Wondering what exactly is a detailed project plan sample? How is it created? What are the first steps to setting up a project plan for your project? Well, you’re in the right place if you’re looking for the answer to all of these questions! In this Brain Sensei article, we’ll dive into all the details of a project plan, as well as provide a sample real-life example.
Project plans can come in all shapes and sizes. They can vary in what elements, components, or formats they take. Therefore, there is actually no official, formal, or ‘right’ way to make a project plan. A project plan simply needs to fit the goal. In other words, it needs to properly outline a plan that will help reach the desired outcome.
When you start to create a project plan, you may want to begin with a blank template. These can be found online in all different styles and fashions. But which one is the best? Let us help you decide which template is best for you!
While there is no specific style for a project plan, there are specific items that a project plan needs to include.
Finding the right project plan
If you choose to work from a project management template, you may realize you are spending a great deal of time modifying details. In many cases, the template may either have sections that you do not need or else, it may not include an area that is important to your particular project.
So what is the best course of action? While templates can give you an idea or direction for the look, feel or style of your template, we recommend creating your own, step-by-step. This way, you’ll ensure all components and details are covered and ready to help you manage the plan.
But where to begin? Let’s dive into that now.
How to Get Started In Creating a Project Plan
To begin, you may be tempted to just start working on this project plan on your own. This may not only be difficult, but you may also miss out on opportunities to collaborate with team members and ensure that the project plan includes their thoughts and what they consider the most important features. It may also be easier to incorporate thoughts and opinions collected from team members at the start of the project plan, rather than needing to modify later to try to fit in elements that may have been missing.
So, this is our advice: begin with a team collaboration activity. Discuss the project with all involved and collect any and all thoughts, details, and ideas that need to be included in the plan.
1. Start By Breaking Down the Work
Next, it is time to define the project into the basic work packages. Each work package spells out an area of the project at a high level. After this, it is important to define the precise tasks that need to be carried out in order to complete the work defined in each work package.
Remember, every possible detail of the project should be defined whenever possible. This ensures that you have all of the puzzle pieces outlined before you then organize them into a clear picture, i.e. project plan.
At times, you may simply want to jump in and start arranging any obvious elements of the project plan. But don’t skip this step where you lay out every possible detail. It is often considered one of the most critical steps in project planning. This also helps in outlining what each project team should do as part of the project scope of work. It will help to spell out the items that are considered to be “in scope” vs “out of scope.”
2. Define the Important Quality Standards
Now that you’ve defined all of the details of the project, it’s time to determine what quality standards are important in order for this project to be considered a success.
This is another important step in the process as you want to ensure that both your company and customer are both highly satisfied with the outcome of the project. You need to consider the scope of the project and identify quality standards from all angles and from all perspectives, even globally.
3. Assign Appropriate Resources to All Tasks
Now that you’ve outlined all of the details of the project as well as determined the quality standards that are important to all involved, it is time to determine what resources are needed in order to get the project underway, and in a way that will match the quality standards.
This step may involve calculating the need for machinery, tools, or materials. It also likely involves calculating the effort needed from human talent that you will need to complete the tasks. Remember, human resources are now considered along with all other resources when outlining the needs and budget of a project. You should think about the level of skills and talent needed, as well as how much effort you’ll need from each person involved. It is a great time to identify if there is too much work placed on one person or group and make amends in order to balance this equation.
As you are identifying your tools and materials, it is also important to consider the risks. Are there any risks to your tools, materials, or resources, human or otherwise? Any risks you notice may lead you to identify additional tools or resources that will be needed to help mitigate those risks.
4. Define the Activity Sequencing or Relationship of Activities
Next, it is time to work through the relationship between different activities and tasks. This is the project planning phase and is considered the true heart of this project planning exercise. This is the point when it is important to give the team an opportunity to share any thoughts or ideas they have relating to scheduling conflicts, risks, or issues with resources. This step is also known as activity sequencing. As you define the relationship of one activity to the next, you are sorting and organizing a process in which the tasks will take place.
