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What is an implementation plan? 6 steps to create one
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.
What is the purpose of an implementation plan?
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.
How to create an implementation plan in 6 steps
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.
1. Define goals
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.
2. Conduct research
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.
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.
3. Map out risks
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.
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.
4. Schedule milestones
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.
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.
5. Assign responsibilities and tasks
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.
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.
6. Allocate resources
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.
What to include in an implementation plan
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.
2. Scope statement
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.
3. Outline of deliverables
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.
4. Task due dates
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.
5. Risk assessment
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.
6. Team member roles and responsibilities
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.
Benefits of having an implementation plan
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.
Simplify implementation planning
Knowing the steps for implementation planning is the foundation of project management. A well-planned project leads to a successful project.
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From Strategy to Execution: How to Create a Sustainable, Repeatable Implementation Plan
Smartsheet Contributor Kate Eby
December 14, 2017
In this article, you’ll learn the fundamental elements of a strategic implementation process, and how you can create a comprehensive implementation plan. We’ve also included free, downloadable implementation plan templates to get you started.
Included on this page, you’ll find the components of an implementation plan , how to write an implementation plan , and tools for successful implementation planning .
What Is an Implementation Strategy?
An implementation strategy is based on a strategic plan , which defines the strategy used to accomplish certain goals or make decisions. Organizations can make strategic plans to guide organizational direction, a particular department’s efforts, or any project or initiative.
Implementation strategy is the process of defining how to bring the strategic plan to life. To execute the objectives outlined in the strategic plan, you must define how you will implement each aspect, from funding and personnel to organization and deliverables. Therefore, without an implementation strategy, it can be difficult to identify how you will achieve each of your stated goals and objectives.
Ray McKenzie is the Founder and Managing Director of Red Beach Advisors . He breaks down the differences between strategy, implementation, and execution: “Implementation planning is the act of developing a tactical plan to complete a strategic initiative. Strategy is the overarching plan to move the organization, department, or project forward. Implementation is the act of putting the strategy into place utilizing resources within an organization or department. Execution is completing the tasks as part of the implementation plan to complete the strategic initiative through resources of the organized team.”
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What Is the Strategic Implementation Process?
The strategic implementation process refers to the concrete steps that you take to turn your strategic plan into action. The implementation tactics you use and steps you take will depend on the specific undertaking, organization, and goals.
A strategic implementation plan (SIP) is the document that you use to define your implementation strategy. Typically, it outlines the resources, assumptions, short- and long-term outcomes, roles and responsibilities, and budget. (Later on, we’ll show you how to create one.) An SIP is often integrated with an execution plan , but the two are distinct.
The SIP outlines the activities and decisions necessary to turn the strategic goals into reality, and the execution plan is a schedule of concrete actions and activities to achieve goals and drive success. You can consider your strategy “implemented” once you determine that you have the requisite resources to meet your strategic needs, but you haven’t “executed” until you’ve actually taken action and achieved objectives. You can read more about the differences between strategy, implementation, and execution in this article by the Harvard Business Review .
The strategic implementation process is often compared to the following activities:
Jennifer Hancock is the author of several books and Founder of Humanist Learning Systems , an organization that provides online personal and professional development training in humanistic business management, along with science-based harassment training. She describes the difference between organizational and implementation planning: “Organizational planning is the structure of the organization: What work needs to be done? How does it relate to the other work that needs to be done? Who is responsible for getting it done? How are the parts of the organization going to work together to accomplish shared objectives? Implementation planning has to do with specific projects and processes. For instance, an organization may have an HR department — that is, organizational planning. Implementation is when the HR department rolls out a new set of benefits or a new health care plan.”
Download Organizational Change Management Plan
- Strategic Management Process: This is the ongoing effort to manage an organization, including both the decisions and actions that flow from the organizational strategy. Continuous strategic management can inform organizational planning by providing a strategy that outlines the organization’s goals.
- Change Management: Change management is how you prepare and manage organizational planning, from the high-level processes and culture down to individual roles. Effective change management involves strategy and careful monitoring so that you can plan for change rather than react to it.
Download Change Management Process Template
- Differentiated Planning: This is a reordering method that you can use to identify which resources you need based on the frequency with which you typically use them. Separate the items on your reorder list into three categories: routine, regular, and rare. This will give you a rough idea of the different demand levels for each resource, so you don’t have to spend time considering whether or not to restock. Because identifying and accumulating resources is an important component of implementation planning, it’s useful to understand differentiated planning.
