The only project plan template you’ll ever need (incl. 6 examples)

The only project plan template you’ll ever need (incl. 6 Examples) 

So, your next big project just got the green light – good news for you, right? Now it’s time to get started on the next step: project planning. It is imperative that you plan your project thoroughly rather than diving straight in. 

The planning process is absolutely essential to the success of any product or service – whether it’s a task as simple as choosing the holiday cards you send to clients or as complex as implementing a new marketing automation software.

Project planning applies to any situation, regardless of setting. The process can be as formal, informal, detailed, or high-level as you want it to be. Planning a campaign for a new client? Get some project planning underway before you start managing expectations. 

Updating all of your marketing materials? Create a project plan to successfully guide your team through this undertaking.

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What is project planning? 

Project planning is the conceptual component of any project that begins after the project proposal has been accepted and should be completed before you actually start working on a new project.

Project planning is a key step that requires managers to detail the full scope of the project. As such, managers outline the core goals of projects and determine what needs to be done to achieve them.  

The factors that the project manager needs to consider for project planning include: 

  • Outlining every task and milestone
  • Setting the delivery date
  • Outlining the overall timeline of the project
  • Defining SMART goals for the project 
  • Listing the number of people required and their roles 
  • Detailing the required financial investment
  • Determining costs for each phase
  • Outlining needed resources 
  • Involving people in the review and approval process 
  • Identifying any potential risks  
  • Adhering to quality standards 

The amount of time required to conduct project planning largely depends on the size and scope of the project. For instance, a new multi-platform marketing campaign will require a more detailed project plan than setting up new pages on a website. 

The planning process keeps projects focused and well-managed, and it limits the likelihood that the team will encounter any risks. 

What is a project plan? 

A project plan is a centralized reference document that outlines your planned approach to the project. 

The project plan also contains a series of fixed stages, with the requirements, time frame, and deliverables of each stage. It is important that all objectives are quantifiable so that it is immediately clear what needs to be achieved before the project can progress to the next stage.  

With such a plan, team members can be kept in the loop regarding what will be done, by whom, and when. 

A good project plan will answer all of the major questions:

  • What are we creating?
  • Why are we creating it?
  • How are we going to create it?
  • When are we executing each step?
  • How long will each step take?

Remember, each project plan will be, by its nature, totally unique. 

As such, a project plan document needs to detail every foreseeable element of the project. In order to display this much information in a logical manner, it is important to choose the right format for a project plan. Popular choices for project plans include a Gantt chart or a written piece in the form of a PDF document. 

Some managers choose to create a plan manually; however, it is far quicker and easier to create a standardized document using a project plan template. 

As project plans vary considerably based on complexity, your project plan could take a number of different forms. If the project is a particularly brief one, then you may wish to just sketch out a shortened version. But if your project is more complex, a project plan will be longer and contain a number of specific, detailed sections. 

Why do you need a project plan? 

Project planning takes a lot of time, right? So, the big question that’s probably on your mind is:  Is it worth the effort? 

Project planning is an essential component of project management that will save you endless headaches in the long run. Plus, planning promotes team autonomy and organization, because everyone understands what is required of them and what they can do to keep things running smoothly. 

Benefits of having a project plan-project-plan-template

Improving delivery speed by

  • Giving you a clear project timeline with fixed due dates. 
  • Enabling you to prioritize work more effectively. 
  • Significantly increasing the likelihood that your team will deliver projects on time. 
  • Alleviating the burden on project managers by encouraging an independent and autonomous approach to work. 
  • Helping project managers identify delays or bottlenecks quickly.

Supporting your team by 

  • Achieving greater transparency and ensuring that everyone is fully informed.
  • Assigning clear task dependencies and fixed roles for all contributors.
  • Helping you to manage client expectations

Enforcing quality standards by 

  • Establishing a consistent, centralized process. 
  • Ensuring that the end result is on-brand, mistake-free and of a high quality. 
  • Ensuring that no steps are missed, especially important for complicated, large-scale projects.
  • Controlling key risks and limiting their impact.

Furthermore, if your project is long, complicated, or involves a number of different stages, a project plan template is a fantastic tool. These templates allow you to build a project plan that: 

  • Is completely customized.
  • Allows for the addition of new kinds of data.
  • Is shareable with all stakeholders on the project, both internal and external.

How do you write a simple project plan? 

