An Ultimate Guide to Writing a Project Management Plan

 In Be More Productive

It’s an exciting time for your company. You got a new project coming up. There are many preparations in order, and you and your team are working hard to make this project a success.

To make this happen, your team needs a strong foundation, a guide that they will follow step-by-step. This foundation is your project management plan.

What is a project management plan?

A project management plan is a blueprint prepared by the project management team during the project planning phase. The document includes:

  • stages of project development
  • activities aimed at achieving goals at every stage
  • milestones for every activity and stage of project development
  • deliverables – criteria that estimate the success of every goal and stage

The majority of project failure cases happen because of poorly written project management plans. According to statistics:

  • 37% of projects fail because of the change in project objectives
  • 35% of projects don’t succeed because of the inaccurate requirements gathering
  • 29% of projects fail because of inadequate vision

All these three factors can be eliminated if you put more effort into writing a detailed plan to support your team’s efforts and achieve success.

To help you write a good management plan for your next project, we prepared a short step-by-step guide with tips and actionable advice.

Step #1: Define the Scope of the Project

The scope of the project defines what will be delivered at the end of the project and what needs to be done to achieve this result. Its goal is to get your team and the stakeholders on the same page.

There are two main components that the project scope should include to create a full image of how the goals will be achieved.

1) Deliverables

Project deliverables are the final results that you will deliver at the end of the project, like creating a website, launching a marketing campaign, etc.

Deliverables depend on the nature and the scope of the project, but they should present something that will help the stakeholders measure the success of the project.

So, when defining the scope of the project, discuss with stakeholders, what they will need to evaluate the success of your project management efforts. For instance, they might ask you for a few documents, including:

  • contracts
  • expense reports
  • project status reports
  • timesheet reports

Make sure you include this information in your first draft of the project management plan right away. It is important for you, your team, and the stakeholders to measure the KPIs of the project.

2) Goals

Project goals include all necessary measures to achieve the desired outcome.

Your project management plan should include one main goal (launching a website), and several smaller objectives (hire a web designer, create a blueprint of the website, etc.) needed to achieve the main goal.

The main goal and each of the objectives in your project management plan should contain the following information:

  • Budget and resources. These factors include not only the expenses on each objective but also the manpower staffing requirements, time resources, infrastructure, etc.
  • Evaluation criteria. Here, it is important to list the requirements in terms of performance that will indicate that the goal and the objectives are achieved.
  • Every project involves a number of limiting factors – quality, time, cost, benefits, and risks. It is important that your project management plan lists these constraints right away for the stakeholders to be aware of them and to determine what needs to be done if these constraints impact the success of the project.

It is important that, when drafting the project scope, you involve not only your team but also the stakeholders. They will evaluate the success of every objective as well as the final result of the project.

Step #2: Create an Outline of Your Project Management Plan

Now that you have defined the scope of your project, it’s time to create the blueprint of your project management plan.

Here are the main components of the project management plan that you should include in your outline:

  • The scope statement. Includes brief details about the project scope that we discussed in the previous section. You can also call it the executive summary of the project management plan, as it contains crucial information on what the project will achieve and why.
  • Success factors and deliverables. Different projects require different factors that determine its success. They may include some quality standards, benefits, as well as deadlines and expenses. At this point, it is also important to include deliverables, according to which you and the stakeholders will measure the success of the project.
  • Work breakdown plan. This part should include every objective and step-by-step efforts to achieve each of them. For every objective, it is also important to include the factors that will determine their success.
  • Budget and cost management. Here, you should include a detailed cost plan that shows the expenditure for every stage of the project. It is also important to mention how these costs will be recorded and who will be responsible for tracking them.
  • Risk analysis and management. Every project plan should have a list of constraints and risks that might undermine its success. Make sure you map out every possible risk and create a possible management plan for each of them.
  • List of stakeholders. The outline of your project management plan should include the list of stakeholders, whom you and your team can contact for consultation. Make sure that this list contains the name of each stakeholder, their interest, as well as the issues that they can help you resolve.
  • Communication essentials. You can finish your project management plan with information regarding communication and its frequency. Here, you can outline how often you and your team should report on the progress and provide contact information that stakeholders can use to communicate with all parties involved in the project.

Depending on the nature of the project, you can also include the list of policies in the outline of your project management plan. For example, if the project involves health hazards, you need to include safety management policies to protect your team.

Step #3: Assign Roles and Responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities are also part of your project management plan’s outline, but let’s take a more detailed look at how this section should look.

When assigning roles and responsibilities, you’re not just creating a list of employees responsible for different objectives. You should also think about how you need to distribute the resources that you have among all of them to achieve these objectives.

To help you determine who will be responsible for each particular objective, you can use the RACI chart. This is the responsibility assignment matrix that includes all project activities and the respective roles that are responsible for these activities.

The RACI chart includes information on who is:

  • responsible for completing the assignment
  • accountable for approving the assignment
  • consulted in case any issues occur
  • informed when a crucial decision needs to be made

All these roles are titled with letters R, A, C, I, and put in the chart near the respective activities:

Image credit: RACI.org

This chart is also helpful if you assign some of the tasks to someone who’s not in your team. For example, if you outsource content writing to a thesis writing company, this chart will show who your team or the stakeholders can contact to receive information about the success of the task.

You can include the RACI chart in the draft of your project management plan and edit it while the project is in progress.

Step #4: Set the Schedule

The schedule is another part of the project management plan that needs your close attention.

We’ve already mentioned that project plans often involve a very detailed schedule broken down into several deadlines. Such a schedule makes your project management plan more traceable and helps you better understand the scope of the work.

To better visualize the schedule and make it more comprehensible, you can use the Gantt chart. This chart illustrates the project schedule and shows the dependency between the activities that are currently performed and the schedule:

Image credit: Gantt.com

In this chart, you can see the dependencies, the tasks that need to be completed before you begin the next task, broken down into several subtasks. Because of this subdivision, it is easier for you to report, when the task is completed and when you reach the milestone.

Including such a chart in your project management plan will help you and the stakeholders better understand which stage of the project you and your team are currently working on, making the results more tangible and the entire project more traceable.

Step #5:  Revise the Plan with Your Team

Lastly, it is important that you and your teamwork on the plan together to see whether all the tasks are assigned correctly, and each team member has enough time to complete them.

Your team should be well aware of all the quality standards, as well as constraints and risks involved. It’s the task of a project manager to explain what the project means for each of the team members and how it will impact the company’s relationships with stakeholders.

So, make sure you and your team go through the draft of the project management plan a few times to see if it needs revisions or task reassignments. Your team members need to be fully involved in this process to make sure that they understand their role.

Keep Updating Your Project Management Plan

The process of writing a project management plan never ends. As your project progresses, you will find that your project management plan needs revisions and updates.

So, while our small guide can help you prepare the first draft of your project management plan, keep updating it as you go to make sure that all your efforts are successful.

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