you should have so far:
- Project Title: Clearly state the name or title to capture the project’s essence. If you’re using an acronym, provide the full term
- Project Description: Write a concise description of the project’s purpose, objectives, and scope
- Project Manager and Team: Identify the project manager responsible for overseeing the project and list the key members of the project team
- Project Start, End, and Delivery Dates: Distinguish between the completion of internal project activities and the delivery of the final results to the stakeholders
- Project Objectives: State the specific goals and outcomes of the project. Give context to its impact on the organization’s KPIs and OKRs
Discover project planning tools to support any type of workflow!
Step 2: Identify the key stakeholders and estimate budget expenses
Project stakeholders typically include individuals or groups directly impacted by or having a vested interest in the project’s outcomes. Part of your project plan in this section should include approaches for stakeholder communication, involvement, and participation. 🧑💻
These may include project sponsors, end-users, clients, key project members, and the accounting partner.
Yes, accounting partners are stakeholders. Here’s why:
A small design project for an agency might cost a few thousand dollars, whereas a large infrastructure project for a multinational corporation could involve millions of dollars.
In recent times of changing market conditions, it’s more important than ever to give stakeholders an idea of expenses related to resources, equipment, materials, and any other relevant costs. The plan also includes processes for tracking and managing costs throughout the project lifecycle.
This brings us to the next productivity resource to have on your radar. There’s a faster way to get out of building a budget report spreadsheet line by line every Friday afternoon:
Use free tools like Custom Fields in ClickUp to categorize project task resources, like contractors, project management software, and one-off purchases. (For example, purchasing a license for a song in a brand video.)
And this doesn’t take extra effort and, more importantly, email chains on your part. With ClickUp, all your project’s tasks and resources are recorded in one place. @Mention a stakeholder for purchase approval, upload a receipt image, and update the Custom Field to reflect how much funding is left. 💰
When Custom Fields are updated, task watchers (including accounting partners) are notified of the changes. They have the convenience of referring to the digital trail whenever they need to!
Now that we have project stakeholders and the budget added to the project plan let’s move to the next step!
Step 3: Create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
A work breakdown structure (WBS) represents the project’s scope by breaking it down into team and individual tasks or activities.
Starting with the most important project deliverable, the WBS progressively breaks it down into smaller work packages and subtasks. Each work package represents a distinct task or activity to be assigned, scheduled, and tracked. The hierarchical rundown continues until the work packages are at a level where they can be easily understood and executed. 🤩
The WBS is a collaborative process. Connect with your key project team members to fill in what’s missing for the project’s requirements and deliverables. As a project manager, your focus is on the project as a whole, including strategic planning, project scheduling, budgeting, and stakeholder communication.
Here is a general outline of the WBS format if you want to build a simple project plan template:
|Level 1: Project Goal/Objective||The overarching goal or objective of the project|
|Level 2: Major Deliverables||A specific, measurable, and tangible outcome or result that is produced or achieved as part of a project|
|Level 3: Work Packages||Tasks that are distinct, manageable, and assignable to individuals or teams. Define the scope and dependencies of each work package|
|Level 4: Subtasks||This provides more detailed and specific tasks, making it easier to estimate effort, assign responsibilities, and track progress|
The project team is the subject matter experts in their fields. Their perspectives on how long a task would take and what they would need from other team members to complete their work are invaluable for a successful project.
Virtual whiteboards are a great option for a remote or in-person brainstorming session. With real-time editing, it’s a non-intimidating way to encourage participation from everyone. Add to your next project planning session the ClickUp Work Breakdown Structure Template. A beginner-friendly tool with rich text editing, embedding features, and actionable tasks! 🎯
When you’re at a good place with the WBS, it’s ready to be added to a project timeline.
Step 4: Add key milestones into a detailed project schedule
The schedule will get updated weekly or monthly as the project progresses. To keep up with the changes, and, most importantly, communicate the changes, using intuitive tools like Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and timelines will make managing ongoing changes less tedious.
Offer a visual representation of the project schedule, allowing project managers to easily track task dependencies, durations, and milestones. When updates are required, they can quickly modify the chart, rearranging tasks or adjusting timelines with a simple drag-and-drop action.
Provide a streamlined workflow view, allowing project managers to visualize tasks in various stages of completion. As changes occur, they can easily move tasks across different columns, reflecting the updated progress and priorities.
Show a clear chronological view of project events, deadlines, and milestones. This enables stakeholders to stay informed about important dates and ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding project progress.
Check out our guide to creating a project timeline! It’s packed with more templates and examples to help you build a powerful project visual. 🎨
Bonus: Construction scheduling software!
We’ve arrived at the final step of the project planning process!
Step 5: Set expectations for communication
Following up on task statuses and answering one-off status emails take up so much time and energy from a project manager’s work week.
Chances are, everyone is working on multiple projects simultaneously. So replying to DMs is sometimes held off until the very end of the day. Or lost somewhere in the void for days.
Status reports are essential for decision-making. They provide a digital record of the project’s activities, decisions made, and outcomes, which can be useful for future reference, audits, or lessons learned.
Use ClickUp AI to summarize comment threads and quickly see the main points of a long thread or comment! After the content is generated, you have the option to try for a slightly different AI response, copy the text, close the Summarize thread modal, or tell AI what to do next.
Replace long email chains with ClickUp tasks for your status reports. With a single ClickUp task, all the weekly updates are stored in one place. This simple shift to task-based communication eliminates the need to search across multiple apps. 🔍
However, if your team relies on messaging platforms like Slack for urgent updates and real-time problem-solving, use the Slack integration with ClickUp. Turn messages into tasks and comments from the Slack app and notifications about tasks to Slack channels of your choice!
- Team Accomplishments: List key milestones or tasks completed during the week
- Current Status: Provide an overview of the project’s progress and any challenges or bottlenecks faced
- Upcoming Tasks and Deadlines: Note any important deadlines approaching in the following week
- Tasks at Risk: Highlight any issues or risks identified and their potential impact
- Resource Updates: Mention any changes or updates related to resource allocation
- Next Steps: Summarize the immediate next steps and priorities
- Assistance Needed: Specify any support or assistance required from team members or stakeholders
Bonus: Create a “Coordination” ClickUp task, which serves as the main channel where teams can expect the latest updates from you!
Centralize Your Teams and Align Projects With ClickUp
Leverage ClickUp to take the administration tasks off your workload so you can do what you do best. You are capable of handling every single request or question that comes your way, but you shouldn’t have to. Your team needs you in your most present self, driving the project toward success.
Create a free ClickUp Workspace and invite team members to experience better project planning. If you need any support with building project workflows, we’re only a message away. Happy planning! ✍️