Why Implementation Is Important
Implementation planning largely determines project success because without it, your strategic goals remain unactionable. Therefore, implementation is the necessary step that transforms your strategic plans into action to achieve your goals.
There are many examples where implementation planning heightens project success. In fact, the Harvard Business Review reported that companies with an implementation and execution plan saw 70 percent greater returns.
McKenzie says that implementation planning is critical to project success. “This is the stage which allows the planned strategy to be executed,” he says. “The primary benefits to implementation and implementation planning are the abilities to outline the tasks needed to complete the project, identify the personnel and resources needed, and document the timeline for project completion to ensure you’re meeting the strategic goals.”
Hancock agrees. “If you don’t implement your plan — you don’t get anything done,” she says. “So, implementation is crucial. [Even] if you have the best plan in the world, it’s totally irrelevant if you don’t put the plan into action,” she adds.
Fiona Adler writes about entrepreneurship at DoTheThings.com and is the Founder of Actioned.com , a productivity tool for individuals and teams. With an MBA, multiple business successes, and a family living in a foreign country, she enjoys pushing the envelope to get the most out of life and loves helping others do the same. Adler explains that implementation is often more crucial than the strategy itself. She says, “In my opinion, implementation is far more important than strategic planning. After all, it doesn't matter if you have the best plan in the world. All that really matters is what you end up doing!”
The practice of implementation planning is also important in some of today’s organizational shifts. Most notably, implementation plays a part in the current shift from reactionary to strategic companies — in other words, organizations that plan for change and adaptation rather than react to it. Additionally, implementation supports the movement toward employee-oriented organizations, which it does by valuing communication, encouraging mutually-supported goals, and emphasizing accountability. Implementation planning is necessarily a human (and team) endeavor and making it a part of your daily processes helps ensure collaboration, trust, and transparency among project team members all the way up to C-suite management.
What Is the Implementation Plan of a Project?
Implementation plans are commonly used for discrete projects, technology deployment within a company, and inventory planning. You can also create an implementation plan for personal use if it will help you organize and take actionable steps toward your goal(s).
A project implementation plan is the plan that you create to successfully move your project plan into action. This document identifies your goals and objectives (both short and long-term), lists the project tasks, defines roles and responsibilities, outlines the budget and necessary resources, and lists any assumptions. A project implementation plan sometimes includes a rough schedule, but teams usually set the hard timeline in the execution plan.
In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into each component of an implementation plan and show you how to write your own.
Components of an Implementation Plan
The following are the key components of and questions that drive a successful implementation plan:
- Define Goals/Objectives: What do you want to accomplish? The scope of these goals will depend on the size of your undertaking.
- Schedule Milestones: While task deadlines and project timelines will be formally set in the execution plan, it’s a good idea to outline your schedule in the implementation phase.
- Allocate Resources: One of the core purposes of an implementation plan is to ensure that you have adequate resources (time, money, and personnel) to successfully execute. So, gather all the data and information you need to determine whether or not you have sufficient resources, and decide how you will procure what’s missing.
- Designate Team Member Responsibilities: Assign roles. This doesn’t necessarily mean you must define who will execute each individual task, but you should create a general team plan with overall roles that each team member will play.
- Define Metrics for Success: How will you determine whether or not you are successful? What data (whether quantitative or qualitative) will you use to measure your results, and how will you accrue the necessary data?
- Define How You Will Adapt: Make a plan for how you will adapt, if necessary, to changes in your plan. Be sure to consider factors outside your control that could significantly alter the schedule or success of your project, and create emergent strategies ahead of time, so you don’t get derailed down the road — doing so helps build a culture of flexibility, agility, and fast action.
- Evaluate Success: In addition to defining your metrics for success, decide how often you will evaluate your progress (e.g., quarterly reviews).
In the following section, we’ll break down each element of a successful implementation plan to show you how to write one yourself.
How to Write an Implementation Plan
Implementation plans are split into sections. Each section should be detailed, combining the information from your strategic plan and incorporating the necessary research and data to make your objectives actionable. Here’s how to write each component in an implementation plan:
- Introduction: The introduction of your implementation plan explains the purpose, vision, and mission statement of your project or initiative. You should identify the high-level risk areas, include any assumptions, and describe how you will identify the value stream in your proposed work.
- Management Overview: In this section, you describe how implementation will be managed. This includes who is managing it, the underlying roles and responsibilities, and key points of contact. You should identify the strategy director, who is the person that develops and steers the strategy (this may or not be the same person who is leading implementation).
