Resource Index > Project Management Activities > Planning and Scope

Planning and Scope

Project planning is more than just scheduling. It covers the entire process of getting agreement across all of the project's stakeholders, customers, and team members. A good project plan outlines the goals and deliverables of the project -- what is being developed -- and the major activities used to achieve those goals. A comprehensive planning document includes the assumptions that were made and identifies major risks as they become known. The planning process allows for changes to this agreement as the project unfolds, and the resulting documentation becomes a living guide to project execution, rather than a hidebound desk ornament. The templates, guidelines, and resources in these pages help you identify the elements of a good project plan, explain how to put a good plan together, and make planning work for your team (instead of the other way around). This is only a partial collection; see our full list of planning and scope templates for more.

Example Project Plans
Every project is different, but the examples below can provide a starting place. Even for projects in a different industry, it can be helpful to see how another project manager handled resource allocations, early planning levels, cross-functional tasks, and more.

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  • User Documentation Plan
    A checklist for planning the creation of the user and support documentation for a product. Examples of this documentation include user and service manuals, labeling text, box inserts, training manuals, etc.
  • Training Plan -- High Level
    A high-level guideline for planning a project to create a training course, or part of a larger project (such as developing a new product) where a training course will be needed for users, customer support people etc.).
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  • Software Project Plan
    This template is a favorite of Barbara Zirolli of HP (see also our interview with her). It contains a wealth of guidance for creating a detailed software development plan, including sizing guidance, tradeoff decisions, and more. The entire template is annotated to explain what should be included in each section.
  • Micro-Project Plan Template and Example
    A simple, fast template for planning so-called micro-projects -- short, usually low-cost, low-effort projects that will take just a few days, or at most a few weeks, to complete. A fast outline to keep you organized and help you spot and overcome obstacles to success.
  • Project Plan Example - Small Project
    Are a 20-30 page dense project plan and hefty schedule file just too much for that smaller but important effort you've got to get done? Check out this example from one company's project to unify its Product Development Life-cycle methodology after an acquisition.
  • Maintenance Planning Guidelines and Plan Outline
    This guideline will help you identify the appropriate types and timing of maintenance planning for your project, integrate it into your overall project plan, and eventually produce a full-blown maintenance plan.
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  • Documenting Project Assumptions and Constraints
    A guideline and suggested format for logging and monitoring key assumptions and constraints that could affect your project. Both detailed guidelines and a basic template containing the most essential data elements are included.
  • Special Event Safety Plan
    This document provides an outline and sample content for a special event safety and emergency plan. Typical events that might need a plan like this include parades, summer concerts, city festivals, and holiday observances. Employers could use a plan like this to improve safety at company picnics, job fairs, or similar events. It will not cover all contingencies, but it will get the conversation started.
  • Project Charter
    Once your project idea has been evaluated and approved for further investigation, you need to communicate the major parameters and high-level information. This template for a succinct project charter helps you summarize that critical information.
  • Project Scope Definition: Statement of Work (SOW)
    One approach to documenting high-level project objectives and key parameters in a concise document. This document should be only about 2 pages long.
  • Project Vision Example: Defining a Software Release Life Cycle
    A Project Vision document example from a medium-sized product development company that created a Software Release Life Cycle (SRLC) process to manage million lines-of-code software releases.
  • Development Project Plan
    An outline for a Development Plan document that summarizes the project goals and the major activities across the different functional groups necessary to achieve those goals.
  • Generic Project Plan Document
    A project plan document outline, with annotations to explain the use of each section, to make it easier to adapt the plan for different situations.
  • Marketing Plan
    An example of a thorough marketing plan outline, highlighting the activities and areas required for an effective marketing campaign. It can be customized for your new product or service, or applied to marketing a product or service already in the channel.
  • New Product Business Plan
    A template for a Product/Project Business Plan that describes a new project for inclusion in the corporate portfolio of projects.
  • Association High-Level Plan for PM Training Program
    A project management and leadership training program for a number of different "customers" of a professional association.
  • Web Conference Planning Activities
    This guideline walks you step-by-step through creating a realistic work breakdown for your online event, including often-overlooked tasks like presenter training and follow-up communications.
  • IT Project Plan Document
    A project plan outline explaining how a project will be executed and monitored, in this case an IT or software development project. Covers management of scope, schedule, cost, quality, process improvement, staffing, communication, risk, and more.
  • Creating a Manufacturing Plan for a New Product
    Manufacturing Plan with early insight and tracking in mind. Allows Operations and Manufacturing to do adequate preparation for people, capital, facilities and other resources while giving visibility to early back and forth tradeoffs with Development.

    What's included in a good project plan?
    More Burning Questions on Project Planning.
Step-by-Step Guidelines for Creating a Project Plan
The project plan includes the schedule and WBS, but it isn't limited to those timelines. The guidelines below provide instructions for creating a comprehensive project plan without burying yourself and your team in paperwork. Other planning documents, like budgets and team responsibility lists, can be found in our main template index.)

