Project managers are typically expected to create a ton of documentation for each project. The documents outline the project schedule strategy, processes, and resources used during the project. Creating all these documents can often be challenging and time-consuming. That’s where project management templates come in.
Project management templates help you stay organized and save time. They provide a ready-made and efficient solution, eliminating the need for repetitive and tedious work, as you don’t have to recreate these documents from scratch every time. In this article, we will discuss what a project management template is, the different types of free project management templates available and how to create one yourself.
What are project management templates?
Simply put, a project management template is a ready-made document, specifically designed to create a standard format for the documentation created during the project timeline. These templates help project managers and their collaborative teams improve efficiency, accelerate and standardize the project management process.
Now, because there are many aspects to every project, not to mention that every project will have its own unique set of requirements, there are usually a lot of documents created, from the inception of the project to its completion. Fortunately, there are project management templates for just about any type of documentation, at any stage in the project lifecycle.
However, not every free project management template is going to meet your needs as a project manager, and with the dozens of free templates available online, it can be difficult finding one that best suits your needs. To help you out, we have curated the best free project management templates and shared them below.
What templates do you need for project management?
Every project manager should have a repository of free project management templates. Creating documents from scratch for every new project is very inefficient.
Below is a list of documentation often required during projects, along with useful and free project management templates that will help your project go off without a hitch. Download them, customize them as you like, and use them whenever necessary.
1. Project proposal
Often, your project requires approval or sponsorship, financial or otherwise, from stakeholders. To adequately inform key participants about your prospective project, and supply them with all the information necessary to make an intelligent decision regarding approval, a project proposal is needed.
A project management proposal establishes the parameters of a project and the main goal of this document is to receive approval from the decision-maker anchoring the project. For this reason, ensuring the project proposal is both interesting and informative is essential.
A project proposal usually comes in a document or PDF format, with a table of contents listing all sections included. A typical project proposal consists of components discussing requirements, scope, budget, and any other pertinent information needed for stakeholders to decide on the project. Proposals can be as short as one to two pages or as long as hundreds of pages.
Project management proposal example template by Slidebean
With Slidebean’s free project template, project leaders can easily create project proposal documents that will help them get quick approval from stakeholders or clients on any project. This template is simple, yet well detailed, for easy comprehension.
Project proposal template by Smartsheet
This free template from Smartsheet provides an organized layout, with an easy to use and read format. It can be downloaded, edited and shared in Google Docs, Excel and Word.
Project proposal template by Slite
Looking to write a project proposal? You can’t go wrong with the free proposal templates from Slite. The simplistic yet functional outline ensures you are able to convey your idea to your readers, without using a bulk of text.
2. Business case
A business case is crucial for getting a proposed project into the hands of decision-makers. When choices are made, they should always be in the best interest of the business, given finite resources. Your argument for why your project is in the best interest of your business resides in the soundness of your business case.
As a project leader, this document is where you give justification for the project, in terms of benefits versus costs. A typical business case for any project should include details such as the reason for the project, the options considered and rejected, an analysis of the project cost vs. measurable benefits, key milestones in the project schedule, risks, and resourcing requirements.
Business cases are highly adaptable to the environment in which you’re working. They can be lengthy and detailed, or short and frank, depending on the industry, the size of the audience, and the need for detail. But it must have a compelling argument that forces a decision-maker to choose your project over a competitor.
Business case template by Filestage
A business case is one of the most crucial elements of any set of project management documentation. This business case template from Filestage helps you write a compelling business case that will convince the leadership that your organization should allocate time, money, and resources to your project.
Business case template by Template.net
If you need a brief and simple template for your business case, then this one-page template will meet your needs. This template provides a solid foundation for project leaders looking to develop a project/organization-specific business case.
Business case template by Stakeholder Map
This business case template by Stakeholder Map is especially suitable for project managers running large projects for complex businesses. It is well detailed and lengthy, to ensure every point is sufficiently covered.
3. Project charter
The foundation of all project management documentation lies in the project charter, a document that clearly defines the purpose and objectives of the project, the project’s scope, the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders, and other vital elements. A well-established and comprehensive project charter ensures that no high-level questions are left unanswered.
The project charter serves as the reference document during the duration of the project management process, so that all those involved can access the critical pieces of information necessary for keeping the project on track, such as project constraints, authorities, high-level budget figures, risks, and justifications for undertaking the project in the first place.
