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Project planning 101: How to create an effective project plan

Project planning is a crucial phase in the lifecycle of any project. It sets the foundation for what needs to be accomplished and how it will be achieved. Incorporating a structured methodology like PRINCE2® (Projects IN Controlled Environments) can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your project plan.

As a quick-start guide, we’ll share how to create a project plan using PRINCE2's process-based approach.

How to create a project plan using PRINCE2?

Establish a clear business case

A great project plan begins with a detailed business case that justifies the project's necessity. This includes:

  • Understanding the problem or opportunity
  • The expected benefits, costs and risks
  • The rationale behind the project’s feasibility

In line with PRINCE2, the business case drives all decision-making processes, ensuring the project remains viable and aligned with organisational objectives.

Find out how to create a compelling business case.

Define the project organisation

According to PRINCE2, defining the project organisation involves setting up a structured team with clear roles and responsibilities. This includes appointing:

  • The project board: responsible for overall direction and management
  • A project manager: handling day-to-day management, ensuring that the project delivers the expected outcomes

Plan with a focus on products/outputs

PRINCE2 emphasises product-based planning, focusing on the project’s outputs (products). This involves identifying the final products and any intermediate outputs required to deliver them, defining their quality requirements, and understanding how they interrelate.

This approach ensures clarity on the project's delivery, contributing to a more effective project plan.

Outline stages

With a clear understanding of the products, it’s now possible to map out the required stages. PRINCE2 advocates dividing the project into manageable stages, which allows for better control and more accurate monitoring. This includes detailing stages, key activities, resources, timelines, and costs associated with each product.

Manage risks

An integral part of project planning involves identifying potential risks to the project’s success. PRINCE2 provides a framework for risk management, encouraging proactive identification, assessment, and control of risks. This ensures that risks are effectively managed, mitigated, or avoided, safeguarding the project’s objectives.

Discover the power of PRINCE2 in effective risk management.

Engage stakeholders

Identifying and engaging with stakeholders is critical for project success. PRINCE2 recommends establishing a clear strategy for stakeholder communication and involvement. Understanding stakeholders' needs and expectations and keeping them informed and engaged throughout the project ensures their support and addresses any concerns promptly.

Adopt the PRINCE2 principles

While building the plan, it can be helpful to consider the PRINCE2 principles. These principles include reviewing the continued business justification, learning from experience, defining roles and responsibilities, managing by stages, managing by exception, focusing on products, and tailoring to suit the project environment.

These principles guide the project management process, ensuring it remains consistent, relevant, and tailored to the project’s specific needs.

Learn more about the seven principles in PRINCE2.

Continue monitoring

Use the project plan as a baseline to monitor progress, control changes, and manage project issues. PRINCE2’s stage boundaries provide natural points for review, allowing for adjustments and refinements to the plan based on performance and feedback.

Start building your next project plan

Creating an effective project plan is a critical step towards ensuring project success. Incorporating the PRINCE2 methodology adds a layer of structure, discipline, and flexibility, enabling project managers to navigate the complexities of project planning and execution confidently.

By following these steps and adhering to PRINCE2 principles, project managers can develop comprehensive, robust project plans that pave the way for successful project delivery, meeting and exceeding stakeholder expectations.

View our PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile® training courses.