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Project Plan Creation – Structure & Examples

The creation of a project plan is one of the most important methods of project management. This is because this central element bundles all plans, tasks, and deadlines that are important for successfully implementing a project.

The goal of a project plan: clarity!

The project plan significantly reduces the complexity of your project. In this article, you will learn how to create a proper project plan (including an example) and which software can help you find all the relevant information.

Definition: What is a project plan? 

Although the term project plan is widely used, it is not clearly defined. The project plan is created and continuously updated by the project manager or at the beginning of the process. This maintenance is one of the most crucial project management tasks and takes a significant part of the working time, especially in larger projects. Depending on how extensive the project is, this plan can be more or less detailed. The crucial thing is a clear and understandable structure, especially for complex projects.

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Work breakdown structure or project plan?

The work breakdown structure (WBS) contains the complete representation of all components of a project. For this purpose, the project is broken down hierarchically into subprojects and tasks. The work breakdown structure also shows the relationships between different project elements, but not the time sequence. The term work breakdown structure (WBS) already contains the principle of dividing components of the project. In terms of its graphic structure, the work breakdown structure is usually reminiscent of an organization chart, which shows the hierarchy of tasks.

If you supplement this plan with a time axis, we speak of a project execution plan. This also contains defined dates for the start and end of the project. The project schedule can also be supplemented with milestones that represent particularly important events or deadlines in the course of the project. 

The project schedule is graphically similar to a calendar or a timeline. It gives you an overview of all deadlines in the entire project.

How to create a project plan 

The best method to creating your project plan is to proceed step by step. A helpful approach is to focus on the question words, which you probably already know from project management.

Once you have answered all of these questions, nothing is standing in the way of your project plan for each individual project phase.

The 7 question words of project management: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? And of course, how much?

Where are we in the project?

Let’s start by looking at the initial situation of your project. Have you planned and executed similar projects in the past? Finding out which basics and prerequisites you will need to work on your project should always be the first step in creating your further planning.

Check whether you can adopt certain elements, processes, or templates. What information is already available and what is still missing to start implementing the project?

Why should this project be carried out?

This question is very important and yet often neglected. What (economic) benefits do you expect from this project? When is the investment worthwhile (return on investment)? What opportunities does this project offer? In a typical project clarification, one also speaks of the expected success outlook towards which one is working.

By answering these questions, you can prevent pointless projects from being initiated. On the other hand, if the benefit is clear, this consideration will help you to inspire others for your project, even in difficult phases.

The best method to creating your project plan is to proceed step by step.

 What do we want to achieve in this project?

To avoid misunderstandings and conflicts, everyone involved must know what the project goal is. The clearer and more measurable, the better! Try to formulate your goals according to the S.M.A.R.T principle. Unlike the success outlook, the project goal should describe very specifically what will be created, produced, or delivered directly as part of the work – not what it is intended to achieve in the long term.

In turn, it should also be clear what goals are not being pursued by the project. If this question has been considered and answered in-depth, it is much easier to follow up during project management if difficulties arise.

Who is involved in this project?

At this point in the creation of the project plan, you work out who is associated with this project. Who are the people involved in the project, and what roles should each team member play? It’s not just about the direct project team, but also other parties involved, called stakeholders.

Here you should also check whether there are other interested or affected parties and how they can be taken into account. You should also define rules for cooperation within the team. For example, is there regular coordination in the form of a weekly or monthly catch-up?

How will this project be structured?

Of course, you should not neglect the last question for the creation of your project plan. This is about resources and how much they may cost. Calculate how much effort will be required for the individual work packages.

How should the budget be divided, and what are the total costs? The project costs are often already specified by the client, resulting in the (internal) cost planning.

By when should the project goal be achieved?

Often, a client will give you a deadline for the project, but you should set the deadline yourself for internal projects. In addition, you can divide the project into different time stages and milestones at this point. For example, determine when important sub-goals should be achieved.

How much should the project cost?

Of course, you should not neglect the last question for the creation of your project plan. This is about resources and how much they may cost. Calculate how much effort will be required for the individual work packages.

How should the budget be divided, and what are the total costs? The project costs are often already specified by the client, resulting in the (internal) cost planning.


The correct structure of a project plan

That’s all for the content and basis of a project plan; now it’s time for the structure! The main characteristic of the structure is that all elements are structured hierarchically. A project consists of subprojects, which in turn consist of work packages, which are composed of subtasks.

