What is an Implementation Plan and How Do You Make One?

What is an implementation plan?

What is an implementation plan?

An implementation plan, also known as an actionable roadmap or a strategic plan, is a comprehensive project management tool that outlines the steps, resources, and timeline required to achieve a shared objective. It breaks down big-picture goals into measurable project phases, tasks, and subtasks and assigns them to team members responsible for completing and approving them. The perfect implementation plan includes:

  • objectives
  • requirements
  • scope assessment
  • deliverable outlines
  • task due dates
  • scheduling
  • risk assessment
  • stakeholder, team, and process management plans
  • team member roles and responsibilities
  • resource management
  • communication tools

The implementation plan differs from the strategic plan, which is done on an organizational level, allocating resources to make the company strategy come to life. Instead, the implementation plan maps out how to implement the strategic plan effectively and manage it as it is put into place.

An implementation plan is presented as a written document or planned in a project management solution. Project management software simplifies the implementation planning process by offering robust online Gantt charts, task lists, kanban boards, calendars, and sheets. A flexible implementation plan is crucial for dealing with changes that may arise during the project’s implementation.

Why you should start every project with an implementation plan

An implementation strategy or plan is a guide that outlines the necessary steps a team should take to achieve a shared goal or initiative. It serves as the action plan for turning a strategy into specific tasks. Implementation planning is the counterpart to a strategic plan, which details the strategies to hit a particular goal.

An implementation plan answers a project’s who, what, when, how, and why before moving into the execution phase.

Creating an implementation plan at the start of each project is crucial for ensuring its success and objectively measuring that project’s success afterward. In addition, it fosters a shared vision and understanding and points toward a clearly defined goal.

Teams that create a thorough and functional implementation plan usually benefit from these four advantages, among others:

It creates a clear plan of what needs to be done

Projects range from simple to complex; the more complex they are, the more confusion can arise. This confusion occurs when team members need clarification about what to do, when to do it, or why they’re doing it, regardless of complexity level.

To prevent this chaos, a project implementation plan serves as the solution. It provides a roadmap of what lies ahead and outlines the scope of work, which helps all parties involved to understand the path forward.

It helps everyone understand goals and communicate better

Having a clear understanding of the project goals helps team members align their efforts toward achieving the desired outcome. When everyone is working towards a common objective, it minimizes confusion and maximizes productivity. Additionally, it helps team members stay motivated and focused on the bigger picture instead of getting bogged down in minor details.

A central document containing all relevant aspects of the project is a reference point for teams, managers, executives, vendors, and customers.

By providing a clear view of the project’s scope, objectives, timelines, and resource requirements, this document fosters transparency and collaboration among all stakeholders. It also ensures that everyone is on the same page and helps to avoid misunderstandings, duplication of effort, and wasted resources. By implementing these practices, teams can communicate effectively and work towards a common project goal.

It holds your team members responsible

Many businesses have projects that fail, and sometimes no one takes responsibility for the problems or the failure. However, it’s important to identify team members or groups consistently failing to deliver.

A good project plan clarifies who is responsible for what in the project. This helps managers and team leaders understand who is accountable for their work. When people are held responsible for their work, teams are more likely to achieve better results.

It helps the team work together and stay focused on the same goal

Scope creep, which occurred in over a third of projects in 2022, cannot be entirely eliminated and sometimes may be necessary. However, not all scope creep is beneficial, and longer or more complex projects often lead to team members losing sight of the top-level goals and steps needed to reach them.

To prevent this loss of focus and the scope creep that results from it, a project implementation plan maintains a clear focus on the big-picture goals and the steps necessary to achieve them. If a change in scope is needed, it should be documented within or alongside the implementation plan.

This approach helps to keep the entire team on track, ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives, and minimize the impact of scope creep on the project.

How to create an implementation plan in 6 steps

To create an effective implementation plan for your project team, follow specific steps and include the necessary components. The process may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.

Following these six steps, you can create a plan that keeps your project and team on track. These steps will help reduce the risk of gaps in your strategy and can serve as a template for future projects.

1. Define goals, objectives, and milestones

To create a project implementation plan, it’s important to first establish project-level goals, objectives, and milestones. This involves determining what you’re trying to accomplish, what needs to happen to reach those goals, and what intermediate steps or milestones demonstrate progress toward the project’s objectives.

Once you’ve achieved buy-in from key stakeholders and project team members on these goals, strategic plans, and milestones, you’re ready to proceed to step two.

In defining your project goals, consider what you hope to accomplish when the project is complete and what deliverables you hope to produce. It’s also helpful to ask questions and brainstorm potential risk scenarios early on in the process to get a more realistic idea of what you can achieve.

By starting with clear project objectives, you can more effectively flesh out your project plan and reduce the risk of gaps in your strategy.

Tips to consider:

  • Ask questions – When setting project goals, it’s helpful to ask questions like “What do we want to achieve with this project?” and “What will we deliver?” You should also consider who will receive the project deliverables.
  • Brainstorm risk scenarios – Thinking about potential risks at the outset of a project gives you a better idea of what you can realistically achieve. This is a good foundation for the risk assessment you’ll do later.

2. Conduct research

Conducting research is an important step in developing a successful implementation plan. This can involve various methods such as interviews, surveys, and focus groups with subject matter experts or external stakeholders.

By gathering this information, you can better refine your project goals, timeline, budget, and personnel. Additionally, observing the processes of other teams or organizations who have completed similar projects can also offer valuable insights.

Tips to consider:

  • Work together using a team collaboration tool  You need the right communication tools to collaborate effectively. A team collaboration tool allows you to share project goals and receive feedback from others, no matter where they are located.

