To create a project management plan, first put together a high overview of the basics of your project, including the project’s scope, schedule and budget. Next, build on those basics to write an executive summary. Then, add a project timeline, risk assessment, stakeholder chart, communication plan and resource management plan to your executive summary. Lastly, gather and incorporate stakeholders’ insights to perfect and create buy-in for your plan.
Your project’s baselines should first focus on the project’s scope, then the project’s schedule and, finally, its budget. The result should be a high overview that will inform the rest of your planning process. To complete this step, answer the following questions:
An executive summary should include a definition of your project, your project’s value proposition, including the problem your project addresses and its solution, milestones and their deliverables, scope limits―and the consequences for changing these limits―goals and financial breakdown. Use the answers to the questions posed in step one to put together your executive summary.
As the face of your project before stakeholders, your executive summary should be visually appealing and succinct. Columns and visuals should break it up to make it easy to read quickly. One great tool for creating an attractive and succinct summary is a Canva executive summary template. You can customize a template to match your brand and add your content, then either get your executive summary or share it in link form.
To begin, sign up for Canva for free, then use the search box titled “What will you design?” for “executive summary” and press “enter.” Click the appropriate template for your purposes and brand, then use the tools on the left-hand side of the enlarged template to customize its colors, text and images. Add pages by clicking the plus sign at the top right-hand corner of the template and proceed to add text and customizations to complete your summary.
The best way to plot your project’s timeline is with a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is a visual representation of what activities you plan to begin and complete and when. These activities are usually small chunks or milestones of your completed project. They also formulate the scope of your project, helping to reduce scope creep later on. Gantt charts are often the easiest to use to plot your timeline.
It is important to note expected dependencies on your Gantt chart. A dependency happens when one activity on a timeline must be completed before team members can go on to the next one. For example, a prototype needs to be completed before a focus group analysis of the prototype can take place. Thus, these two activities are dependent. Also note independent activities that can be completed even as other activities are underway, thereby saving time.
Pro tip: An easy way to note dependencies and independent activities is via color-coding. Arrows drawn on your Gantt chart can also help to pinpoint dependencies.
While Canva does offer Gantt charts to plot your project’s timeline, there are also platforms that specialize in producing Gantt chart software. Not only can this software help you put together your Gantt chart, but it can then help you stay on track with its timeline and avoid scope creep once your project begins via task descriptions and automations. If paying for such a service isn’t in your project’s budget, you can also create a Gantt chart in Excel or Google Sheets.
With your project activities recorded on your timeline, define who will be responsible for each activity. Your plan serves as a guiding star to all stakeholders involved in your project, so it’s best to record responsible parties in an intuitive chart. Create a project team chart to show who will be involved in completing the project and for which activities each is responsible. For collaboration ease, also note who each person is accountable to and their contact information.
Canva offers organizational or team chart templates you can use to customize for the needs of your project. Search “organizational chart” using the search bar in your Canva account. Click the chart that best suits your project and brand needs. Then, use the design menu to upload pictures of your team members, customize colors and replace template text to offer the data your stakeholders need for easy collaboration during the life of your project.
Your risk assessment should begin with a list of obstacles that could impact your team’s ability to complete the project on time negatively at all and with the desired quality. It should then create a plan for each risk by addressing what might trigger the risk, steps that lend to risk prevention and how to mitigate a risk should it happen. Finally, it should assign stakeholders to manage risk triggers, prevention and mitigation. Some teams use a SWOT analysis to help identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in this stage.
To dive into each risk, answer the following questions:
As you assigned responsible parties for each project activity, you likely selected people who had expertise in the areas in which their assigned activities fall. For example, if you assigned the graphic design of a marketing project to a team member, that person is likely a graphic designer. Their expertise is invaluable in assessing graphic design risks and their prevention and mitigation steps. Lean on your team for this expertise, and then implement their suggestions.
Two key subplans you should include in your project management plan are a resource and communications management plan. Your resource sub plan should list what resources are needed to complete your project and their availability. Your communications plan should include how your team will communicate one-on-one and team-wide.
A resource subplan can be completed in project management software. You can create columns for estimated expenses and other needed resources broken down by milestones, such as raw products and talent. Other customizable resource reports are available within the software and automatically kept up to date. Wrike, for example, offers customizable reports where you can track resource availability and export reports to include in your plan.
While it may seem inconsequential compared to your risk assessment and resource plan, poor communication is the primary reason most projects experience scope gaps and project failure, according to a PMI study. Poor communication can, therefore, derail all your other planning efforts.
As such, your communications management plan should be detailed and address what, when and how information will be shared during your project. Details should focus on what needs to be communicated and at what intervals during the project execution, stakeholders’ communication preferences, a communication schedule for virtual meetings or phone calls that occur at planned intervals, who will review tasks, to whom task completions should be reported and what platforms or tools should be used for communication purposes.
Pro tip: For best results, look at the communication tools available in your project management software. Alternatively, consider what communication-tool integrations it offers. For example, most project management software offer integrations with Slack. Using available tools within your software will allow ease of collaboration and the communication visibility your team needs to stay on the same page and on track.
The team you have chosen to own the activities on your project timeline are uniquely capable of doing so. As such, they are likely to have recommendations you might not think about to make your project more successful. Moreover, if their insights are incorporated into the plan, they are more likely to enthusiastically follow it. So, get your team together and go over the details of your plan. Learn from them and incorporate their insights.
In addition, present your plan to the end-user or client for whom you are executing the project. Make sure they agree to the project scope and its deliverables. Make their preferred changes now so you don’t have to make them later. Discuss what will happen if they change their minds later―extra fees, for example―so that scope creep does not impact your project’s successful execution, on-time completion or quality final deliverable negatively.
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