What is a Project Plan? 3 Project Planning Steps – CIO Insight

A project without a plan or sense of direction is doomed to fail. Without a project plan, a project risks falling behind schedule, going over budget, or upsetting clients. That’s why a thorough, robust project plan is critical to prepare for and successfully execute a project on time and under budget. 
Table of Contents
A project plan is a set of documents that establish:
The main purpose of the project plan is to guide the project, providing a benchmark to compare actual to real progress.The level of granularity will depend on the needs and interests of the stakeholder(s), but there are some bare minimum components to keep in mind. 
A project plan includes the following key components, each of which have their own conventions and parts:
Depending on the type and scope of the project, more documentation might be necessary. For instance, for construction projects, permit applications and contractor agreements will likely be necessary. Nevertheless, this rough breakdown gives a sense of the minimum requirements for a project plan. 
The project charter, statement of work, and work breakdown structure show how a team will execute, oversee, and close the project.
Also read at Project-Management.com: What are the Key Ingredients of a Project Plan?
Project planning is a time-intensive endeavor and requires a solid understanding of the planning process. Frontloading the project with deliberate preparation saves time and money later on and gives project managers a better understanding of the project as a whole. 
Determine concrete boundaries for your project—in other words, its scope—in the statement of work. 
The SOW should identify:
The WBS is more detailed than the SOW. It breaks the project down according to these elements:
This step can be done at the beginning, middle, or end of the planning process. Regardless, the project charter should summarize the project and touch on key points that are detailed later on in the project plan. Include, for instance, the problem statement, business case, goal statement, timeline scope, and team members.
See what a project plan looks like at project-management.com: Use a Project Plan Template for Your Next Project 
One final note is that the project plan is a living document, meaning you should continuously update and refine it. However, the more thought you put into the plan at the outset, the better chance you have of earning sponsor and/or stakeholder approval.
Iterative project plans are therefore conducive to agile project management methodology rather than traditional project management approaches. Traditional project management outlines project execution in what is referred to as a waterfall method. From start to finish, project tasks proceed in a linear, unidirectional way. 
However, agile project management incorporates multiple opportunities for feedback loops to continuously inform and improve the process. Continuous, iterative changes improve the end result, making agile project management a preferred methodology.
While project managers can construct a project plan manually in an Excel spreadsheet, for instance, CIOs and project managers should work together on selecting appropriate project planning software
Project planning software solutions support project managers, especially those in charge of large-scale projects, such as implementation of a new ERP or deploying software patches. 
Software prevents human error, helps project managers communicate with the team, provides an overview of a project’s progress, and keeps project documentation organized in one place. 
However, the availability of software and templates for creating and editing project plans doesn’t mean project managers are off the hook for careful planning and oversight. A project plan takes time to create and execute. Project managers and CIOs should therefore have a solid understanding of what goes into a project plan. 
A project plan can make or break a project before you even get started. Crafting a robust and repeatable project plan is a necessary and worthwhile practice. It garners useful feedback from stakeholders, enables organization, and helps secure funding and approval. 
Read next: Best Agile Project Management Tools for 2022
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