Creating a project plan is one of the most important methods of project management. It is a central element that bundles all plans and tasks that are important for the successful execution of a project.
The goal of a project plan: clarity!
The project plan significantly reduces the complexity of your project. In this article, you will learn how you can create a meaningful project plan yourself (including an example) and which software can support you in doing so.
Definition: what is a project plan?
Although the term is widely used, it is not clearly defined. The project plan is created by the project manager at the beginning of a process. Depending on how extensive the project is, this blueprint can be more or less detailed. The crucial element is a clear and understandable structure.
Good to know: 5 project management methods that everyone should know about. >
Work breakdown structure or project plan?
The term “project plan” can refer to both a work breakdown structure and a project schedule.
The work breakdown structure (WBS) contains the complete representation of all components of a project. Here the project is broken down hierarchically into sub-projects and tasks. The
If you add a time axis to this plan, then a project schedule is what you are looking at. This also contains defined dates for the start and end of the project. Additionally, milestones can be added to the project schedule.
The project schedule looks like a calendar and provides an overview of all deadlines.
Creating a project plan
The best way to create your project plan is to go step by step. A helpful approach can be found in the 7 WH-questions, which you probably already know from previous project management work.
Once you have answered all seven questions, you are ready to start your project plan.
The 7 WH-questions of project management: Where? Why? What? Who? How? When? How much?
- Where do we stand with the project?
Let’s start by looking at the initial situation of your project. Have you already planned and carried out similar projects in the past? This should always be the first step.
Check if you can adopt certain elements, processes, or templates. What information is already available, and what is still missing in order to start the project?
- Whyis this project important?
This question is very important and yet often neglected. What (economic) benefit do you expect from this project? When will the investment pay off
On the other hand, if the benefits are clear, this consideration will help you to inspire others for your project, even during difficult phases.
- What do we want to achieve with this project?
In order to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts, it is necessary that all participants know what project goals have been set. The clearer and more measurable, the better! The SMART principle helps you to formulate your project goals. Try to set a specific goal and list all the features you need to accomplish.
In return, it should also be clear which goals are not pursued with the project. If this question has been considered and answered in detail, it is much easier to follow up on difficulties during project management.
- Whois involved in the project?
At this point in the creation of the project plan, one must work out who is associated with this project. Which people are involved and what roles should the individual team members take on? Here you should also check whether there are other interested or involved parties and how they can be taken into account.
Moreover, one must define rules for teamwork.
- How is this project structured?
In the meantime, you’ve arrived at the content segment of your project plan. Now is the time to get down to business! What tasks does the project involve? What risks can endanger the success of the project and which measures can you take to reduce these risks?
You can start off with a mindmap that contains your thoughts, as well as a simple list. Now, you are able to bring order to the chaos.
- Whenshould the project goal be reached?
Often a client also directly specifies a project deadline, however, for internal projects, this should be set by the team. In addition, you can divide the project into different time stages and milestones at this point. For example, determine when important subgoals should be reached.
- How muchis the project allowed to cost?
It would be unwise to neglect the last WH-question when creating your project plan. This is about resources and how much they may cost. Calculate how much effort is required for the individual tasks.
How should the budget be divided and what are the total costs? The project costs are also often already specified by the client, which then results in the (internal) cost planning.
The ideal structure for a project plan
So much for the content and basis of a project plan: now it’s time for the construction. A characteristic feature of the project plan structure is that all elements are structured hierarchically. A project consists of sub-projects, which in turn consist of work bundles made up of subtasks.
You can create and use templates for other project plans, if you like to.
All components of the project are arranged in a kind of tree structure.
Create a project plan: example
Here’s an example for illustrational purposes: you want to plan a larger event to celebrate an important milestone with your colleagues. The sub-projects
The Location sub-project includes, for example, the work bundles Research, Bookingand Preparation / Decoration. The Research work bundle entails tasks, such as Requesting Offers and Checking Availability.
Very interesting: Project management for teams: What is really important? >Read it here!
Project schedule with Gantt chart
Let’s stick with the project plan example of organising a team event. While you have shown the structure of the existing elements within the project plan, a temporal classification still needs to be arranged. Without it, there would be a high risk that the event would fall through due to a lack of lead time. In order to avoid that, you need is a project schedule (see above).
The presentation of a schedule as a so-called Gantt chart is especially widespread. This was developed at the beginning of the last century by
In a Gantt diagram, the duration of the individual work bundles is shown as bars. The arrangement of these bars on a horizontal time axis defines the beginning and end of a task.
Compared to the calendar view, the Gantt Chart can display long-term tasks and milestones as well as dependencies between tasks way more easier.
Creating a project plan in awork
First you will need to create a work breakdown structure by entering all the components of your project in awork. The best way to do this is to proceed hierarchically. Start by creating a list for each sub-project in your awork project. Then add the corresponding tasks to this list, for which you can define subtasks.
To create a project schedule, switch from the list view to the timeline. This shows all tasks of your project over time: it’s like a Gantt chart, only better.
The timeline is perfect for visual time management.
Tasks for which you have already set a start and end date are automatically displayed in the timeline. You can simply drag and drop unscheduled tasks to the appropriate position.
A particularly practical feature: to prevent your planning from becoming unnecessarily long, you can display several tasks in one line in awork. This is one of the main differences between the timeline in awork and a generic Gantt chart.
Subsequently, it is a good idea to define dependencies between the tasks so that it is clear which things have to be processed first. Finally, you can add important milestones by clicking on the respective date. Planning projects has never been so easy!
When starting your project tasks, you are able to see the status as their color changes in the timeline. Furthermore, the face of a user working on a task is displayed in the task.
To sum things up:
At first glance, creating a project plan may seem very complex. However, this plan will save you a lot of time and frustration when it comes to project management. Remember that your plan should always be up-to-date.
Take time to answer the 7 WH-questions (Where? Why? What? Who? How? When? How much?) and write down all project elements in a structured and complete way, preferably within a project management tool. Integrate a time axis and define milestones.
Create a project plan: FAQ
A project plan combines all plans and tasks that are important for the successful implementation of a project. The complete representation of all project elements and their relationships is called a work breakdown structure (WBS). A project schedule also contains a time schedule.
A project plan contains all the different components of the project. Usually a project consists of sub-projects, which in turn consist of work bundles composed of subtasks. The individual elements are arranged hierarchically in the project plan, so that a kind of tree structure is created.
The project plan reduces the complexity of your project considerably. It presents all the components of a project in a clear and concise way, thus creating a clear and comprehensible structure. This saves a lot of time and hassle when it comes to project management.
Write down all project elements in a structured and complete way. It is best to proceed hierarchically and orient yourself using the 7 WH-questions (Where? Why? What? Who? How? When? How much?). Once you have displayed all project elements, you can integrate a time axis and define milestones.
awork offers smart features that help you create your project plan. You can display all project elements in lists, tasks and subtasks and structure them hierarchically. The awork Timeline is suitable for visual time planning. You can plan tasks by drag-and-drop, define dependencies and set milestones.