Strategic planning and its implementation determine the success of any endeavor: whether it’s starting a business or building a house of your dream – you’ll have more chances for success if you have a well-thought strategy and know how to execute it.
It’s no less important in project management – no matter how great the idea behind a project is or how skilled your resources are, you need to understand HOW exactly you’re going to execute your strategy. You need an implementation plan that transforms your strategy and vision into a set of understandable deliverables. Otherwise, it’s likely to become a waste of time, money, and effort.
In this article, we’ll consider the main characteristics of an implementation plan and provide you with some useful tips on how to create it.
A Project Implementation Plan: A General Overview
Project execution (or in other words implementation) is the third phase of the project lifecycle that comes after initiation and planning and can make or break all the previous efforts. So, to increase the chances for success, the project team needs to be guided by an implementation plan that describes the step-by-step project delivery.
In a nutshell, a project implementation plan is a document that outlines how the project is going to be executed: it identifies the steps on the way to project delivery and describes how the project team will follow them. Also, this plan determines project goals, contains a list of project tasks with roles and responsibilities, necessary resources, and sometimes timelines. Its aim is to determine the processes that lead a project towards successful delivery.
An implementation plan is not the same as a strategic plan, however, they aren’t independent of each other: a strategic plan describes a strategy, while an implementation plan turns a strategy into specific tasks.
Why is it important to create an implementation plan? Here are two convincing reasons for that.
- It serves as a roadmap for the project execution process making it clear and predictable for all its participants: they know exactly what they have to do, when and how.
- It streamlines work on a project by keeping its team members on the same page and providing them with clarity and accountability as to their roles and responsibilities, facilitating effective communication and collaboration between them.
You may be also wondering what the difference between a project plan and a project implementation plan is. Let’s analyze their main characteristics in the table below.
|Project Plan||Implementation plan|
|It’s a formal, approved document used to guide both project execution and project control. The primary uses of the project plan are to document planning assumptions and decisions, facilitate communication among project stakeholders, and document approved scope, cost, and schedule baselines (PMBOK).||It’s a detailed description of activities that must be carried out to complete a project successfully.|
|Answers the following questions: What? Why? When? Who?||Answers the question: How will the project be implemented?|
|Covers the following aspects: managing a project’s scope, requirements, schedule, cost, stakeholders, resources, communication, quality, and risks.||Describes the step-by-step process of project implementation.|
Now that the essence of these plans has become clear, we’ll consider what is usually included into a project implementation plan.
What are the components of an implementation plan?
An implementation plan typically outlines the following information.
- Goals: when working on a project, it’s important to bear in mind what you are aiming to accomplish at the end.
- Implementation schedule: it allows to keep a project on track and contributes to timely delivery.
- Resources: an implementation plan should provide a clear overview of the resources (people, equipment, facilities) required for project execution.
- Roles and responsibilities: this section will give a general outline of who is responsible for certain project activities and what their contribution will be.
- Success metrics: they describe the KPIs to assess the progress of a project and determine how often this assessment will be performed.
- Contingency measures: it’s an essential part of the plan that describes the actions in case something unexpected occurs.
How to Create an Implementation Plan
Following the project implementation steps listed below will allow you to come up with a well-structured implementation plan.
Step 1: Start with the goals
Apart from documenting the goal that you’re planning to achieve at the end, this step also involves explaining the mission statement of a project and listing the assumed risks. Think about possible risks to have more realistic expectations of what the final outcome will be (a more thorough risk assessment will be performed later). This step will be documented in the introduction to the implementation plan.
Step 2: Break down a project into tasks
Represent a project as a list of tasks that must be completed to ensure the project delivery. Establish important milestones and due dates, set priorities.
Step 3: Define the team members’ roles and responsibilities
Outline all the participants belonging to the project team and assign the roles and responsibilities to them. Clearly defined roles make the whole implementation process more organized and transparent. Note that assigning roles is not the same as assigning tasks: a person may have one role, but perform several different tasks.