So what is the best way to go about sequencing? First, you mainly need to define which relations are mandatory and logical between different activities. Identifying mandatory relations may occur when you outline relations that are defined by the nature of the project itself, or other ones may arise when the project team reviews any relationship defined by the contractual agreement. In other words, your team may help plan logical relations that work best for them when performing their assigned tasks.
Activity Relations (SS, FS, FF, etc.)
Now, we’ll walk through the different types of relations that the project team may identify. There are four different types of relationships that can occur between different activities:
- Start to Start (SS): This is a type of relationship which is used when one activity is unable to begin until another one starts.
- Finish to Start (FS): This is the type of relationship that is unable to begin until another one is fully completed or ‘finished’.
- Finish to Finish (FF): The project team will utilize this type of relationship when an activity is unable to finish unless another activity finishes first.
- Start to Finish (SF): The team will use this project relationship in the situation where an activity is not able to finish unless another activity starts.
5. Estimate Resources and the Ideal Duration for Each Task
The next step in crafting your project plan is to set up an estimated resource and timetable for each task of the project. Remember that each resource should be outlined along with the duration and any subsequent resources that will be needed during the completion of this task. When these steps are taken, it is then possible to estimate the duration for each activity in a way that is realistic. At the same time, it will also help you to lock down which resources are required for each activity. When you have completed this step, you have almost fully completed your project plan.
Keep in mind the project team may have multiple techniques that can be employed when setting activity resources and duration estimates. Techniques may include parametric estimation which utilizes a statistical relationship between variables and historical data. Or the team may choose to use more simplified estimation techniques, such as Bottom-up estimating, three-point estimating, or Analogous estimation techniques. The team may shift to using different techniques by calculating the weighted average of optimistic, pessimistic, average, and most likely estimates.
6. Estimate the Costs for Each Task
The next step is related to when you estimated resources and duration for each task. This time, you will be formulating a cost estimation for each activity. Similar to estimating resources and duration, you and the team now use similar techniques to evaluate the expected costs.
7. Generate the Full Project Plan
Once each task resource, duration, and cost estimation is complete, it is time for the fun part. You are now able to generate a full and final version of the project plan example.
You should remember to review all aspects of the project plan. At this stage, you may notice some holes or issues that were overlooked. Also, keep an eye out for any obstacles or conflicts between different aspects of the project plan.
When you believe the full project plan is as complete as possible, it is time for the plan to be sent over for authorization and approval.
8. Finalize the Plan and Send it to Sponsors for Approval
In the final stage, it is recommended that the project team, as well as any project sponsors, review and revise the final plan. In this stage, these reviewers will be looking to ensure that the materials and tools are sufficient, the team members are skilled and able, the timeline is adequate, and the budget is sufficient. If the approvers find the project to be free from conflict they can directly approve or they can request additions or revisions if needed.
Example Project Plan and Example of a Project
Now that we’ve reviewed all sections of the project plan, it is time that we share one of the many project plan examples you can use as a reference guide. We will briefly outline the different sections of the plan in this new sample outline to help further enrich your comprehension of an ideal project plan.
The main areas of a sample project management plan are as follows:
Example Project Plan Sample – Section 1: Executive Summary of Project Charter
The first section of the project plan should be an Executive Summary of Project Charter, this should briefly touch on both project constraints as well as assumptions.
Example Project Plan Sample – Section 2: Scope Management
Section 2 includes a detailed breakdown of the work. This outlines three subsections:
- Work breakdown structure: The WBS outlines the work package and sub-work packages, as well as breaks down any sublevels.
- Deployment Plan: Let’s use an example situation here: Imagine the project involves sending an application to state health partners. In this area, you would outline the approach for creating the application from start to finish, including setting up environmental assessments, creating memorandums of understanding, hardware and software installation, data conversion, and more.
