An implementation plan—also known as a strategic plan—outlines the steps your team should take when accomplishing a shared goal or objective. This plan combines strategy, process, and action and will include all parts of the project from scope to budget and beyond. In this guide, we’ll discuss what an implementation plan is and how to create one.
Projects require planning to be successful. Would you build a house without a blueprint? Probably not, because nailing pieces of wood together without a plan could lead to disaster. The same concept is true in the corporate world. An implementation plan functions as the blueprint for any shared objective. Your plan should include everything from the project strategy, to the budget, to the list of people working on the project.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what an implementation plan is and how to create one. These steps can help you and your team prepare for projects both big and small.
An implementation plan is a document that outlines the steps your team should take to accomplish a shared goal or initiative. Implementation planning is the counterpart to a strategic plan. If the strategic plan details what strategies you will use to hit a specific goal, the implementation plan is the step-by-step guide for how those goals will be achieved.
The purpose of an implementation plan is to ensure that your team can answer the who, what, when, how, and why of a project before moving into the execution phase. In simple terms, it's the action plan that turns your strategy into specific tasks.
A good way to know whether your implementation plan is effective is to hand it to someone outside of your team and see if they can understand the project in its entirety. Your implementation plan should leave no questions unanswered.What is strategy implementation + 6 key steps to success
If you want your implementation plan to be comprehensive and beneficial to your project team, you’ll need to follow specific steps and include the right components. Use the following steps when creating your plan to reduce the risk of gaps in your strategy.
The first step in the implementation process is defining your goals. Determine what you hope to accomplish when your project is complete, like whether you hope to win over a new marketing client or revamp your internal content strategy. Starting with your project objectives in mind can help flesh out your project plan.
Tips to consider:
Ask questions: When defining your goals, you and your team may want to ask questions about your project such as, “What are we trying to achieve with this project? What deliverables do we hope to produce? Who are the stakeholders we plan to share our project deliverables with?”
Brainstorm risk scenarios: Although you’ll perform a more in-depth risk assessment later on in your implementation plan, brainstorming potential risk scenarios early on gives you a more realistic idea of what you’re able to achieve.
Once you have a broad idea of the project goals you want to achieve, you can hone in on these goals by conducting research such as interviews, surveys, focus groups, or observations. Your research should come from key experts in your field. These experts may be team members or external stakeholders. Your research outcomes should include a list of what your project timeline, budget, and personnel may look like.
Tips to consider:
Collaborate using shared tools: Collaboration is easier when you have the right communication tools in place to do so. Use a team collaboration tool to share your project goals and get feedback from others, regardless of their location.
You brainstormed risk scenarios in step one of your implementation strategy, and in step three, you’ll map out all the potential risks you may face in your project. Risks can include anything from paid time off and holidays to budget constraints and loss of personnel.
A great way to map out your risks is by using a risk register. This tool will help you prioritize project risks and prepare for them accordingly. You can also conduct a SWOT analysis, which will identify any weaknesses or threats affecting your project.
Tips to consider:
Be flexible and proactive: Mapping out risks is more than just a preparation strategy. If you identify preventable risks during this stage of the implementation plan, you can take action to prevent those risks. This may mean adjusting your initial project goals.
Scheduling your project milestones is an important step in the planning process because these checkpoints help you track your progress during execution. Milestones serve as metrics—they are a way to measure how far you’ve come in your project and how far you have left to go.
To visualize project milestones and keep your entire team on track, use a Gantt chart. With a Gantt chart, you can visually lay out your implementation schedule and show how long you think each task will take.
Tips to consider:
Add wiggle room: Things don’t always go as planned, even if you do everything in your power to a schedule. By adding wiggle room to your schedule, you can ensure your project stays on track instead of keeping tight milestones and failing to meet them.
Clarify dependencies: Dependencies are tasks that rely on the completion of other tasks. Clarifying your dependencies makes it easier to keep the project on track and hit your milestones.
Every action plan must include a list of responsibilities with team members assigned to each one. By assigning responsibilities, you can assess the performance of each team member and monitor progress more closely. Using a RACI chart can be an effective project management tool for clarifying roles and responsibilities.
