A Guide to Project Planning: Software and Process

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Any project must have a project plan. In project management you'll need to understand the software and process to run a project. Discover more in this guide.

[Featured image]: The project manager is going over the process and goals of the project plan.

In most organizations, project planning helps ensure that projects are successful and completed in a timely manner.  Project managers typically use project plans to execute and control project phases to meet a company’s objectives. For projects to be successful it’s crucial for the planning stage to be detailed, meet business requirements, and have a timetable. This guide will help you understand the basics of project planning, including the different types of software and processes involved. 

What exactly is project planning? 

Project planning defines project objectives, determines the resources required, and divides work into manageable tasks. The project planning process results in a project management plan that defines how a project will be executed, monitored, and controlled.

Project planning helps develop a clear and concise statement of a project’s goal. This statement should be achievable, measurable, and specific. Once you have this statement, you can start developing a plan of action to help you achieve your goal. 

Why is project planning important? 

Project planning is important because it helps you to think through the steps necessary to complete a project successfully. By planning, you can avoid potential problems and roadblocks while ensuring your project stays on track. A good project plan:

  • Helps ensure projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the required standard.

  • Facilitates effective communication between all members of a project team

  • Helps identify potential risks and issues at an early stage

  • Helps you communicate your vision and objectives to your team

  • Keeps everyone focused on the goal

What does a project plan consist of? 

A project plan is a document that outlines a project’s scope, objectives, and timeline. A concise project plan helps ensure all stakeholders are on the same page and that the project stays on track.

When creating a project plan, you'll follow these steps: 

1. Develop a project charter to guide the entire project. This document should include the project's objectives, scope, schedule, and budget.

2. Develop a statement of work that outlines the specific tasks to complete to achieve the project's objectives.

3. Create a work breakdown structure to ensure everyone understands what they need to do and is on the same page. This document outlines also outlines who is responsible for each task and when each task needs to be completed.

4. Create a project plan template. This template serves as a roadmap for the entire project, highlighting each milestone and deliverable along the way.

What do you need to do in project planning? 

The process of project planning is critical for project documentation. Following a process to develop a clear, concise plan can increase the chances your project stays on track and meets objectives. The following activities should make up your project plan process.

1. Outline the business case.

You need to outline the business case to get buy-in from the stakeholders. This should include a clear description of the problem the project will solve and the expected benefits.

2. Meet with key stakeholders

You need to meet with key stakeholders to get their input on the project scope and objectives. It’s important to ensure everyone is on board with the project plan before moving forward. Your meeting will involve agreeing on objectives, deliverables, timeline, and budget.

3. Define the project scope.

You need to define the project scope to create a clear roadmap for the team. This includes identifying all of the deliverables and milestones, as well as any risks or assumptions.

4. Assemble a project team.

You need to assemble a project team with the skills and experience necessary to complete the project successfully. The team should be able to work together harmoniously and have a good mix of skills.

5. Determine a project budget.

You need to determine the project budget to ensure sufficient resources are available. This includes estimating all the project costs, such as labor, materials, and overhead expenses.

6. Set project goals and objectives.

You need to set project goals and objectives to measure success and track progress. The goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) and align with the company's strategy.

7. Outline project deliverables.

You need to outline project deliverables to provide a clear understanding of the expectations of the team. This includes creating detailed specifications for each deliverable and setting timelines and milestones.

8. Create a project schedule.

You need to create a project schedule to ensure your team completes all tasks on time and within budget. The schedule should be realistic and allow for flexibility in case of unforeseen delays or issues.

9. Assign tasks to your team members.

This part of the process is critical because it will ensure everyone on your team knows what you expect and when you expect them to do it. This can help avoid bottlenecks and miscommunication later on in the project.

10. Do a risk analysis.

A risk analysis helps you identify potential problems before they happen so you can take steps to prevent or mitigate them from occurring. You'll also need to establish the process for updating your risk register.

11. Create your project plan.

This step involves writing down all the tasks your team needs to complete for your project to succeed and identifying resources needed for each task (people, equipment, money). Once this is done, you'll be able to see how much time each task requires.

What is project planning software? 

Project planning software is a tool that helps you track and manage your project from start to finish. It can help you plan your project, assign tasks, track progress, and more. Project software has become more sophisticated and available through cloud technology, allowing you to access project data across devices wherever you have an internet connection.

Why use project planning software? 

You can reap many benefits by using project planning software. The primary benefit is that it can help you save time. When you have a lot of information to manage, it can be easier to keep track of everything with a system in place. Project planning software can help you stay organized and on track. Project planning software can also help you communicate with your team more effectively. When everyone is on the same page, it can make coordination much easier.

Some other tasks you can perform when using project management software include the following:

  • Prioritize, organize, and allocate responsibilities when using project planning software

  • Create a timeline with milestones and task dependencies

  • Keep track of your progress, costs, and resources

  • Work more closely with the team

  • Share project plans with relevant parties

  • Prepare planned reports

Read more: 11 Key Project Management Skills

There are many project planning software each with its own unique features and benefits, so it's important to evaluate your needs before you choose a solution. Here are some of the most popular project planning software options:


Asana is a great project management software for small businesses. It offers many features like task management, time tracking, and file sharing. You can also create projects and assign tasks to team members. Asana even has a built-in calendar where you can plan your upcoming workload.


ClickUp is a cloud-based software for managing projects, teams, and tasks. ClickUp lets you create projects, organize tasks, assign tasks to team members, track progress, and much more. ClickUp also offers integrations with over 1000 other apps, including Trello, Jira, Google Docs, and Slack. 


Freedcamp is a web-based project management tool designed specifically for people who need help managing multiple projects at once. It features task lists, calendars, file sharing, and other features needed by teams who want to collaborate on a project simultaneously. 


This is a very simple and easy-to-use project management tool that's great for teams of any size. It offers time tracking, progress reporting, and task management features. You can also integrate Hive with other tools like Slack, Google Drive, and Jira.


This is another popular project management tool with many great features like Gantt charts, resource planning, and issue tracking. You can also add comments on tasks, assign tasks to specific users or teams, and collaborate with them through chat. Scoro also has a mobile app for Android and iOS devices so you can access your work from anywhere.


Trello is a popular free project management app for managing projects and collaborating with teams. Trello lets you manage projects across teams or solo efforts using cards representing tasks or ideas for future projects. The tool offers flexible sharing options so team members can collaborate on specific cards from anywhere.


Wrike is a project management and collaboration tool that allows you to manage projects from start to finish. It has a clean, easy-to-use interface and features like easy time-tracking and resource management. Wrike also integrates with other tools you might use for your business, such as Slack and Google mail.

Ready to learn more about project planning? 

If you’re interested in learning more about project management and the opportunities available in project planning, consider gaining a Professional Certificate on Coursera. Google offers a Project Management Professional Certificate that covers a wide range of project management topics, including project initiation, scope management, scheduling, and risk management. Completing this certificate can help you develop the skills and knowledge needed to successfully plan and execute projects. 

Upon successfully completing the program, you'll receive a certificate from Google that will demonstrate your project management knowledge and skills to potential employers.


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Written by Coursera • Updated on

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