- Change management plan: As an additional example: Imagine a development server for a project administered by an outside organization. This organization is responsible for installing machine upgrades and has informed you that there will be some scheduled outages that will impact the project schedule. You realize that a change in the plan is essential to work around these scheduled outages. You must define how you will deal with the potential impacts.
Example Project Plan Sample – Section 3: Schedule Management
This is where we will discuss the output of both sections 4 and 5. In this area, we’ll provide another example. In this example of a schedule management approach, you establish a baseline within the first two weeks of a project. You are able to watch and monitor progress weekly and recognize that the project manager responsible for the project schedule is never more than three business days out of date. For variances on executive milestones of more than 10%, the project may use guidance specified by CPIC. You can refer to the CDC UP Project Schedule document for more information on project management schedules and additional schedule templates.
Subsections of the section include:
- Milestones: This encompasses milestones as well as Estimated Completion Timeframes.
- Project Schedule: The project schedule can be outlined in a variety of ways; including via calendar, Gantt chart, or whatever other format works best for the team.
- Dependencies: As we described in the output section 4, keep in mind Activity relations (SS, FS, FF, SF).
Example Project Plan Sample – Section 4: Cost/Budget Management
This section is where the sample project plan will outline the cost management plan. If the numbers are not outlined here, you will instead provide a reference to where they can be found. This is where you should include step 6, “estimate each task’s cost outputs”.
Example Project Plan Sample – Section 5: Quality Management
This area of the sample project plan outlines the project’s quality management which we defined in step two.
Let’s use this as an example. A system that controls consistency for screen layouts would typically include a full review of available screens. Therefore, it would be possible for the screens to match the quality standards that were agreed upon.
Often, quality measures include a condition outlining if there are any defects or issues that are determined to be critical by the company. In other instances, quality measures require constant screen layouts and/or calculated variables. Typically, the project managers can be certain of quality when they perform formal testing, audits, and inspections. Next, the project management team can document any defects found by the tracking system and make changes to ensure that they are solved. In certain projects, the project manager may use a traceability matrix or other artifact to decide if critical requirements are met.
Example Project Plan Sample – Section 6: Resource Management
The next section is where you will spell out a description of the resource part, which was outlined in step five.
Example Project Plan Sample – Section 7: Communication Management
In this area of the sample plan, you will include a plan for different types of communications between members of the project team and stakeholders.
Example Project Plan Sample – Section 8: Risk Management
This is where all risks are outlined throughout all elements of the project. This risk management section will include a Risk Log. The project manager will typically maintain the risk log in a separate document, away from the project management plan. At other times, some project managers choose to merge different logs into a single document so that all logs are in one place.
Example Project Plan Sample – Section 9: Issue Management
This is where all issues that arise are recorded. Most often, this section includes an issue log. The issue log is most often maintained by the project managers in a separate document, or, combined with other logs along with the risk log.
Example Project Plan Sample – Section 10: Procurement Management
Most often, this section would include information about the physical materials, tools, and equipment, along with the human resources that are procured. It is important to ensure that the procurement of computers, servers, hardware, and other assets is properly managed. It is also important to direct staff members, and team members from other vendors. This area may also go into more detail about strategies for project staff acquisition.
Example Project Plan Sample – Section 11: Compliance Related Planning
Finally, it is essential to maintain a list of compliance-related processes that the team must keep in mind and adhere to while completing the project. It is ideal that everyone is aware of compliance issues so that they do not put the company, the project, or the customer at risk in any way. Compliance may involve company policies, governing bodies, state or local ordinances, FDA or marketing criteria, or more. It is important to know the rules, as well as know how to audit the project to ensure it is meeting all appropriate standards. Finally, this area should outline who exactly will perform these audits, how, and when.
We hope this Brain Sensei article has been helpful to you by providing you with a project management plan example, so you can find the best way to outline your very own project management plan from start to finish.
Understanding the information in this article is an essential part of project management and a vital part of the PMP exam. Improve your project management skills or prepare for the PMP Certification exam by taking a quality online PMP exam prep course.