3. Brainstorm and map out risks

To avoid any unexpected situations, it’s important to identify and prioritize all the potential risks in a project. You can do this in step one by brainstorming risk scenarios and then in step three by mapping out all the risks you may face. Risks include budget constraints, personnel loss, or time off.

One tool to help prioritize project risks is a risk register. It helps prepare for and manage risks accordingly. Another way to identify potential risks is by conducting a SWOT analysis.

Although some risks cannot be predicted or planned for, many can be discovered with brainstorming and planning. By mapping out the known risks and potential mitigation strategies, you can significantly reduce their impact on your project.

Tips to consider:

  • Be flexible and proactive – Identifying and mapping out risks is important because it helps you prepare for potential problems. If you find any risks that can be prevented during this stage, you can take steps to avoid them. You may also need to change your project goals to manage risks.

4. Schedule milestones

Setting project milestones is crucial to track progress during the execution stage. Milestones serve as markers to measure how much progress the team has made and what’s left to be achieved.

Use a Gantt chart to visually display project milestones and schedule to keep everyone on track. This chart helps show each task’s duration and effectively manages the entire project timeline.

Tips to consider:

  • Add wiggle room – Having extra time in your schedule can help your project stay on track, even if unexpected things happen. It’s better to plan for some flexibility than to have tight deadlines that you can’t meet.
  • Set clear dependencies – Dependencies are tasks that require the completion of other tasks. Identifying dependencies can help you stay on track and achieve project milestones.

5. Assign responsibilities and tasks

A practical action plan must clearly list the responsibilities of each team member. This helps to monitor progress and assess the performance of each member. A RACI chart is a helpful tool to clarify roles and responsibilities.

In addition to assigning tasks, it’s important to assign responsibilities. This means assigning tasks to specific people or groups. By doing this, everyone knows what they need to do and when they need to do it. This step helps ensure successful project execution by holding everyone accountable for their assigned tasks.

Tips to consider:

  • Communication is key – When assigning tasks, explaining why each team member was chosen is essential. This can help them understand their roles better and feel more confident in their abilities.
  • Stay on top of responsibilities in a shared tool – You can improve team communication and task management by using project management software, which allows team members to have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and deadlines.

6. Allocate resources

Allocating resources is a crucial step in successful project management. Assigning tasks is not enough; you must ensure the right resources are available for each task. This involves assessing whether the resources you have are enough to complete the project.

Resource allocation includes assigning tasks to available resources such as personnel, money, equipment, and time. Ensuring that each resource is not overburdened with too many individual tasks is important. Once the plan is finalized, it becomes the single source of truth for the team and other stakeholders. Therefore, make sure to store it in a central, accessible location.

Tips to consider:

To ensure that your project has the necessary resources, consider the following questions:

  • How important is the project?
  • Who is free to work on the project?
  • What is the budget, and what tools are available?
  • Do we need any additional resources?
  • Who needs to approve the resource allocation plan?

Following these steps and having a checklist can increase the chances of achieving your project goals with a successful implementation plan.

Essential components of a great implementation plan

Most implementation plans contain essential elements, but they can vary depending on the project. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a solid foundation for the plan and include essential items while adding any elements specific to your project.

The list below outlines the six most important items to create a successful project.

1. Objectives

In the implementation process, the first step involves outlining project objectives and determining the metrics to measure progress. This helps the team to monitor progress and key performance indicators.

Obviously, achieving these objectives is essential to reach the goal of a project.

2. Scope statement

The project scope is set through research in step two of the implementation process. The scope statement outlines the project’s boundaries and defines the goals, deadlines, and outcomes.

Defining the project scope in the implementation plan is crucial to prevent scope creep as the project progresses.

3. Outline of deliverables

The deliverables are the concrete outcomes of your project. Listing the deliverables you plan to produce can help manage timelines, delegate tasks, and allocate resources in your project plan.

4. Task due dates

During the implementation planning phase, it is crucial to specify the expected due dates for project tasks, even though they may be subject to change as the project progresses. This can help with scheduling milestones and ensuring the project’s timely completion.

Gantt charts are commonly used for strategic and implementation planning as they show information in a linear format similar to a timeline.

5. Risk assessment

During step three of your implementation process, you’ll perform a risk assessment to identify potential risks. To conduct this assessment, you can use different tools like a risk register, SWOT analysis, or contingency plan.

It’s essential to include these documents in your plan so that others can review them and help you prevent these risks.

6. Team member roles and responsibilities

n step five of your implementation plan, you assigned roles and responsibilities to team members. Keeping a detailed record of these responsibilities can help hold everyone accountable. You can use tools such as a RACI chart to clarify team member roles and make it easier for everyone to understand what’s expected of them.

While the above items are key components of an implementation plan, your plan may include other elements specific to your project. However, using these items as a guide can help ensure your plan is comprehensive.

The implementation plan and strategic plan share many similarities, so working on them concurrently can save time. A work management platform can also help streamline the planning process by keeping all plans in one place, making it convenient for your team to access them.

Frequently asked questions about implementation plans

What is the difference between an action plan and an implementation plan?

An action plan only lists tasks and work, while an implementation plan covers more things like risks, resources, and team responsibilities.

What is an implementation plan in business?

A business implementation plan is a series of actions a company takes to implement its strategic plan and achieve its business objectives.

What is an implementation plan in project management?

An implementation plan is useful for project managers as it helps them control smaller parts of a project within the larger project plan. This includes executing risk mitigation actions, handling change requests, or producing specific deliverables.

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What is an Implementation Plan and How Do You Make One?
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How to Drive Results in Business Development