Planning might sound like a lot of work, but once you have a reliable project plan template, the process really isn’t that complicated. 

To help you create a simple project plan – which covers all of the key points without taking ages to put together – we’ve listed all the steps that you need to take. 

Here is our step-by-step guide to writing a simple project plan. 

Where to start – defining the scope of your project

Before you start writing your project plan, you and your stakeholders need to clarify the specific objective(s) and scope of your project. Once you’ve clearly defined these elements, you can start gathering information. Then, you should take the following steps:

Meet with the client.

One crucial component of the data-gathering stage is the client interview. To create an effective plan, you need a crystal-clear understanding of your client’s expectations. So, meet with your client, and take comprehensive notes. You’ll also gain an appreciation of their level of knowledge about the product. 

Discuss deliverable dates and scheduled absences that may interfere with those dates. During this meeting, you should also establish the best method of communication between the client and your team as well as how often communication is expected to take place.

Identify your team.

Once you have a detailed understanding of your client’s needs and expectations, you can identify and gather all the people you need to successfully execute the project. Identify groups or departments responsible for each phase of the project; then, identify specific people within those groups for the completion of specific tasks and subtasks.

Seek team input.

Seek input from your team on the information you’ve gathered so far, such as deliverables, client expectations, and cursory budget estimates. Based on your team’s input, you’ll be making modifications to the project plan. In fact, you’ll be making changes throughout the formulation and execution of the plan. 

Since project plans are dynamic, living documentation of your journey, they can change as the project’s life cycle evolves. Once you’ve identified all stakeholders involved and communicated with them, you can start drafting your plan.

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Creating the draft – performing research and asking key questions 

Your draft may go through several iterations before all aspects of the plan are adequately addressed. The final version of the plan should leave no foreseeable questions unanswered.

Your first project plan draft will be very basic; it can be written out on a piece of paper, drawn out on a whiteboard, or entered into a word document. Include necessary components, such as the goal, a project report, scope, process, deliverables, resources, limitations, dependencies, deadlines, and stakeholders.

Project plan outline - project plan template
  • Goal: What is the goal of the project?
  • Scope: What parameters are you working within to achieve the goal?
  • Process: Identify the process for implementing the plan: the what, who, how, when, and where.
  • Deliverables: Define what’s going to be delivered, according to client expectations.
  • Resources: Identify all the necessary resources that must be used to create and deliver the final product, including human resources.
  • Limitations and Dependencies: What factors will inhibit your ability to complete the project, and how do you mitigate those factors?
  • Deadlines: Record all deadlines, and determine whether they’re hard or soft.
  • Stakeholders: Record how much time the client may need to review and approve any component of the project.

Once you’ve completed your draft, you’ll need to show it to your team, and seek feedback before moving on to the final stage. 

Finalizing your plan – asking for feedback and evolving accordingly

Once you have a rough draft, you may want to move your plan into project management software. Or if you prefer, you can use online templates to track your project. Whatever method you choose, make sure it’s robust enough to include every necessary detail of your project plan.

With your team, start transforming the outline into a comprehensive plan, and make sure you include the details of each phase and task. Most project management teams take advantage of related software to help them fill in the data points of a plan. Managing a project through dynamic project planning software allows a team to continually reassess project execution in real-time, including identifying gaps and weak points.

To summarize: a completely formalized plan addresses all required project considerations, such as stakeholder input, project integration, the allocation of human resources, communication, risk and cost assessments, scheduling, and quality control.

Stakeholder Input: 

Identify the responsibilities, priorities, and conflicts of each stakeholder.  

Project Integration & Scope:  

Consider the entire project from a holistic point of view, and integrate all its pieces.

Human Resource Allocation:  

Identify the skills needed to complete the project as well as a plan for acquiring them.

Communication Plan: 

Identify the go-to method for communication with all stakeholders and the expected frequency of communication.

Assessing Risk, Limitations, and Dependencies:  

Determine how to mitigate potential risks, limitations, and dependencies.

Assessing Cost: 

Determine the overall budget and the cost controls of each resource and phase of the project.

Scheduling:  

All phases, tasks, and subtasks should be scheduled using start-by and complete-by dates. 

Quality Control: 

Identify a method to ensure that the highest level of quality is maintained throughout the process.

Depending on the project, these components can be addressed by creating sub-plans within the formal plan, or they can be explained via entries on a project plan template. 