- Major Tasks: This is where you list and describe the specific tasks, actions, and targets in implementation. You should also note the status of any tasks that are already in progress.
- Implementation Schedule: You do not need to create a detailed, inflexible task schedule in your implementation plan — we’ll talk later on about how to create a schedule in the execution plan. At this stage, it’s appropriate to simply list the task order and predicted phase durations to roughly outline and allot for all the many moving pieces.
- Security and Privacy: Discuss the privacy features and considerations of the software tools, processes, or information that you may use in implementation. Address security issues and how to handle sensitive information (personal data, medical history, financials, etc.).
- Implementation Support/Resources List: Describe the various tools, activities, and departments that you require to support successful implementation. These might include hardware or software tools, facilities, and additional external human resources or services.
- Documentation: In this section, you must attach any other documentation that supports your implementation plan. This could include your strategic plan, confirmation of adequate materials and resources, and a history of past successful projects.
- Monitoring Performance: Define the metrics by which you will measure success. How and when will you review your progress?
- Acceptance Criteria: How will you define implementation “completion?” This differs from performance monitoring because rather than defining metrics for milestones and appropriate implementation, here, you describe how you will know when you have buy-in from management on your implementation plan.
- Glossary: Define any key terms used in your implementation plan.
- References: Indicate where you received your information, or list people who support your plan.
- Project Approval: If you need management’s approval before moving into execution, this section provides space for official signoff.
To make it easy, you can also use a template to write your implementation plan. This will ensure that you don’t overlook any steps or sections and also provide a professional layout that you can use to deliver to management, clients, or other stakeholders. Download the template for free, and edit the fields to fit the needs of your specific project — for example, for enterprise resource planning (ERP) .
Download Project Implementation Plan Template - Word
Software deployment is another common category of initiative that merits an implementation plan. Use the following template to create a software and systems implementation plan.
Download Software Systems Implementation Plan Template - Word
Implementation Planning Best Practices
Although you should include all the detailed aspects listed above in your implementation plan, simply having all these components will not ensure success. Instead, you should focus on the process of implementation and foster the following behaviors within your team:
- Create a Designated Implementation Team: An implementation team is the team responsible for ensuring successful implementation of a particular initiative. While it’s possible to move through implementation without creating a specific, organized body to oversee the processes, doing so heightens your chances of success.
- Create a Shared Vision among All Team Members: Establish “why” you are making strategic changes so that team members have both a greater understanding of the root cause and a deeper connection to their work. Ensure individual compliance, so people don’t feel like their voices went unheard. Adler emphasizes, “Involve the people who will actually be implementing the change during the planning phase. Ideally, the idea will even come from them. This inclusion greatly increases the buy-in and commitment that the team has to actually getting the project implemented.”
- Choose a Strong Team Leader: The team leader should coach and educate team members along the way and seek out guidance from past implementation plan leaders to improve upon existing implementation processes within the organization. Adler explains that there can be multiple team leaders with slightly different responsibilities: “Each initiative needs a team. The team includes a ’champion,’ someone who is ultimately responsible for getting the thing done. They should also have a ’management sponsor,’ someone that can help the team get through any blocks they might have,” she says.
- Define Actionable Goals: Stay specific, define current issues, and identify root causes. Methods for defining current problems include brainstorming, surveys, and new member information forms. You can also use the note card method: Ask each team member to answer three questions anonymously ( What is the single biggest issue facing our team?, What will be the most important issue in five years?, What is the best way for our team to be involved in these issues? ), separate the cards into piles with similar answers, and count which answers are the most common within the group. Use the highest ranking similar answers to stimulate discussion of how to proceed.
- Create an Action-Oriented Plan: Regardless of the size or predicted duration of your goals, create a plan focused on incremental action (rather than on continual planning). Small steps add up, so stay positive and focus on the future. That said, Hancock reiterates that your plan must be realistic: “Make sure your plan is reality-based,” she says. “You need to know what problem you really should be solving so that you don’t end up solving proxy problems (problems you think are your problem but really aren’t — an example of this is praying for rain when your real problem is that you need water on your field). You need to know what is really going to impact your problem so that you don’t pray for rain, which doesn’t affect anything. And, finally, you need to know what you really need to do to get the work done. What resources do you need? Do you have the resources you need? Can you get the resources you need? If not, your plan won’t work” she continues.
- Value Communication: The team leader should not only value others’ input, but also make active participation an expectation. Open, honest communication keeps processes transparent and helps generate new ideas.
