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Project Plan Template

Creating a project plan is a critical first step when beginning any project. However important, it can be tricky, time consuming, and quite intimidating, especially when you have to deal with complex data and stress-inducing deadlines. An effective planning process and a good project plan template can make things easier for you.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a short guide for successful planning, as well as a free, downloadable project plan timeline template that you can use for simple projects or to communicate high-level data to key stakeholders. Let’s dive in!

What is a project plan?

A project plan is a document that defines your project’s scope, outlines its objectives, and addresses the activities and deliverables needed to reach those objectives. The plan can take the form of a spreadsheet, a table, or a visual timeline. The timeline layout will make it easier to understand at a glance and to communicate the schedule to team members, execs and clients.

What should be in a project plan template?

Put simply, an effective project plan template will encompass details that answer the What, Why, When, and How of the project. Project plan examples can vary in terms of depth and complexity, but they typically include at least:

  • An executive summary or a project statement
  • Key roles and responsibilities
  • Key activities (tasks) that must be completed
  • Important deliverables required during the project’s life cycle
  • Project timeline and major milestones
  • Resources needed to achieve the project’s objectives

How do you write a project plan?

Now that you know what typical project plan examples include, it’s time to start creating your own plan. Here are the steps involved in successful project planning:

  1. Identify stakeholders. Every project has several stakeholders and it’s important to keep them in mind from the start even though not all of them will be involved in the minutiae of the project. Typically, the project stakeholders include your client, the end-users, your company and its management, and the team(s) responsible for completing the project.
  2. Explain the project to the stakeholders. Use this discussion to determine the value of the project, set goals, and establish the project scope, budget and timeline.
  3. List out and prioritize project goals. An effective project plan template starts out from clear, well defined, and well-prioritized goals. Without them, the tasks, milestones and deadlines set for your project will not have anything anchoring them.
  4. Clarify roles and responsibilities. Establish exactly who will be part of the project and what their role will be. Decide who is responsible for various phases or parts of the project, who will approve work before it’s finalized, who takes the high-level decisions, and who needs to be kept up to date as the project progresses.
  5. Outline the project. Starting from the project goals, break down the project into deliverables and tasks needed to complete those goals, and write down who will be assigned on said tasks. Don’t forget to include milestones to define check-in points or key events throughout the project.
  6. Create the project timeline. A well-mapped project plan timeline will act as guide not only in the planning phase, but through the entire project management process. So, with your goals, tasks, milestones, and roles already outlined, place these details on a visual timeline to easily show the estimated time each team member should spend on each task, as well as when key deliverables are due. For you and your team, you can use project planning software to easily create a detailed timeline of all activities involved, while for client communications, you can use a simple, familiar project plan template for PowerPoint like the example at the top of this page.

Why use our project plan template?

The free project plan template was designed for professionals who need to create visual, easy-to-understand plans for clients, execs and other project stakeholders. The template is a quick and simple alternative to complex project management tools, and it can serve as the starting point for any project.

Built as a native PowerPoint slide, this downloadable timeline template is easy to share and can be opened and updated by anyone who has the popular presentation tool. Thanks to its visual layout, the project plan example allows your audience to understand key data at first glance, being well suited for presenting to busy stakeholders.

In addition, the template can be used for more than laying out a project timeline. Being simple to update and adjust, it can also be reused easily throughout the life of the project to communicate progress at status meetings, planning reviews and on project scorecards.

How to make the most out of the project plan template

The free project plan template can be edited just as you would any other .pptx slide, or you can instantly update it with Office Timeline, a lightweight project planning add-in for PowerPoint.

The Pro+ Edition of the add-in can help you update and customize this sample project plan with just a few clicks, or even create new project timelines from scratch in a matter of minutes. It can turn on features such as such as showing the duration and % Complete of each task automatically, updating dates and timeframes by drag & drop, or adjusting the timescale for easier calendaring.

You can use the free version of the add-in to make a simple timeline quickly, or you can use our 14-day trial to update this project plan template instantly, as it can import data from Microsoft Project or Excel right into it. This makes it easy to create project plan timeline slides quickly by using existing data from your primary project management tools.

Updating your template is simple and fast.

Use the Office Timeline PowerPoint add-in to quickly update any of these timeline templates or create your own project visuals. Easily change the texts, dates, colors, shapes and styles of your timeline, right from inside PowerPoint.

Free PowerPoint Timeline and Swimlane Maker