At the very least, your project plan should include:

  • A schedule that identifies phases, tasks, and subtasks.
  • Parties responsible for those tasks, and the start and end dates.
  • Tools for project plan management that allow you to add detailed notes about each task, as needed.

Download the ultimate project plan template. 

The ultimate project plan leaves no question unanswered. In it, you’ll find guidance and pointers to ensure that all aspects of your project have been taken into consideration.

Our Filestage project plan template is a basic, printable, one-page and free project plan. This simple project plan template will help you get your project planning strategy off the ground quickly and effectively. 

These top tips will help you to get the best possible results from the Filestage project plan template: 

  1. Use it as a starting point for all of your projects. This will help establish consistency. 
  2. Fill the plan with careful, thorough research. Find out the value, scope and details of the project. 
  3. Include useful resources and documents in the plan. For example, you may wish to include a branding guideline document. 
  4. Discuss the steps and layout with your team. Before publishing your project plan, ask your team for their feedback. Does it work for them? 
  5. Create a project plan with clear timelines, including fixed start and end dates for all tasks. This way, your plan will foster an environment of accountability and organization. 
  6. Instill this as a core part of your process. Inform everyone about the project plan, and make sure your team actually uses it! 

Download our free project plan template to get started today:

FREE TEMPLATE

Get the free project plan template

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What are the benefits of using a project plan template? 

As you can see, there are many different points to cover in a project plan. Even when creating a simple project plan, you can easily get bogged down in the details. 

If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of starting a plan from scratch, selecting a simple project plan template will save you time, energy, and stress. 

There are many different benefits to using project plan templates, including the ability to: 

  • Save time when creating new project plans. 
  • Achieve greater consistency by using the same template across projects.
  • Give guidance and make sure you don’t miss any important aspects of a project. 
  • Be used and shared easily.
  • Collaborate with team members.

Present your project plan to internal and external stakeholders with Filestage

After creating a project plan, you should share it with all internal stakeholders to get feedback and suggestions for improvements. This is important to make sure nothing is missing or has been overlooked. Stakeholders can also check that the timing and the frequency of communication make sense and can spot potential bottlenecks regarding resources.  

To make the feedback process as easy and efficient as possible for everyone involved, we recommend using an online review platform. Online tools allow reviewers to leave precise feedback and discuss comments with other stakeholders, therefore reducing misunderstandings. 

Here’s how you can speed up the review and approval process for your project plan AND all of the following project deliverables.

1. Start your free Filestage trial here.

Also, feel free to check out our demo file and learn more about how Filestage can help you review project files.

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2. Set up your review steps in Filestage.

Before you can start going through a new project, you should replicate your existing review and approval process in Filestage. Set up review steps for each review instance that your project plan (or project deliverables) has to go through.

Each review step may involve a different reviewer group. For example, your first review step could be used to review your project plan with your team while your second review step involves your client or management executives to get their final approval.

Filestage Review Steps - project plan template

3. Upload project plan (or deliverables) to Filestage.

Now, upload your file to Filestage by simply clicking on the UPLOAD FILE button.

Filestage Upload project plan - project plan template

In our example, you would upload the project plan in the first review step to get feedback from your colleagues. Once the plan is approved by them, you can move the plan to the second review step where the client or management can review it. 

You can then use the same review process for your project deliverable(s). 

4. Invite all relevant reviewers.

For each review step, you can invite the right stakeholders by either adding their email addresses in the program or directly sharing the review link with them by email.

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5. Ask your reviewers to leave feedback.

Once the reviewers have been invited to view the file, they may still be curious about how this new software works.

Therefore, you should leave an initial comment on your file that gives your reviewers some context. This way, reviewers can experience the benefits of the tool prior to leaving their own feedback. Plus, it’s much less intimidating to leave visible feedback when someone else has already made the first mark.

Filestage reviewer feedback - project plan template

6. Get your project plan approved.

Once your reviewers are done reviewing and leaving feedback, they can either request changes or approve the file. 

Now, you should go through the comments and adapt your project plan if necessary. When bigger edits have been made, you can share the new version of the plan again in the same review step to get final approval from your colleagues. 

Gathering feedback and getting approval has never been easier. 

Filestage Project plan approval - project plan template

What is included in a project plan? 

Now, we’re moving into the real nitty-gritty of the project planning process. 

A project plan is typically made up of seven parts: project goal, project scope, scheduling, details, risks, communication plan, and approval process. 

