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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.

Frequently asked questions about project plans

Let’s see what people also ask when it comes to project planning.

How do you plan a project from start to finish?

Planning a project from start to finish helps ensure that the project is completed on time, within budget, and with the required quality. It also helps identify potential risks and challenges early on, allowing for better management of resources.

To plan a project from start to finish you should follow these key steps:

  1. Define the scope of your project.

  2. Develop a project plan that includes timelines, budgets, milestones, and deliverables.

  3. Allocate the resources needed to complete your project.

  4. Monitor project progress and adjust the plan as necessary.

  5. Close out the project - complete all deliverables, finalize budgets and schedules, and conduct a project review with stakeholders.

Using a timeline tool can help you plan by visually representing the project schedule, tasks, and milestones and by allowing easy progress tracking. Communicating the project plan to stakeholders and team members is much easier. You can save a lot of time and energy with an automated timeline tool, such as the Office Timeline add-in, that helps streamline the project-planning process and reduces the need for manual tasks.

What is the first process in planning a project schedule?

The first process in planning a project schedule is identifying and defining the project's scope, objectives and deliverables.

Once the scope and objectives of your project are established, you can begin to develop the project schedule that outlines the tasks, milestones, and dependencies required to achieve the project's goals. You should try to put these deliverables on a timeline and create an easy-to-read project visual for your executive meetings.

When proceeding to the project schedule creation process, it might be a good idea to involve all the relevant stakeholders, as this might help ensure that the project schedule accurately reflects their requirements and expectations.

What is a project plan format?

A project plan is usually built on a standardized structure or framework that outlines its essential elements. It typically includes sections or headings that provide information on the project's scope, goals, timeline, budget, resources, risks, and other important aspects that are necessary to complete the project successfully.

These are three common project plan formats:

  • Project timeline

    A timeline is a simple way to visualize the project key deliverables (tasks, milestones) placed on a timeband that spans the duration of the project. Timelines are essential tools in keeping the project on track and improving communication between interested parties.

  • Gantt Chart

    A Gantt Chart is a widely used project planning tool that provides a visual representation of the project schedule. It shows the start and end dates of each task, their duration, dependencies, and progress.

  • Project Charter or Roadmap

    A project charter is a high-level document that outlines the project's goals, scope, stakeholders, budget, timeline, and other key aspects. The project charter serves as a roadmap for the project. Project charters are typically used at the beginning of a project and are often followed by more detailed project plans that provide specific timelines and task assignments.

What does a project plan include?

A project plan typically includes information on the project's scope, goals, timeline, budget, resources, risks, and other important aspects that are necessary to complete the project successfully.

Here are details on some of the key items that a project plan should include:

  • Project scope and objectives

    The scope of the project and its objectives should be clearly defined and identified right from the start. Here are included the deliverables, milestones, and expected outcomes.

  • Budget and resources

    After setting the project scope, and identifying the deliverables, the project manager should also include in the project plan the resources required for the project. These refer to budget, personnel, equipment, and materials needed to complete the project.

  • Timeline

    A project plan needs to include a timeline that outlines the project's start and end dates. The timeline should show the duration of each task and the critical path for completing the project on time.

  • Risk management

    It is important to identify potential risks that could impact the project and include them in the project plan. This will allow timely strategy development to mitigate or manage them.

  • Communication plan

    Keeping the stakeholders informed at all times helps ensure that their expectations are aligned with the project goals and enhances stakeholder buy-in. Project managers will be able to make adjustments in time. Make sure to develop a communication plan that outlines how stakeholders will be informed about the project's progress, and how their input will be incorporated into the project plan.

To make your planning process faster and easier, we suggest the automated timeline tool from Office Timeline. It is an easy-to-use PowerPoint add-in that can automatically generate timelines in minutes, where you can include most of the items described above. Try Office Timeline for free for 14 days and take advantage of the full features.

What are the important questions that project planning should answer?

Project planning is a critical process that involves a wide range of activities. The planning stage includes defining project goals and objectives, determining project scope, identifying project deliverables, estimating project timelines and costs, identifying project risks and constraints, and developing a project management plan.

An effective project plan should aim to answer key questions about the project. Some examples are:

  • What is the purpose of the project? This question helps identify the problem or opportunity the project aims to address.

  • How will the project objectives be measured and evaluated?

  • What are the project deliverables? Take into account aspects such as production process, review and approval.

  • What is the project schedule? Include timelines with milestones, and dependencies.

