Planning is the basis of all good projects. It looks simple, but it isn’t.

Project plans provide direction and track progress. Project planning is not administrative task, it requires a level of experience to match the project outcomes with the activities while balancing resources including budget.

Getting the right support and resources to develop and maintain a quality project plan is crucial. A quality project plan communicates the story of the project's journey and it supports decision making for the Steering Group, the Project Manager and the Project Team.

How to get the most out of your project plan

The project plan, when it exists as a living, breathing database of project information, provides useful information such as:

  • run scenarios to understand the impact of proposed changes
  • provides a view of whether your budget is likely to stretch far enough by comparing spend versus progress to date information
  • which activities can experience delay and not impact the milestone or project delivery dates
  • which activities, no matter how small, if delayed will impact the milestone or project delivery dates
  • empower team members to prioritise their work (leaving less wiggle room for blaming activities outside of their control for downtime)
  • sheds light on the 'culture' of your project team - are they good at starting activities (lots of early starts) but lots of progress bars sitting around 90% indicating a reluctance to finish or difficulties in getting sign offs

This information can be used diagrammatically to communicate the project journey to your audience. You do not need a Gantt chart to tell the story, use whatever tool helps your audience to understand the project at a glance. Using the information and adapting it to a format right for your audience ensures the plan is also a key tool underpinning project communications.

"Planning is the basis of all good projects. It looks simple, but it isn’t."

What are your experiences where good project plans have contributed to the success of the project? Share your experiences and what made your plans so successful.

More from our Project Management series

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Further reading and resources for your bookshelf*

To build a plan that works, start by taking the time to understand the key elements of a plan. For an excellent overview on the fundamentals of project planning, the Association for Project Management has a short publication called Introduction to Project Planning. Other well laid out and useful resources linked to.

*As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. This does not cost you anything more if you do decide to purchase the linked items, and we appreciate your support in helping our business to build and grow a repository of useful articles.