Identify & Meet with Stakeholders
A stakeholder is anyone who is affected by the results of your project plan. That includes your customers and end users. Make sure you identify all stakeholders and keep their interests in mind when creating your project plan.
Meet with the project sponsors and key stakeholders to discuss their needs and project expectations, and establish baselines for project scope, budget, and timeline. Then create a Scope Statement document to finalize and record project scope details, get everyone on the same page, and reduce the chances of costly miscommunication. Here's a Scope Statement Template to get you started. Cost control, in particular, is critical during this stage of the process, as well.
Set your Priorities
Once you have a list of stakeholder needs, prioritize them and set specific project goals. These should outline project objectives, or the metrics and benefits you hope to achieve. Write your goals and the stakeholder needs they address in your project plan so it's clearly communicated and easily shareable.
Define the Deliverables
Identify the deliverables and project planning steps required to meet the project's goals. What are the specific outputs you're expected to produce?
Next, estimate due dates for each deliverable in your project plan. (You can finalize these dates when you sit down to define your project schedule in the next step.)
Set firm milestones for essential deadlines and deliverables. You'll be able to track your progress once work begins to ensure you complete tasks on time and keep stakeholders happy.
Create the Project Schedule
Look at each deliverable and define the series of tasks that must be completed to accomplish each one. For each task, determine the amount of time it will take, the resources necessary, and who will be responsible for execution.
Next, identify any dependencies. Do you need to complete certain tasks before others can begin? Input deliverables, dependencies, and milestones into your Gantt chart, or choose from the many online templates and apps available. Be sure you also understand how to write a project management report for a summary overview of the current status of the project.
Identify Issues and Complete a Risk Assessment
No project is risk-free.
Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best isn’t doing you any favors. Are there any issues you know of upfront that will affect the project planning process, like a key team member's upcoming vacation? What unforeseen circumstances could create hiccups? (Think international holidays, backordered parts, or busy seasons.)
When developing a project plan, you should know how to manage risk in a project and consider the steps you should take to either prevent certain risks from happening, or limit their negative impact. Conduct a risk assessment and develop a risk management strategy to make sure you're prepared.
Project Plan Presentation to Stakeholders
Explain how your plan addresses stakeholders' expectations, and present your solutions to any conflicts. Make sure your presentation isn't one-sided. Have an open discussion with stakeholders instead.
Next, you need to determine roles: Who needs to see which reports, and how often? Which decisions will need to be approved, and by whom?
Make your project plan clear and accessible to all stakeholders so they don’t have to chase you down for simple updates. Housing all project plan data in a single location, like a collaboration tool, makes it easy to track progress, share updates, and make edits without filling your calendar with meetings.
Communicate clearly. Make sure stakeholders know exactly what's expected of them, and what actions they need to take. Just because it's obvious to you doesn't mean it's obvious to them!