So, your boss wants to see a project plan.
How do you put it on “paper”?
Just follow the steps here. And grab my project plan template.
Why I use an Excel project plan template
I manage large IT projects. And I’ve never used anything but Excel. Do you want to know why? Excel is easy to use and I have full control over the process of creation.
It’s tempting to use complex software like MS Project. But especially for beginners such tools can be overwhelming. You change one value here and it automatically changes some other value there. Leading to changes you maybe didn’t want to make.
Excel allows you to draw a project plan the way you want. And anyone can open an Excel template. This makes sharing so much easier. There’s no need for an MS Project installation.
If you still want to use MS Project, I wrote a short tutorial on how to set up a project plan in MS Project.
The project plan template I use to manage $1m projects
Here’s a generic template that works for ANY project. It gives you an idea of how to structure your project plan.
You can download the template here in XLS format.
Video: How to use the template
Here’s short video I recorded to walk you through the template.
A brief description of the project template
Phases help structure a project into blocks of related tasks. Usually in a project you will always have a preparation phase, an implementation phase and a closing phase.
You can use a different row color and uppercase style to highlight project phases, just as I did in the example above.
The timeline is shown from column E further to the right. Months are broken down into weeks, meaning each column is a different week.
These are the actual things we need to do in our project. For example, there is an activity called requirement specification, where we are putting down the requirements of our project. Also the project kick-off is listed as an activity. In the example, cells showing tasks have yellow background color.
Tasks on timeline
The blue cells show the tasks on our timeline (learn how to set deadlines).
A milestone is a goal you are working towards or a very important activity. Examples:
- Software fully tested (a goal)
- Project status meetings (an important activity)
- Go-live of a new software system (an important activity/goal)
- Getting approval for something (a goal)
Once you have finalized your project plan, you share it with your team and the people affected by your project.
Everybody who has some responsibility in the project needs to see with one glance what they have to do. That’s what the columns B, C and D are used for. An X depicts who has to contribute for a specific activity.
How you title the columns and how many columns you use depends on your project. For a project involving IT and marketing, you would have two columns, IT and marketing.
How granular should the project plan be?
Should you list each and every activity that needs to be performed, or should you just include the big tasks? Not an easy question and it really depends on the project.
Generally I only put down major tasks and milestones. I like to summarize tasks under one general task name. The detailed tasks or action items I manage in a separate file (see how I track action items).