Assigning responsibilities is different from assigning individual tasks. One team member may be responsible for overseeing the project review, while you may assign three other team members to handle the delivery and communication of the project to various teams for review. When you assign responsibilities and tasks, be sure to make your expectations clear.
Tips to consider:
Communication is key: When you assign roles, responsibilities, or tasks, it’s best to communicate why you’re choosing one team member over another. Instead of letting team members question why they have specific roles, you can use this step in the planning process as an opportunity to highlight team member strengths.
Track responsibilities in a shared tool: Having a shared tool, like project management software, can give team members clarity on who's doing what and by when.
Resource allocation is one of the best ways to reduce risk. If you can plan out what resources you need for your project and ensure those resources will be available, you’ll avoid the risk of running out of resources mid-project. If you notice that you don’t have enough resources in this step of the implementation process, you can adjust your project accordingly before it kicks off.
Resources may include money, personnel, software, equipment, and other physical or technical materials. Time can also be a resource because the team members you need to complete the project may be working on other projects.
Tips to consider: Ask yourself the following questions when identifying available resources for your project:
What is the project’s priority level?
Who is available to work on this project?
What budget or tools are available?
What additional resources do we need?
Who needs to approve the resource allocation plan?
Following these steps as you create your implementation plan will increase the likelihood of hitting your project goals. Having a checklist of the items to include in your implementation plan can also lead to successful implementation.
Knowing how to create your implementation plan is crucial, but you also need to know what to include in your plan. This checklist includes the six most important items you’ll want to consider if you want to move forward with a successful project.
You’ll outline your project objectives in step one of the implementation process. Set your goals and decide what metrics your team will use to measure to monitor progress. By clearly identifying your project objectives, you and your team can measure progress and performance as you move forward.
You’ll set the scope of your project in step two when conducting research. Your project scope statement should outline the boundaries you’ve set for your project and broadly define what goals, deadlines, and project outcomes you’ll be working toward. Defining your project scope in the implementation plan can help prevent scope creep when you’re farther along in the project.
Deliverables are the tangible goals of your project. Outlining the deliverables you hope to create can serve as a resource when managing time frames, delegating tasks, and allocating resources.
Although the project timeline may change as your project progresses, it’s important to clarify your expected due dates during implementation planning. When you estimate task due dates, you can schedule milestones around these due dates and plan for project completion. You will commonly see Gantt charts used for strategic planning and implementation planning. This is because Gantt charts display information in a follows a linear path, similar to a timeline.
You’ll conduct your risk assessment in step three of the implementation process. Whether you use a risk register , SWOT analysis, or contingency plan to identify risks, be sure to include these documents in your plan. That way, others involved in the project can look through your findings and potentially help you prevent these risks.
You assigned roles and responsibilities to team members in step five of your plan, and keeping a detailed record of what these are can hold everyone accountable. Whether you use a RACI chart or another tool to clarify team member roles, there should be a place in your plan for everyone to refer to in case questions arise.
Your implementation plan will likely be unique to the project you're working on, so it may include other components not listed above. However, you can use the six items above as your guide so you know your plan is comprehensive.
Many aspects of project implementation overlap with strategic planning. As a project manager, working on the project implementation plan while you are also working on the strategic plan can help minimize the total time spent on planning.
Another way to save time during the planning process is to house all of your plans in a work management platform. When your project team is ready to start the implementation process, everything is in one convenient place.
There are many benefits to implementation planning, with the top benefit being an increased chance of project success. Implementing a project plan creates a roadmap for executing your project so you can prevent issues from occurring.
Other benefits to having an implementation plan include:
Improved communication between team members and key stakeholders
Better organization and management of resources
Increased accountability for everyone involved in the project
More structured project timeline and daily workflow
Easier collaboration between team members
Going straight into the execution phase without an implementation plan may feel like walking on stage to give a speech without knowing what you’re going to say. Preparation is key for top-notch performance.
Knowing the steps for implementation planning is the foundation of project management. A well-planned project leads to a successful project.Create an implementation plan template