5 Key Elements of a Successful Project Plan


Forgetting or neglecting an essential element of a project plan can cause the whole thing to derail. For those on the cusp of launching something big, here are the key pillars you need to be laser focused on and set firmly in place, so the whole thing doesn’t come toppling down.

1. Clear Objective and Scope

Defining this aspect of your project plan is crucial. It’s essentially the “table of contents,” sketching out every part of the project puzzle. You need to have:

  • Clearly outlined measurable goals
  • An estimate of how long the project is going to take
  • A breakdown of where the project should be at predetermined time
  • A well-defined budget that takes into account various contingencies
  • A list of all the key contributors and a breakdown of what their role entails

Try to eliminate any and all ambiguity.

It’s next to impossible to achieve something (especially when it involves a team of people!) when there’s no clear outline or plan specifically listing what it is they’re expected to do.

For those who are embarking on something for the first time, do yourself a favor and research similar endeavors. When conducting your analysis, focus on what went wrong and what went well. The more prepared you are, the better the outcome will be.

2. A Centralized Hub

Projects contain a ton of moving parts. There’s the work itself, there’s vendors, clients, and then there’s payroll and communication within the team. The last thing you want is for any of this to become scattered, or worse, forgotten.

Thankfully, there are a ton of project and professional services automation software solutions that do all sorts of cool things. From communication within teams to resource allocation, risk management—even payroll.

In addition, many are capable of providing valuable data and metrics to ensure you’re getting real-time insight into—well—whatever it is you want to track.

Ideally, you want a software solution that is customizable, giving you the ability to create something that captures the specific needs of your industry or project.

Having everything related to the project in one centralized hub makes it so much easier to just focus on the task at hand.

3. Project Schedule

Having a predetermined project schedule with comprehensive milestones and a detailed resource management plan ensures the project doesn’t stall, get stuck, or grind to a halt.

The goal is to adhere to the schedule as best you can, however, it’s important to have a little flexibility and make modifications as necessary.

4. Project Communication & Documentation

What is something every successful project has in common? Stellar communication between teams, and a clear outline of task details and expectations within each role. What is the biggest reason most projects flop? Poor communication.

Designate a centralized place where communication happens. Schedule regular check-ins, and make sure everyone knows exactly what’s expected of them, and when.

If there is a particular chain of command the team is expected to report to, make sure that protocol is shared.

If the project involves communication with stakeholders, define what that looks like. How often will you communicate with them, and what channels will you use?

In addition to communication, it’s important to document. If the project plan is changed or modified in any way, document the reason.

It can also be helpful to have a “lessons learned,” list, something to bear in mind when embarking on projects in the future.

Most project management software systems have built-in communication threads, which are really helpful ways to preserve communication.

5. Risk Mitigation Strategies

Things can—and will—go wrong. Given the circumstances of your project, what are some potential issues you can foresee happening, and how do you plan on navigating them, if they occur?

How about your team? Ask the experts assigned to each role if there are any potential weak spots they can predict, and what their recourse would be if it comes to pass.

Being aware and ready for potential pitfalls saves both time and money, should one or more come to pass.


Communicate regularly with the team, and remain flexible enough to bend and change when something isn’t working. If you bear this in mind when creating your project plan, you’ll end up with something strong enough to weather any mishaps. The plan you create will carry you and your team each step of the way, from start to finish.