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  • When it's time to plan and schedule a project, what matters most?
    Learn what to take into account when planning, how to engage people who don't seem to care, and how to keep your plan based in reality--or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.
  • Project Definition - Vision Document
    Is your project team having problems seeing the project horizon? Improve their eyesight with this agreement on the high-level purpose and scope of the project using a Vision Document.
  • The Schedule and the Project Plan
    The schedule is not the project plan. As the name suggests, the project plan is a collection of documents used to manage the execution of a project. The schedule includes dates for tasks and milestones in the project plan and is an element of the plan, but is not comprehensive enough to be considered a plan.
  • The Benefits of Documentation
    I do not believe in producing documentation (unless the contract specifically requires certain documents) for the sake of documentation. While many technical individuals balk at the thought and mention of documentation, I personally see some real benefits.
  • Five Fundamentals to Avoid Project Failure: The Project Charter
    Knowing how to develop a project charter is a critical skill. Some project managers have never actually created a project charter. When it is overlooked, it sets the project up for failure, immediately!
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  • Why Plan? Let's Just Get Moving!
    Chapter 5 of Scrappy Project Management offers a no-holds-barred view of project management in the real world, along with some of the funniest and most accurate project flowcharts ever drafted.
  • Plan Development – Identify Tasks and Create Schedule
    This guideline covers the steps for developing a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to identify all the activities required to complete a project. Several WBS examples are provided. First in a series.
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  • Plan Development – Assign Resources
    Guidelines on identifying resources needed for each item in a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), including a sample tracking worksheet. Second in a series.
  • Plan Development – Identify Dependencies
    How to identify and capture dependencies in a work breakdown structure (WBS). Third in a series.
  • Plan Development – Estimate Work and Costs
    Guidelines on estimating effort, duration, and costs for items in the work breakdown structure (WBS). Fourth in a series.
  • Plan Development: Project Schedule and Critical Path
    Guidelines on scheduling activities to perform on WBS tasks in order to arrive at an integrated schedule in calendar time. Fifth in a series.
  • Plan Development: Optimizing Project Plan Tradeoffs
    Guidelines for making trade-offs and optimizing the first-pass base schedule, to address conflicts among the scope, time, and resources/costs. Sixth in a series.
  • Plan Development: Create the Project Plan Document
    Guidelines for creating a project plan document providing project essentials like objectives, justification, and how the objectives are to be achieved, and describing how the project will be managed. Seventh in a series.
  • Software Release Life Cycle - Phase 2: Scope Definition
    The Scope Definition Phase is focused on identifying an initial proposed scope for the release, by translating requirements into an initial high-level plan. The management staff must create a picture of the desired upcoming release via a reasonably well understood set of tasks, deliverables, and resource needs.
  • Software Release Life Cycle - Phase 3: Planning and Negotiation
    This document includes a one-to-two page description of recommended deliverables for this phase of a software release project. The Negotiation and Planning phase brings a full release team together, based on the desired release scope. The detailed project plan is created by the team, and the associated budget is formalized and approved.
  • Agile Technique Brief: Agile Planning
    This guideline explains what planning looks like on an agile project, as well as what kind of projects are most likely to benefit from it, and how to organize successful planning for your agile project at the release, iteration, and day-to-day level.
  • Spiral/Iterative Project Phase Approach
    An example of how to use an iterative, or spiral, development model along with time-boxing, to plan and execute a project, taken from an actual project.

    How can I be sure my team is really committing to the schedule we've proposed?
    What's included in a good project plan?
    More Burning Questions on Project Planning.
Other Options
Our book list has references on project planning and scope management.
  • The Project Plan, and the Process to Get There
    A mini-course by Cinda Voegtli. $24.95, 1 PDU
    In spite of what many people think, a project plan is far more than just a schedule, and certainly far less than a book. Above all, project plans are — or should be — a thinking tool to help you and your team get started well.
  • Project Planning and Scheduling Bundle -- $69.95 (Free for Subscribers)
    This step-by-step Project Planning and Scheduling bundle is based on our series of 8 Planning and Scheduling guidelines, which walk you through you the details from Task Identification to Project Plan development.
Typical Planning Issues and Answers to Common Questions
Even the simplest projects can run into challenges around resource availability, reliable task estimates, and general uncertainty about scope and tradeoffs. These resources will help, and more are available on our page about the Initiation and Planning Phase.

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  • Project Flexibility Matrix
    A simple but effective tool that helps guide tradeoff discussions on Scope, Resources, and Schedule.
  • Pete's Estimating Laws
    A loosely bound set of Universal Laws intended as an amusing reminder of possible issues and errors you may run into when estimating project work.
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Other Options
  • Project Planning and Tracking Bundle -- $41.95 (Free for Subscribers)
    This instant-download bundle includes ten of our most popular tools -- a fast path to fundamental techniques that will make any project more manageable.

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