  • What are the project requirements and constraints? Take into account aspects that include budget, timeline, resources, and stakeholder expectations.

  • What is the project budget? How will it be monitored and controlled?

  • Who are the stakeholders involved in the project? What are their roles and responsibilities?

  • What are the estimated risks associated with the project? Take into account aspects such as identification, assessment, and mitigation/elimination.

  • What is the project quality plan? Take into account aspects such as definition, measurement, and control.

  • Is there a project communication plan? Include here the ways in which the information will be shared, who will receive it, and how often.

These are only some examples of questions that can help build an effective plan, since every project is complex in its own, unique way. When planning your project, the idea is to try to draw a comprehensive and clear roadmap, making sure it is aligned with stakeholder expectations. For a fast and easy approach, use helpers to expedite the road mapping process, ensuring, at the same time, high quality and clarity of your roadmap: try for free Office Timeline’s roadmap creator. This PowerPoint add-in is automated, easy-to-use, and can generate your roadmap in minutes.

What are factors that go into a project plan?

There are many factors that go into a project plan, but here are four of the key ones that cannot be omitted:

  • Scope: This refers to the goals and objectives of the project, as well as the specific tasks that need to be completed to achieve those goals. The project plan should outline the scope of the project in detail, including the timeline and budget.

  • Resources: This includes the people, materials, and equipment needed to complete the project. The project plan should identify the resources needed and ensure they are available when required.

  • Risks: Every project comes with risks, and the project plan should identify these risks and create a plan to manage them. This could include contingency plans or risk mitigation strategies.

  • Communication: Effective communication is critical to the success of any project. The project plan should include a communication plan that outlines how information will be shared among team members, stakeholders, and other parties involved in the project.

How do I create a project plan in Excel?

To create a project plan in Excel, you can use a timeline  template. The project timeline is a visual representation of a project schedule, showing the succession of key milestones and tasks in a specific timeframe, from beginning to completion.

  1. First, open Microsoft Excel and search for a timeline template under the File > New. Find more templates options in Search for online templates under the New section.

  2. Once you have selected a template, enter the project name and the start and end dates in the appropriate fields.

  3. Next, list the tasks required to complete the project in a column and their corresponding start and end dates in the adjacent columns.

  4. Finally, format the chart by adding colors, labels, and other visual elements to visually represent the project plan in an effective way.

To help you create a professional-looking project plan with data from Excel, we suggest the automated timeline maker Office Timeline. This is a PowerPoint add-in that automatically generates an impressive visual in minutes. All you have to do is copy-paste or import your data from Excel into the timeline wizard creator, then click on Create. To make beautiful timelines that can be included in your project plan, try Office Timeline free for 14 days.

What is the purpose of a project plan?

The purpose of a project plan is to provide a roadmap for the successful completion of a project. It serves as a guide for the project team, outlining the tasks to be completed, the timeline for completion, and the resources required. The project plan also helps to identify and mitigate risks and provides a means for tracking progress and making adjustments as necessary.

What is the first step in project designing and planning?

The first step in project designing and planning is to define the project's scope and objectives. This involves identifying the problem or opportunity that the project aims to tackle, and determining the outcomes that the project will deliver.

The first step in planning is important because defining the purpose and objectives of the project helps guide the rest of the planning process. It also provides the team and the stakeholders a clear understanding of what the project is expected to achieve. Thus, everyone involved in the project is working towards the same goals.

What are the variables of a project plan?

A project plan is a detailed document that outlines the objectives, scope, deliverables, timelines, budget, resources, risks, and constraints of a project. It serves as a roadmap for the project and helps to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page.

Among the variables of a project plan are:

  • Scope - the objectives, deliverables, and boundaries of the project.

  • Timeframe - the timeline for completing the project, including deadlines for each phase or milestone.

  • Resources - the human resources, materials, and equipment needed to complete the project.

  • Budget - the estimated cost of the project, including any contingencies and allowances.

  • Risks - potential threats to the success of the project, and strategies for mitigating them.

Why is a project plan necessary?

Here are three main reasons why a project plan is necessary for the success of your project:

  1. It provides a roadmap for the project and defines the tasks, resources, and timelines required to complete it.

  2. It helps ensure that everyone involved in the project is aware of what is expected of them and can work together efficiently.

  3. A project plan helps mitigate or eliminate risks. The issues that may arise during the project can be managed in a more efficient way. The team can make informed decisions and adjust as necessary.

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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