Project charter template by Filestage
This free project charter template from Filestage keeps all the essential information in one simply stated spreadsheet. The template includes sections for the project overview, objectives and purpose. Also, the project scope section covers the budget, risks, assumptions and deliverables. You can also list all project team members and stakeholders, with their roles and responsibilities.
Project charter template by Project Management Docs
If you need an aesthetically appealing and elaborate project charter template, then this template, provided by the Project Management Docs, will make an excellent choice. The template is available in two versions – the short version to keep things precise and the longer one for more flexibility.
Project charter template by Project Manager
This is a broad-purpose charter template created by Project Manager. Although this template is somewhat elaborate, it’s simple enough to be understood by anyone, making it a perfect choice for a project manager who wants to get their message across as clearly as possible.
4. Project plan
A project plan is related to a project charter, but includes a lot more detail. Where project charters stop, project plans begin. A well-thought-out project plan takes all the conceptual details of the project into consideration, before any actual execution begins.
A project plan is your tool for thinking the project through from start to finish, taking into consideration all factors and stakeholders, such as stages, and steps within stages, needed to achieve the project goal, task scheduling, assignment of responsibilities, formulation of protocols within each stage of the project, quality control measures, comprehensive cost estimation, and phase by phase risk assessment.
Project plan template by Filestage
Filestage’s project plan template uses multiple colors to denote the different key sections necessary for an effective project plan. Fields are populated by responses to key questions, intended to drive towards the essential components of each category. For example, the primary question for the task scheduling section is: “What are the phases, tasks, and subtasks?”
Project plan template by Project Manager
This project plan template enables a project manager to map out their tasks and responsibilities and break them down into smaller and more easy-to-manage components. This makes project tracking a lot easier for them to schedule and assign the tasks needed to complete the project successfully and on time.
Project plan template by Atlassian
This is a one-page project plan template by Atlassian. The template is concise, fairly detailed, and easily comprehensible, as it allows the reader to get a quick overview of the project plan, without needing to skim the document.
5. Project work schedule
A project work schedule is a part of several project management software platforms. Using a work schedule template allows you to plan the details of how and when team members will accomplish work on the project. It enables you to visualize the flow of production, while taking accumulating labor costs into perspective, as well.
A focused work schedule is one that’s custom-tailored for your operating environment, whether that consists of shift work, task-based labor, traditional 9 to 5 type stretches, or part-time work. One of the advantages of having a project schedule is that it ensures every task during the project timeline is well accounted for.
Project work schedule template by WhenIWork
WhenIWork offers an Excel project schedule template to help project managers create work schedules for their teams. It gives you an overview of your entire team’s schedule, so you can easily keep track of shifts and overtime, to ensure the team doesn’t exceed the budget.
Project schedule template by Project Manager
The Project Manager tool empowers project managers to efficiently manage their team’s workflow, with its easy to use and practical project schedule template. With this template, you are better equipped to organize your team’s work schedule and also keep track of the hours spent completing those tasks.
Project schedule template by Smartsheet
You can efficiently manage your team’s workflow using Smartsheet’s project schedule template. Like many other color-coded gantt chart templates, you can easily track delivery dates and add custom phases. You can also add other details, such as project resources and risks, budgets, comments and notes on the schedule.
6. Work breakdown structure
Before you can define the intricacies of your team’s work schedule, you’ll need to develop the work breakdown structure. The work breakdown structure is a process by which the overall project is separated into descending tiers of deliverables, further defined by tasks, subtasks, action items, etc.
It’s hierarchical, with the overall project listed at the top, followed by a tree structure, branching out to product, data, service, or combination sections, each with its own lists of deliverables. Work breakdown structures get into the specific “hows” of accomplishing the overall project goal, while delineating specific areas of responsibility as they pertain to each deliverable.
Work breakdown structure template by Creately
Creately’s work breakdown template comes with a range of styling options and colors, so that the reader can easily understand the various sub-components of the projects and the elements belonging to a particular process.
Work breakdown structure template by Template Lab
Although simplistic in design, this work breakdown structure by Template Lab is elaborate and covers the important elements required for this documentation. Thanks to its flexibility, this template can be used for both simple and complex projects.
Work breakdown structure template by Vertex 42
The Vertex 42 work breakdown template is a simple worksheet that automates WBS numbering for project managers. It’s easy to use and can be edited in both Excel and Google Sheets.
