How to Write a Project Development Plan

A good project starts with a well-organised development plan (often just called a project plan) that includes all of the project stakeholders. This document will serve as a blueprint, communication tree and project checklist. Your plan will define and clarify all of the Hows and Whys of your project; in this way, you establish early on guidelines that will better accommodate changes and lend your project a much greater chance of success.

Write an introduction that focuses on the business case for your project. Include references to any studies, meetings or other events that led to the creation of this particular project.

Define your project's objectives and any deliverables, or project products. For example, the deliverables of a software project may include the finished software on a CD, an administrator's manual, a user's manual and a web portal that users use to access the software. Each product should have its own section. You can include detailed specifications in separate appendices, if needed.

List all of the project stakeholders along with their roles and responsibilities. It is important to be clear and concise about who will be responsible for performing each project task--also known breakdown structure--and who is to be notified when there are changes or successful completion of project tasks. See the resources section for a work breakdown structure template.

Document all of the risks to your project. For each risk, state what your contingency plan is should it occur. This section of the document can be as simple as a bulleted list or as complex as a risk assessment with probability rankings. What is most important is that all of the stakeholders understand what could go wrong.

Clarify any assumptions about the execution and completion of the project. For example, if you will require permits or specialised staff to complete the project or if you are handing support off to another team at project close make sure that information is clearly stated.

Establish cost and schedule estimates. Most projects will have separate documents for both a detailed budget and a task-by-task timeline, but your development plan should still give your stakeholders a general idea of what kind of time and expense resources will be needed.

Conclude your plan with a definition of project success and a sign-off page. The signature page should have a line for each of the key stakeholders/decision makers involved in your project, and everyone should sign it before any project work begins.


Before you start from scratch, check to see if your organisation already has a project plan template. If your plan will include any supplemental documents (for example, a separate roles and responsibility matrix or cost-benefit analysis) make sure that the development plan references them and how they can be accessed.

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About the Author

Celeste Banner has been writing for publication since 2005. Her articles have appeared in lifestyle magazines and websites, special interest books and literary journals. She has worked as a project manager and technical writer for over 10 years.

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