Project management doesn't exactly lend itself to freestyling. You can't really wing it and bank on your intuition to successfully guide you as you go. You have to put in a lot of thought, carefully plan, determine relevant metrics, and observe progress on an ongoing basis if you want your project to come to fruition.
And you can't just trust your memory to address all those actions and elements. You need something known as an implementation plan — a document that covers most aspects of your project's blueprint and preferred trajectory.
Here, we'll explore the concept a bit further, review how you can make one of your own, cover the key components yours should include, and look at an example of one done right.
What is an implementation plan?
An implementation plan is a step-by-step list of tasks — all with specific owners and deadlines — designed to outline and guide a strategic plan for carrying out a project. It keeps a project's timeline, stakeholder responsibilities, team dynamics, and resource allocation clear through the implementation process.
Your implementation plan serves as a backbone for your project and a consistent reference point to ensure that you and your team are on track to deliver what you need to on time. It should be well-structured, carefully sequenced, and readily visible to everyone involved.
Everyone from management to lower-level stakeholders needs a comprehensive picture of what's going on, their specific responsibilities, and what to expect from the rest of their team.
The nature and structure of implementation plans vary from organization to organization and project to project. So there's no standard format for what one should look like. Still, there are some key points to consider and components to cover when creating yours.
How to Create an Implementation Plan
1. Pin down your objectives.
The how, what, where, and when of an implementation plan can't be effectively guided without a firm understanding of the why. What's the endgame? What are you hoping to achieve? What do you stand to gain? Who will benefit if it's carried out correctly? How will you know if you succeeded? What metrics will you use to gauge your success?
You need to have a firm grasp on all of those questions before jumping into the rest of this process. Your objective frames the rest of your implementation, dictates how you set goals, and informs how you adapt to new challenges as they emerge.
2. Tap a specific owner for the implementation process.
Your implementation plan is likely going to involve multiple stakeholders, but in most cases, a project can't be carried out efficiently if it's done exclusively by committee. You need to have one primary owner at the helm of the process, keeping everything in check and on track.
This person will be responsible for tasks like assigning responsibilities, keeping tabs on the plan's progress, monitoring lower-level stakeholders, ensuring the execution remains productive, and any other broader actions that keep the broader project moving.
3. Conduct a risk assessment.
You need to have as comprehensive a picture of what might go wrong with your project as possible before you launch into it. That way, you can anticipate any potential hitches and plan how to address them accordingly.
That's why conducting a risk assessment for your implementation plan is so crucial. You need to thoroughly cover your bases to avoid issues like spending outside your budget or missing deadlines.
If you don't know where to start, take a look at similar projects your company or competition might have carried out. See any issues they ran into, and ensure that you have safeguards in place to deal with those problems, should they arise.
4. Set a budget
If your project warrants creating an implementation plan, it's not going to be free. You'll have some funding, but that probably won't come in the form of a blank check. You need to determine an appropriate price range that accounts for what you think the project will cost and what you're comfortable spending to see it through.
You're best off methodically considering how much the individual tasks that compose the plan will cost and applying the findings of your risk assessment to account for other financial issues that might arise. It might also be worth looking into similar projects and using their budgets as a reference point for yours.
5. Allocate individual responsibilities to team members.
Here's one of the key points where your project owner demonstrates why you tapped them for the job. They need to thoughtfully and effectively delegate tasks to the team you've put together. Every task in the plan needs to have someone personally accountable for it.
Team members need to know which pieces of the project they're responsible for, why those pieces are necessary, and why they — specifically — are responsible for them. You also need to clearly establish the results you expect to see from each task. Keep your standards and intentions clear, and you'll get the most out of each stage of the project.
6. Develop a plan schedule.
Once you have the building blocks of your plan squared away, it's time to put a timeline together. Organize your tasks, and set deadlines for when they need to be accomplished and broader milestones that track the project's overall progress.
That said, you should be willing to account for potential hiccups, like scope creep or communication breakdowns. One way or another, you need to put together a tight, well-defined schedule that lends itself to efficiency and positive morale.
Implementation Plan Components
- Relevant Team Members
- Key Tasks
- Schedule and Milestones
- Resource Allocation
- Key Metrics for Success
- Acceptance Criteria
- Success Evaluation
1. Relevant Team Members
Identifying who's going to be involved in a project is one of the points to consider when putting an implementation plan together. You need to have a clearly defined picture of all the stakeholders who will be assuming any responsibilities throughout the implementation process. If you don't, you can't clearly allocate tasks, keep tabs on progress, and ensure your implementation is as organized and well-oiled as possible.
2. Key Tasks
At its core, an implementation plan is meant to document a series of actions, so you can't exactly have one if you don't know what those actions are. When you put your plan together, you have to outline what steps you intend to take to get from start to finish.
3. Schedule and Milestones
As I mentioned in the last section, you need a firm schedule in place to hold stakeholders accountable, keep your implementation on track, and ensure that everyone involved in your project is on the same page.
4. Resource Allocation
Virtually any task specified in an implementation plan — like any task in any context — requires resources. You need to ensure that every stakeholder involved has access to whatever they need to fulfill the responsibilities you've assigned to them. You don't want to leave any team member high and dry without the means to get their job done.
5. Key Metrics for Success
You'll have a hard time determining whether your implementation plan is successful without defining how your success should be measured. By monitoring specific, relevant metrics throughout your project, you can have a pulse on whether your current strategy is effective or if you might need to shift gears.
6. Acceptance Criteria
How will you know when your project is done? What will tell you when your implementation plan has actually been implemented? You need to define the criteria that let you answer those questions before creating your plan and setting it in motion.
7. Success Evaluation
As a sort of extension of the point above, you need to know how you're going to evaluate whether your plan actually worked — and the extent to which it did. Have certain metrics and benchmarks prepared to tell you whether your project accomplished what it needed to.
Implementation Plan Example
Your implementation plan is going to be unique to your team and the project you're carrying out — and the format you go with will likely reflect that specificity. Here is an example of what one could look like.
Image Source: Service Engineering Lab
Your implementation is going to be exactly that — your implementation plan. It's going to be specific to your needs and project specifications. You might not include every component listed here, or you might include some more. Yours could look like the example we've listed, or it could wind up looking different.
Still, this article provides a solid starting point for you to consider when putting yours together. If there's anything to take away from this piece it's this — have a plan in place for your implementation, document it, and track it as your project progresses. If you take those strides, you'll put yourself in the best possible position to see your project through to the other side smoothly and efficiently.