Step 4: Create a schedule
This schedule should be flexible and involve only milestones, not all the project tasks’ deadlines. Determining them can be ineffective: it may cause unnecessary delays and reduce employees’ efficiency due to student syndrome and Parkinson’s law effects. But scheduling milestones as a certain implementation timeline is important to keep the whole project on track and monitor the team’s progress.
Step 5: Think of possible risks
One of the prerequisites for successful project implementation is analyzing possible risks and being able to respond to them properly – it can protect a project against unexpected events.
Perform risk assessments together with the project team, analyze what consequences these risks will result in, think of the ways you’ll respond to them, and document all this information. It’s a good idea to use previous experience if you managed similar projects before.
Step 6: Allocate resources
Assigning the right resources to the right tasks ensures efficient and effective work on a project. This section of the implementation plan should answer the questions: Are there enough resources for completing project tasks? What equipment and facilities are required? Who has necessary skills and capacity for completing the tasks? So, the main purpose of this part of the plan is to make sure that the project has all the necessary resources for successful implementation.
Step 7: Specify success metrics
Define what metrics you will use to assess progress (e.g. resource utilization rate, earned value, and plenty of others that will vary depending on the type of a project), and how often this assessment should be performed. It’s important that these metrics touch upon all sides of the project implementation process: schedule, scope, budget, and resource utilization.
These were the main blocks reflecting project implementation stages that should be included into a project implementation plan. And now, let’s consider some recommendations that will make the project implementation process more smooth and lead to better outcomes.
How to Make Project Execution Maximum Effective
Implementation of a project can be accompanied by significant hurdles, such as poorly defined goals, a lot of uncertainty in the business environment, insufficient project staffing, improper risk management, adding extra projects, and a great many factors that can create significant roadblocks in the project implementation process. The way how a project is managed matters as well. A lot of project management processes can be improved thanks to utilizing project and resource management software solutions: you can get a comprehensive view of a project’s workflow with all the tasks, milestones, and resources; improve scheduling and resource allocation; automate some routine activities; and predict possible bottlenecks beforehand.
Let’s dwell upon the opportunities modern project and resource management tools open up through the example of Epicflow, and how they can optimize the project implementation process.
Why Epicflow? First, because it has been designed for a complex multi-project environment which is becoming more and more common in modern organizations. Secondly, because its features cover all the sides of project management: from each employee’s task management to efficient utilization of multiple resources in a large organization. So, let’s take a closer look at the Epicflow’s features that help improve project workflows and describe one feature per each group as an illustrative example.
The peculiarity of Epicflow’s Task List is that it provides each team member with a prioritized list of assignments. The most critical tasks are marked with colors and given specific numbers indicating the task’s priority, so that everyone knows what to work on first. In addition, it’s updated automatically every time any changes occur. Working on highest priority tasks is crucial for successful project implementation: whatever happens, the team will be capable of delivering the desired output by completing the most critical tasks first.
A comprehensive view of all the projects running in an organization is available in the Pipeline. In the same manner as in the Task List, it represents a prioritized list of projects with their milestones. The projects with the most constrained milestones, i.e. those that require maximum attention, are displayed on the top. Thus, the project implementation process can be constantly monitored and none of possible bottlenecks are overlooked.
One of the important resource management features that contributes to successful project implementation is the Future Load Graph. It analyzes employees’ current tasks together with their capacity and availability to predict what workload they will have in the future. In such a way, you can foresee resource bottlenecks caused by overload or resource shortages and ensure streamlined project implementation.
What-If Analysis is your advisor in making informed decisions. One of its applications is risk management: e.g. you can identify possible risks to your project, analyze different variants of responding to these risks and how these scenarios will affect the final outcome. After that, it will be much easier to come up with a certain decision and respond to a risk in the most reasonable way.
Want to learn more about Epicflow’s features that facilitate successful project implementation? Let us know by booking a demo.