7. Project timeline
A project timeline that defines tasks and milestones makes it easier and more efficient to manage a project. By drawing out a project timeline, a project manager is translating the project into a coordinated set of tasks, with clearly defined timeframes and deadlines, typically in chronological order.
A project timeline helps the project team see what needs to be accomplished for the next batch of deliverables and when. It also helps to communicate the progress of the project to the stakeholders. Overall, the project timeline document is essential for the success of any project, as it helps all contributors stay aligned and on task, to ensure the project doesn’t drag on past its original deadline.
Project timeline template by Office Timeline
This is a project timeline template for PowerPoint, designed to help project teams visualize all the critical project tasks and deadlines, from inception to completion. This template is visually appealing and easy to understand, so your team won’t have a problem translating it.
Project timeline template by Venngage
This is a simple and customizable project timeline template by Venngage. This template makes it easy for project teams to streamline their planning and accomplish deliverables within the key deadlines.
Project timeline template by Microsoft
If you want a sleek, yet elaborate, project timeline template, then this template by Microsoft is your surest bet. It was also designed natively in Excel, which makes it easy to edit and share the template.
8. Communication plan
One of the biggest obstacles to efficient project management is poor communication. Having a clearly defined communication plan in place assures there are clear guidelines and expectations regarding how, when, and with whom team members should communicate, depending on the task or need.
Communication plans are collaborative efforts that involve all stakeholders. You’ll need to define the purpose of the communication plan, identify the roles of individuals involved, such as the project lead, project sponsors, or team members, designate the primary method of communication, and detail what meetings are necessary, when they will be necessary, and exactly which team members should be involved.
Communication plan template by Creately
This communication plan template by Creately is a great way to keep your team in check and set the basis for your action plan. This template provides a simple layout to help clarify messages and deliver information to the project stakeholders.
Communication plan template by HubSpot
Project managers can make use of HubSpot’s communication plan template to create documentation that will lay the foundation for your operations and frame communications with clear goals and methods.
Communication plan template by The Digital Project Manager
Are you looking for a way to tell your team and stakeholders what needs to be done and when? This communication plan template by The Digital Project Manager can help you out. It is designed to help you get feedback from project contributors as smoothly as possible, so the project can proceed without a hitch.
9. Risk register
A risk register or “risk log” is a chart, documenting all identified risks and their probability, impact, and effect throughout the project. An effective risk management plan is built upon the items listed in a risk register. Without a risk register, the chances of unexpected events with no planned response increase considerably.
Each identified risk is numbered. It is then given a description and assigned a category. Cause, probability, impact, proposed response, owner, and status are other fields that may be included in a risk register. As the project proceeds, new risks can be added to the register, while the status of current risks can be changed.
Risk register template by Project Manager
This risk register template by Project Manager offers an easy to use template, designed to identify risks early on, so the team can be better prepared to mitigate the impact of the risk, or avoid them altogether.
Risk register template by Smartsheet
Smartsheet offers a very detailed risk register template. With this template, you can assess risks, calculate the priority of the identified risks based on probability and potential impact, make notes on mitigation strategies, and assign a team member to monitor the risk.
Risk register template by Project Templates Guru
This is a risk register template by Project Template Guru. It is a flexible and easy to use template that does a great job of keeping track of the risks associated with a project. You can also review and update your risks anytime you like, as the template can easily be modified by adding or deleting content.
10. Risk management plan
While surprises are bound to come up over the course of a project, managers can do what they can to anticipate potential problems via a risk management plan. A risk management plan identifies all foreseeable risks and analyzes the potential impacts of those risks. Based on these risks and their impact, managers will determine and record the planned course of action to mitigate these unexpected events as much as possible.
Risk management plans should be living documents that are reassessed on a regular basis, throughout the life of the project. New risks may appear that were not previously identified and need to be added to the plan.
Risk management plan template by Meliora Partners
Meliora Partners is a long and well-detailed risk management plan template. Due to how thorough it is, this template is best suited for project managers working on large and complex projects.
Risk management plan template by Stakeholder Map
Stakeholder Map’s risk management template is a great resource for project leaders. It comes with a bevy of features, hints, and tips. Embedded in the template are examples of a risk assessment method, risk report form, a model risk management process, and a risk management method.
11. Project budget
Going over budget is one of the biggest threats to successful project management. Without a clear idea of how much each project stage should cost, your estimates and, more importantly, stakeholder expectations, may be wildly inaccurate.
