You’d never consider walking on stage to give a speech without first understanding what the audience expects to hear, how much time you have, and what you’ll discuss.

The same goes for project management. Taking a project from inception to delivery requires a comprehensive understanding of the process you and your team will follow to execute the work.

That’s where an implementation plan comes in. This document provides a holistic view of your project’s goals, tasks, and deliverables so you can create a course of action to successfully deliver desired outcomes.

What’s an implementation plan?

An implementation plan is a step-by-step outline of the tasks a team must complete to achieve a project’s goals. This document is a single source of truth, providing internal team members and external stakeholders with a comprehensive, high-level view of each project facet. Teams can refer to this document to clarify what they’re working on and why, and clients can better understand project closure deliverables.

Implementation, strategic, and project plans are complementary but have different aims, and it’s essential to understand the difference between the three to leverage each in various use cases:

  • Strategic plan: Sometimes called a strategic implementation plan, a strategic plan documents the strategies a company employs to achieve a specific goal or objective. You might create these documents for a certain project or team or for the organization as a whole.
  • Project plan: Project managers use project plans to define every aspect — from resources to individual tasks to timelines — in detail.
  • Implementation plan: An implementation plan is a simplified project plan, giving team members the information necessary to accomplish their work and meet the initiative’s targets.

The importance of creating implementation guides

Creating an implementation plan is integral to the project planning process and is considered a best practice. It sets the tone for the project, establishing a shared vision of its goals and an understanding of the outcomes, contributing to your team’s success.

Here are a few more benefits of creating and using these plans:

  • Roadmap the project: No matter the project, there will be issues. If it’s simple, the project team might make erroneous assumptions about what they need to accomplish. And additional complexity could lead to uncertainty surrounding task requirements and deadlines. Creating a formal plan with detailed implementation steps defines project execution for smoother progress.
  • Encourage alignment: Sharing a central, accessible document that contains all the information about a project aligns everyone involved — from clients to teammates — on outcomes, timelines, and duties.
  • Foster accountability: This document publicly outlines each team member’s responsibilities and due dates, fostering task and deliverable ownership team-wide.
  • Reduce scope creep: Having clearly defined parameters at the outset is a vital communication tool for project managers to maintain team alignment with the project’s scope. Everyone understands the specific needs and goals, reducing the likelihood of being distracted by work that unnecessarily expands the project’s timeline and scope.

What should an implementation plan include?

An implementation plan can include various components based on the project’s length and complexity. Consider creating a template you can customize depending on the project and team member needs.

Common elements include:

  • Goals and objectives: Define your project’s ultimate goal and the achievements that contribute to its delivery.
  • Scope statement: Create an outline of the work the team must accomplish over the project’s life cycle.
  • Deliverables: Using a work breakdown structure, describe each task, its tangible or intangible output, and how it contributes to the final outcome.
  • Roles and responsibilities: Ensure accountability for each task’s execution by assigning roles and responsibilities to team members.
  • Schedule: Using a project management tool like a Gantt chart, create a timeline that includes dependencies, milestones, and deadlines to ensure timely output delivery.
  • Milestones: Track project progress by identifying key milestones.
  • Success criteria: Collaborate with stakeholders to determine which criteria you’ll use to determine the project’s success or failure.
  • Metrics: Choose key performance indicators (KPIs), objectives and key results (OKRs), or other measures to gauge success.
  • Resource plan: List the assets required to complete the project, including human resources, equipment, and materials.
  • Risk analysis: Outline potential threats to project delivery using a risk assessment tool like a SWOT analysis or RAID log.

How to create an implementation plan: 7 steps

Writing an implementation plan can feel intense the first time, as there are many moving parts. But with the following seven-step guide in hand and while working with fellow leadership professionals, you’re well-equipped to create an effective guide.

1. Define goals

Start by thoroughly understanding your project’s goals, asking your team and important external stakeholders the following questions:

  • What does the organization hope to achieve with this project?
  • What deliverables must the project produce?
  • Who’s this initiative’s target audience?

2. Research

Consult fellow leadership teammates and important external stakeholders to determine the following details:

  • Budget
  • Timelines
  • Resources
  • Staffing

3. Identify risks

Brainstorm with your team to determine all potential risks facing the project. You might complete a SWOT analysis to identify weaknesses and threats and a risk register to prioritize risks and establish who manages them.

Keep an open mind, working flexibility and contingency plans into your document to respect inevitable upcoming adjustments due to roadblocks and delays.

4. Establish milestones

Create a visual roadmap that captures the project’s schedule, milestones, and dependencies so the team can plan their workflows accordingly. Be sure to include some wriggle room in case work estimates require adjustment or something goes wrong. You can also use milestones as success metrics — especially for long-term projects — to keep everyone motivated by measuring how much work they’ve accomplished versus what’s left.

5. Assign work

Create a RACI chart or leverage project management software to delegate roles and responsibilities and clarify assignment expectations. Use whichever method you choose as an assessment tool to monitor progress and performance.

Be sure to explain your assignment choices and use this decision-making process to profile the team’s strengths and abilities.

6. Allocate resources

Allocate and delegate resources, including:

  • Funds
  • Personnel
  • Technology
  • Equipment
  • Software
  • Materials

Then, determine project resourcing based on:

  • Task priority
  • Staffing requirements
  • Available funds and tools
  • Additional resource requirements

7. Share broadly

Once fellow project leaders approve, save and share this document in a centrally-located workspace every teammate can access. Reflect on this plan often to better understand how reality differs from initial planning and make adjustments when necessary.

An implementation plan example

To further illustrate how to fill out this plan type, here’s an implementation example for a team that’s making website updates.

Project goal: Updating website.

Project objectives: Update website to incorporate responsive design, include the latest user experience best practices, and refresh the look.

Success criteria: New website delivered in 12 weeks. Increase average time spent on site by 20% and revenue by 30%. Decrease bounce rate by 10%.

Scope statement: The website update project will require wireframes to outline updated navigation architecture and layout. The graphic design team will generate new visual assets to reflect current branding. The team will reuse existing website copy and functionality in this project.

Resource plan:

  • An internal team of graphic designers, UX specialists, and web developers
  • Space on the preview server for testing
  • Stock imagery for updated graphics
  • Volunteers to conduct end-user testing and generate feedback

Risk analysis: Graphic designers and website developers will be reassigned to higher-priority projects. Existing website functionality will break when integrated with the new, responsive framework. The production server will not be able to keep up with post-launch demand.

Project schedule:

Day 1: Kick-off meeting.
Day 3: Website layout and wireframe development begins.
Day 14: First review of wireframes and feedback delivered to designers.
Day 18–20: Staff holidays.
Day 28: Final review and edit of website wireframes.
Day 30: (milestone) Wireframes delivered to developers. Visual asset creation begins.
Day 40: 50% of website pages created and populated.
Day 50: (milestone) Developers complete website population.
Day 51: Content review. First round of edits delivered.
Day 62: (milestone) Website uploaded to preview server. User testing phase begins.
Day 70: Edits based on user testing delivered to developers.
Day 85: Final user acceptance testing.
Day 88: (milestone) Final approval for launch.
Day 90: (milestone) Website goes live at noon; team party at 3 p.m.

Set your project up for success with Roadmunk by Tempo

Take your implementation plan to the next level with Roadmunk by Tempo, a road-mapping platform that creates stunning visuals you can easily customize to suit your project. Pair this tool with Timesheets by Tempo to track staffing and performance, and you have everything you need to efficiently and effectively complete project deliverables.