Once you have created a suitable plan, you can use it as a project plan template. Such templates facilitate the start of all further projects enormously, and many tools offer corresponding functions.

All components of the project are arranged in a kind of tree structure. 

Create project plan – example

Here’s an example to help clarify: Imagine you want to plan a larger event to celebrate an important milestone with your colleagues. The sub-projects “Organize team event” include the sub-projects “Location,” “Catering,” and “Plan schedule.”

The sub-project Location includes, for example, the work packages Research, Booking, and Preparation / Decoration. And the research work package includes, for example, the tasks of obtaining quotes and checking availability.

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Project schedule with Gantt chart

Let’s stay with the project plan example, Organize Team Event. While you’ve only shown the structure of the existing elements of the project plan so far, what’s missing now is a time-based classification. Otherwise, there is a high risk of the event falling through due to a lack of lead time. So you always need to make sure you have a project schedule (see above).

A particularly widespread way of presenting a schedule is as a so-called Gantt chart. This was developed at the beginning of the last century by Henry Gantt.

A particularly widespread way of presenting a project plan is as a so-called Gantt chart.

In a Gantt chart, the duration of the individual work packages is represented as bars. The arrangement of these bars on a horizontal time axis defines the beginning and the end of a task. 

Especially in comparison to a classic calendar representation, the Gantt chart has the advantage that it can represent hierarchies and dependencies, making it much better for tasks that run over a long period of time.

Create a project plan in awork

First, create a work breakdown structure by entering all components of your project in awork. It is best to proceed hierarchically. Second, make a list for each subproject in your awork project. Then add the corresponding tasks to this list, for which you can define subtasks.

To create a project schedule, switch from the list view to the timeline view. This shows all the tasks of your project over time – like a Gantt chart, only better.

The timeline is perfect for visual scheduling.

Tasks for which you have already set a start and end date are automatically displayed in the timeline. Unscheduled tasks can be dragged and dropped from the list on the right side of the screen.

Especially handy: To avoid your planning becoming unnecessarily long, you can display several tasks in one line in awork. This is one of the main differences between the timeline in awork and a generic Gantt chart, where there is only room for one task per line.

Now define dependencies between the tasks so that it is clear which things are to be worked on first. Finally, you can add important milestones by clicking on the respective date. Planning projects has never been easier!

As soon as you start working on your project tasks, they change color in the timeline, so you can always see the current status. In addition, it is always clear who is currently working on a topic – the user’s face is displayed directly in the task.


Let’s summarize:

At first glance, it may seem very complex to create a project plan. However, this plan will save you a lot of time and hassle in project management. So make sure to keep the plan up to date as you go along!

Take your time to answer the 7 question words (Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? And how much?). Don’t forget to write down all project elements in a structured and complete way, preferably in a project management tool, and last but not least, integrate a timeline and define the milestones. 

The home remedy of the Excel spreadsheet should be avoided at all costs. Updating a “hand-made” project plan is no fun, error-prone, and unnecessarily time-consuming. Instead, let a clever software like awork support you, and nothing will stand in the way of your successful project!

Create a project plan – FAQs

What is a project plan?

A project plan bundles all plans and tasks that are important for the successful execution of a project. A work breakdown structure (WBS) is the complete representation of all project elements, and their relationships is called a work breakdown structure (WBS). A project execution additionally contains the time schedule.

How is a project plan structured?

A project plan contains all components of the project. Usually, a project consists of subprojects, which in turn consist of work packages composed of subtasks. The individual elements are structured hierarchically in the project plan to create a kind of tree structure.

Why is a project plan useful?

The project plan significantly reduces the complexity of your project. It presents all components of a project clearly and thus creates a clear and understandable structure. This saves a lot of time and trouble in project management.

How do I create a project plan?

Write down all project elements in a structured and complete manner. It is best to proceed hierarchically and orient yourself on the 7-W questions (Where? Why? What? Who? How? Until when? How much?). Once you have presented all project components, you can integrate a timeline and define milestones.

Which software do I use to create a project plan?

awork offers smart features that support you in creating your project plan. You can map all project elements in lists, tasks and subtasks and structure them hierarchically. The awork timeline is suitable for visual time planning. You can plan tasks via drag-and-drop, define dependencies and milestones.