Project budgets include detailed estimates of cost for every aspect of the project, from start to finish. It may be broken out by phase or task, but should consist of labor costs, operating costs, overhead costs, and material costs. Budgets are by no means static. They can be updated as the project progresses, as long as all appropriate stakeholders are kept abreast or are involved in the changes.
Project budget template by Corporate Finance Institute
If you need a tool that will make it easy for you to summarize the budget for a project, then this project budget template by Corporate Finance Institute is just right. It covers elements such as material cost, total labor cost, estimated and actual labor time, etc.
Project budget template by Project Manager
This project budget template by Project Manager can be used for a wide variety of projects. It is specifically designed to estimate the cost of managing the project, track expenses, proactively plan for contingencies, and more. This template also comes with a color-coding feature, to let you know when you’re exceeding your budget.
Project budget template by ClickTime
ClickTime’s project budget template is a visually appealing template, created to enable a project manager to accurately predict project costs and to manage them during the project timeline with ease, in an Excel spreadsheet.
12. Gantt charts
Gantt charts are incredibly useful tools for giving a quick visual reference of the project schedule, and how tasks are broken down in interdependent relationships. Gantt charts may vary wildly in complexity and appearance, but the basic components remain the same.
Tasks are typically listed on one axis, while time intervals (defined by a project manager or project team) usually reside on the other axis. Some tasks may overlap with others, while some may not be started until other specific tasks are completed. This arrangement illustrates a dependent relationship between time and assigned tasks. They can also be used to show projected task completion vs. actual task completion.
Gantt chart template by Orangescrum
Orangescrum, through its free Gantt chart template, offers a great tool for people looking for a simple and easy way to manage their team schedules. This template has a simplified and modern layout, for ease of use and understanding.
Gantt chart template by Team Gantt
This Gantt chart template by Team Gantt is an Excel chart, designed to help you organize priorities and timelines. You can also set realistic deadlines for individual tasks and the project as a whole, because it gives you an idea of where timelines might overlap, so you can avoid extending the project timeline.
Gantt chart template by Creately
Creately’s free Gantt chart template is perfect for scheduling, managing dependencies, and prioritizing anything, from individual tasks to deadlines in your project. It will allow you to visualize your timeline at a glance, to help you manage your project more effectively and coordinate your team’s schedule better.
13. Project milestones
Project milestones are the smaller incremental components that come together to create a complete project. Once all milestones are complete, the project is complete. Milestones are usually incremental in nature and give all team members and stakeholders an idea of how the project is progressing.
Milestones differ from tasks in that they are higher level, more strategic points along the project path that give an indicator of project progress. Tasks and similar items are more day-to-day items that must be completed to get to the next milestone. A milestone is a representation of success and is especially useful for staying on target with larger, more complicated projects.
Project milestone template by Power Slides
The project milestone template from PowerSlides consists of four slides that help you to plan and display your milestones in a clear way. The template offers space to add more information to each milestone and create an overview, with start and end dates.
Project milestone template by Stakeholder Map
This is a minimalist project milestone template by Stakeholder Map. It contains a table where you can list the milestones you’ve created for your project, along with their description, type and expected date of completion. It is available in both Word and Excel formats.
Project milestone template by Smartsheet
Smartsheet’s project milestone template is simple and practical. In addition to entering your milestones, with this template, you can also add date, assignee (team member assigned to the task) and the status of the task. There’s also a column where you can leave comments on tasks.
14. Project objectives
Projective objectives are what you plan to accomplish by the end of your project. This could be anything, from tangible objectives like creating products and deliverables, to intangible ones like improving the team’s performance and increasing productivity.
As a project manager, when writing your project objectives, using the “SMART” framework is recommended. Following this framework simply ensures that your project objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
Project objectives also provide a measurable way to assess the success of a project, on its completion. This makes project objectives a vital element in the project management process.
Project objectives template by Project Central
This project objective template is available as an Excel spreadsheet. The ready-to-use template by Project Central has a simplistic and straightforward design, while making sure to cover the various sections and segments of a project. This is to enable project leaders to efficiently perform project tracking and create a valuable resource to guide the team.
Project objectives template by Smartsheet
This is a project objectives worksheet suitable for large and complex projects. It offers an elaborate guide on how to define SMART project objectives with minimal effort.
Project objectives template by Slide Hunter
This PowerPoint project objectives template is best for project managers who want to define, manage, and visualize SMART goals in a clear way.