To help you shape your new management plan, see our explanation of these seven steps below. 

Our standardized project plan outline:

1. Project Goal: 

What product or outcome will this project provide? What are your specific goals?

2. Project Scope: 

What are the parameters for achieving this outcome?

3. Scheduling: Major Project Phases

Phase 1

Task 1

Subtask 1

Subtask 2

Phase 2

Task 1

Subtask 1 

Task 2

4. Detail all of the relevant project resources required.

  • Resources: Quantify all resources needed to complete each phase, task, and subtask.
  • Cost Assessment: Outline the overall project cost, including the cost of each phase, task, and subtask. Break down the costs into categories, such as materials, labor, and overhead.

5. Identify the risks and plan how you will mitigate them.

Record all project risks, assumptions, dependencies, and constraints, so that all stakeholders have the same understanding of these factors while working through the project.

Then, manage these risks. For example, create a Quality Control Plan with quality standards to reduce the risk of creating poor quality content. 

6. Create a communication plan.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will communication take place (both internally and externally)?
  • What mode of communication will be used?
  • What are the secondary modes of communication?
  • How often will routine communication take place?

7. Gain Approval.

Seek input on the completed plan from all stakeholders (internal and external).

6 project plan examples 

Technical Project Plan by Atlassian

Atlassian - technical project plan

Atlassian’s technical project plan is a modern example of a highly detailed project logistics document. This sophisticated template includes a project scope section, a project timeline graph (which is compatible with Trello or Jira), tables for key data fields, and a section for other reference materials. 

Atlassian’s project plan template is designed to provide users with a clear outline of the scope, goals, and requirements of the project. It makes it easier to facilitate cross-team collaboration and to manage the feedback of key stakeholders more efficiently. 

IT Project Plan by Project Management Docs 

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Project Management Docs has created an IT project plan that thoroughly covers all the bases of an IT project. This free template includes a tabulated milestone list, a schedule baseline, and work breakdown structure in addition to a change management plan, in which you can detail your change control process. 

Project Management Docs has also provided a thorough user guide to their template that takes you through each step of the plan and clearly advises what is required at each planning stage. 

Design Project Plan by Simple Square

design project plan template

This design project plan template, created by Simple Square, may have a simple overall look, but it’s actually very detailed. Project milestones are represented by small bullet points. The level of involvement is represented by the size of each colored circle, and the level of importance is represented by the font size of the task. 

Simple Square’s project timeline runs through overlapping circles that compartmentalize the total project time into weeks. Each phase of the project has its own color. You can view the perspective of the designer above the timeline, and the perspective of the client below the project timeline.

Agile Project Plan by Smartsheet

agile project plan

In Smartsheet’s agile project planning template, you make progress one phase at a time rather than concurrently. The overall project is sectioned off into chunks called iterations. As one iteration is completed, it is reviewed and approved before the team moves on to the next phase. 

The result of the initial iteration will dictate the nature and scope of the second iteration. Above, you can find an example of agile project plan templates. 

Event Project Plan

Event project plan

Here’s an example of an event project plan template created in an excel spreadsheet.

Different tabs represent different components of the plan, such as project parameters and details. Any spreadsheet program can be a useful tool for project plan creation because you can populate as many tabs as needed.

While task scheduling can be featured on one tab, cost estimates may be found on another. The communication plan and risk assessments can also be found on their own tabs. 

Scrum Project Plan

Scrum project plan

A specific style of agile project management is the scrum project plan. Scrum plans work in a series of iterations called sprints, which indicate the completion of one segment of the project. With scrum management, complex projects with multiple components and stakeholders can be clearly broken down and organized. Scrum project plans work best for projects that have a tangible product as an end result.

In the tech world, scrum boards are famous for their versatility and straightforward design. Team members use sticky notes to define tasks, which are then placed in different sections of the board to represent sprints.

Conclusion 

Project planning is far more than a bit of obligatory paperwork. It’s about using information, organization, and foresight to shape the success of a project. 

The beauty of a project plan is that it gives all team members a thorough understanding of every element of the project. They can then use this information to govern their time and contributions independently, without the need to constantly refer back to the project manager. 

Project managers can use this detailed management plan to oversee the project’s status in a far more transparent and proactive manner. 

The combination of these brilliant benefits will translate into an infinitely more efficient project planning process.

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