How to write a simple project plan
Drafting an effective project plan can be difficult, but it isn’t rocket science. If it’s the first time you’re creating a project plan, cover the essentials, keep it short and simple, and you’re good to go. Being overambitious and trying to incorporate too many unnecessary details can make the project plan look messy, overly complicated, and overwhelming.
What is a project plan?
Every project has a story to narrate and creating a project plan is crucial to ensuring the story has a happy ending. The project plan explains the project’s journey from the start to the finish line. It helps keep track of the project from time to time and drives awareness on what part of the project needs additional effort.
A well-drafted project plan is able to provide answers to questions such as:
- What are the project objectives?
- What specific activities should the team complete within the project?
- Who is accountable for every task?
- What are the deadlines for accomplishing tasks and milestones?
How to create a simple project plan in 5 easy steps
By drafting a simple project plan with all the fundamentals clearly defined, you’ll be able to have a clearer vision of the project. Without clutter, a simple project plan will allow task owners and stakeholders to focus on the most important elements of the project. Let’s get started.
Step 1: Define project scope, objectives, and goals
Proper research and pre-planning can help you understand and define the project’s scope, objectives, and outcomes. Get the project priorities right and make a note of business goals that the team will need to consider during project execution. If any limitations, dependencies, and risks need to be addressed, jot them down. Write the project scope and get a sign-off from the client team so all stakeholders are on the same page before you proceed.
Step 2: Sketch out key project activities and tasks
Based on project objectives and goals, make a note of the main phases or milestones you’d like to accomplish and list out project deliverables under each of the phases. This will include all project priorities and will serve as a rough outline of your project.
Step 3: Set the project schedule
Add the start date and a deadline against each of the project deliverables and phases. This will help the team understand how much time they are expected to spend on each activity. Setting a practical project schedule also helps stay on track during the course of the project. It will give all stakeholders a clear view of project progress and misses at regular intervals — at the end of a week, month, or project phase.
Step 4: Assign tasks
Once key deliverables are charted out, it's time to allocate them to specific members of the project team. Consider resource availability and skills to avoid the risk of last-minute surprises — absenteeism, project conflicts, workflow clashes, etc. Undetected and unplanned absence of critical resources can bring the complete project to a standstill, impacting project milestones and the final schedule. Along with team members working on specific tasks, mention task owner names who’ll be accountable for individual tasks.
Step 5: Create milestone- or deliverable-based checklists
Once you’ve got the project scope, objectives, deliverables, timelines, and human resources mapped right, create a checklist for the different phases or types of deliverables. This will allow all team members and stakeholders to be doubly sure that every step of the project has been completed the way it should.
Should you use project plan templates?
Now that you have a better understanding of the essential components of a project plan, it can be tempting to pick an Excel or Word-based project plan template from the Internet and get started. If you have access to a project plan of an earlier project at your organization, you may be thinking of reusing that plan. Is that the easiest option, or is there a better solution? Before answering the question, let’s first look at the advantages and disadvantages of using existing project plan templates.
The pros of using project plan templates
Ready-to-use templates can make the job of creating a simple project plan easy. They deliver quite a few advantages.
1. A time-saver
If you’ve been looking at putting together a project plan in a few minutes or a couple of hours, project templates can be a blessing. You can reuse the existing layout, tweak the content a little to suit your current project, and your plan is ready. It’s only human to miss an important point while drafting a project plan from scratch. As reusable templates already cover most of the necessary details, you’re less likely to miss essential points.
2. Cost savings
Time is money and you’re saving costs when your project plan is ready in minutes. The freely available templates are also going to save you the cost of investing in a project planning software product.
3. Choice and convenience
When you invest in a complex project planning solution, you may end up struggling every time you need to develop a project plan or modify it during the course of the project. The abundance of choice of simple reusable templates, on the other hand, makes project planning and management more convenient than complex solutions.
The cons of using project plan templates
If you have high expectations from the readily available simple project plan templates, you may end up disappointed. They do have disadvantages.
1. Too basic
Most Word, Excel, and other MS Office project plan templates available on the Internet are extremely simple. With a basic template, you may end up with a project plan that isn’t impressive. Alternatively, you may need to put in a lot of effort to customize the template to suit your project that you’ll wonder why you even picked it up.
2. Version control
Every time the project plan is updated, a new version is created. However, version control can be difficult when multiple task owners update deliverable status or make other changes in the template. Making changes in an older version, accidental addition or deletion, and uploading the wrong version are just some of the challenges when using project plan templates.
Many marketers, designers, accountants, managers, and teams would have already used that simple project plan template that you just picked. If the project plan document is too generic, the team may not even use it. Every project is unique. Hence, it’s best to create a new project plan that’ll help you plan and manage your unique project.
Existing templates are designed to enable you to develop your plan easily and conveniently. However, they allow limited flexibility so you may not be able to create your project plan with all the customization you desire.
5. Limited collaboration
Working together and online team collaboration can go a long way in ensuring project success. But adding remarks and comments for team members to address is the maximum level of collaboration possible in the case of Microsoft Word and Excel-based project management templates.
Why should you use project management software for writing project plans?
The idea of investing in sophisticated enterprise software for project planning and management can be overwhelming. If you take into account the various limitations of readily available spreadsheets and Word-based project plan templates, they aren’t the best choice either. The ideal solution would be a project management tool that’s intuitive and easy to use, feature-packed, yet not overly complicated.
Project management software such as Breeze can make project plan development and refinement quick and easy without compromising on quality. A proven software built from real-world experience, Breeze is a practical solution for both technical and non-technical people. It’s for anyone and everyone — including marketers, designers, sales personnel, accountants, engineers, attorneys, and managers — looking to create and manage project plans.
Breeze has just the right number of features to help you stay organized right from the project planning phase to project completion:
- A straightforward, appealing user interface (UI) — add activities and milestones without worrying about the layout, formatting, etc.
- A centralized platform for the whole team — where everyone’s aware of the overall plan, tasks, and criticality of work
- Quite intuitive — team members don’t need special training to learn how to use Breeze
- Allows smooth online interactions between team members — add comments, have fruitful team discussions, and more
- Single-screen overview of multiple projects with project status, timelines, rate of completion, etc.
- Time-consuming time sheets replaced with a single-click entry
- Seamlessly integrates with third-party tools and applications to enable team collaboration, time tracking, productivity management, feedback gathering, project improvement, accounting and invoicing, customer service and support, file storage, software development, and more.
Write your next project plan with Breeze
Breeze is equipped with practical features that will help you build your next simple project plan. The software, however, isn’t overloaded with components and features that you’re never going to use. Breeze can help you and your team stay organized right from the start to the completion of the project.
Switch to Breeze now and experience the ease of writing project plans and managing them. With a friendly interface and useful components, Breeze can make project planning seem like a breeze.