15. Project status report
A project status report is a dynamic document, produced or updated on a regular basis, that provides critical information to stakeholders and keeps communication fluid between all team members.
A project status report serves as an indicator of progress made throughout the project, identifies hiccups along the way, and avoids missed steps, via clear and up-to-date documentation. It is one of the best ways to keep all parties involved accountable. A well-written project status report reveals helpful information, while avoiding extraneous, irrelevant detail. The following project report templates will help you get started.
Project status report template by Project Manager
The project status report template by Project Manager helps you to write a status report with ease. It covers all the important aspects like project details, the reporting period, key accomplishments, planned and completed work, and many more.
Project status report template by Microsoft
This one is a free project status report template by Microsoft. This modern and sleek template is fully editable in Word. It is elaborate and covers a lot of areas, to ensure the reader can easily grasp the message in the status report.
Project status report template by Smartsheet
This is a long-form project status report template that allows project leaders to create detailed status reports for stakeholders and company executives. It contains pre-formatted tables, which help to organize data into a readable project overview. You can add or remove sections to this table, as your project requires.
16. Project resources
Poor resource management is one of the biggest challenges of project management, and has plagued organizations of all sizes, across multiple industries.
Resource management is all about ensuring tasks are distributed efficiently across a team, so that a project can be completed within the project timeframe. That said, a project resource is a document that methodically assigns the right people to the right tasks, based on the availability and skills of the team members. It consolidates all your resources, and records roles and responsibilities, to encourage uniformity across the team.
Project resources template by Project Manager
This is an easy to use Excel-based project resource planning template, designed to organize project resources and schedule, so you have what you need, when you need it.
Project resources template by Toggl
Toggl’s project resource planning template is designed to help you plan, adjust, track and visualize resource availability and allocation. With Toggl, you can create color-coded plans, so you can visualize your team’s workload and easily identify busy or available team members.
Project resources template by Resource Guru
This resource planning template is an Excel schedule template by Resource Guru and is designed to help you organize, capture, and track resource allocation and usage. It comes with a lot of cool features, including a color-coding feature that makes it easy to see whether your resource is overloaded or if they still have the capacity to take on more tasks.
17. Change request
A change request, like the name implies, is a written request to modify the scope, schedule, cost, or any other project parameter, during the project lifecycle. A change request is usually mandated after the parameters of a project have been agreed on and the project is already on course. As a project manager, you should file a change request if you are changing any of the already agreed-on parameters, as this is essential for the success of the project.
A typical change request contains a description of the change and the reason for it. There will also be a section that details the impact analysis of the change and a place to record the decision regarding the request. Changes are quite common during the project lifecycle, but regardless of the reason for filing a change request, as a project manager, it is your responsibility to stay on top of change, to ensure it doesn’t create a negative impact on your budget, timeline, or team.
Change request template by Project Management Docs
This is a free change request template by Project Management Docs. In addition to the description of the change and reason for it, it also includes sections like alternatives considered, technical changes required to implement the change, risks involved, estimated resources and costs needed to implement the change, and so on.
Change request template by My PM
This change request template by My PM is designed to capture as many details as possible about the requested change. From budget to schedule to quality, this template ensures that every parameter is well considered in the change request.
Change request template by Team Gantt
If you need a simple change request template, then this one-page template by Team Gantt would be an excellent choice. While the layout is straight to the point, it is still quite detailed and gets the job done. Like other templates here, this one is editable and it is available in Google Docs.
Creating your own project templates
Although there are so many available free templates, you might still have to create your own unique template from scratch, if you do not find a template that suits your needs. If that’s the case, then do not fret. Microsoft Office is a great resource for people looking to create their own project templates.
Excel and Word are incredible tools for creating templates. For instance, you can create a project plan template in Excel and easily customize it with colors and visual hierarchy, to highlight key information and communicate the status of the project at a glance. Creating a project template in Word is easy, as well. Word also has built-in templates you can use and tools to help you customize your own templates, to suit your needs.
Fast-track your creative projects with the right templates
Whether you’re a small start-up, a large company trying to organize your operations, or a growing company in need of robust project management solutions, taking advantage of some, if not multiple, project management templates can streamline your operations, open up communication, and increase your project’s efficiency and probability of success.
Think about what project management components are most important to your team. It may be that all template formats, from the business case, to the risk register, to the work breakdown structure are what you need to help your project thrive. Maybe all you need is a Gantt chart and a thoughtful creative brief. Whatever you choose, use it fully to maximize your advantage.