- Continually Monitor Incremental Success: Perform analysis and hold regular progress meetings to analyze your development. Closely monitoring your progress enables you to make adjustments before crisis hits and allows you to adapt before processes or expectations become solidified. Additionally, treating incremental milestones as successes helps foster a culture where employees feel valued for their contributions. Adler explains, “Building a culture where employees expect that projects will be successfully implemented is important. Celebrate successes and reference previous projects frequently.”
- Involve the Correct People at the Correct Times: This includes defining when and why it is appropriate to involve upper management. As McKenzie says, “Include the critical stakeholders that are part of the project. The beginning of planning should only include the decision makers and not every team member that is part of the project. Outline the critical tasks that are needed first. Once the tasks are outlined, dictate the personnel who will be responsible for the tasks. Once you identify the personnel, then bring in the additional resources to find what other tasks are needed to complete the larger tasks. To draft a proper implementation plan, it is imperative to include the critical stakeholders to outline the initiative.”
- Publicize Your Plan: While you don’t necessarily want every stakeholder’s input at all times during implementation planning, you do want to maintain transparency with other teams and management. Make your plan available to higher-ups to keep your team accountable down the line.
Difficulties in Implementation Planning
While implementation planning is critical to successful execution, there are several hurdles:
- Unless you are disciplined about moving into the execution phase, you can get stuck in planning and never get your project off the ground.
- In any project, you may struggle to gain buy-in from key stakeholders.
- It can also be difficult to break down every goal into an actionable step. If you keep your goals tangible, you can more easily identify targeted actions that will move you toward them.
- No matter how well you plan, all projects have a high propensity for failure. Don’t get discouraged, though — dedicated, strategic implementation planning will raise the likelihood of project success.
Although the above hurdles can be time-consuming and tedious, they are investments that will help you create a culture of trust. Because implementation is an ongoing team effort, you can’t afford to lack buy-in and commitment from any member of your team or direct stakeholders. So, communicate often and honestly, and prioritize teamwork when implementing your strategic plan.
Still, even though inclusion and teamwork are key to a successful strategy, McKenzie reiterates that implementation planning won’t work if too many people are involved. “Implementation planning often gets derailed due to the input from various people that are not involved in the project,” he says. “There needs to be a clear line between the implementation team who is responsible for the execution and final project completion and the customers, internal or external, who are the recipients of the project. The customers can outline their requirements, but the implementation, tasks, and deliverables should be guided by the implementation team,” he concludes.
Adler explains that another common mistake is taking on too much at once. “It takes a lot of work to get something significantly new implemented,” she notes. “For this reason, the fewer initiatives the business takes on simultaneously, the greater the chances of success. Each initiative will take its team members away from their 'normal' work to some degree, and the business needs to be able to support this. If there are six things the business wants to implement, it is better to take on one or two at a time than to try to tackle all six at once,” she points out.
Tools for Successful Implementation Planning
While the implementation plan itself is a relatively low-tech document, software tools can help you track and manage your progress. From Gantt charts to advancements in information and communication technology, you’ll find popular implementation planning tools and their benefits below.
A Gantt chart is a graphical bar chart that you can use as a project timeline, and many software programs exist that allow you to create these online charts. As you move from implementation to execution, a Gantt chart can help you track individual task progress, see relationships among tasks, and identify critical or at-risk tasks.
Download Basic Gantt with Dependencies Template
Excel | Smartsheet
You can use a PERT (program evaluation and review technique) chart to forecast project duration by creating a timeline for individual tasks and identifying dependent tasks. PERT requires you to forecast three separate timetables — the shortest possible, the most likely, and the longest possible — which forces you to stay flexible in your planning, so you can adapt your schedule as factors inevitably change over the course of a project.
When you have successfully implemented your plan, you’re ready to move to project execution. Execution planning and monitoring is outside the scope of this article, but below you’ll find more helpful templates to move your project toward successful completion.
Download General Action Plan Template
Download Project Timeline Template
Download Project Charter Template
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Advancements in information and communication technology (ICT) have led to the development of cloud-based software that allows for anytime, anywhere access and multiple users. This technological capability is especially helpful for group work, in which multiple team members need to access a certain file simultaneously while also avoiding version control issues. For example, organizations commonly use cloud-based software to create a project management system or performance management system.
Using software to manage your implementation plan can provide the following benefits:
- Drive Accountability: By creating a single record of project progress, you build transparency (both in team members and processes) and reliability.
- Keep Everyone up to Date: All users can access the most current information, which, in turn, cuts out unnecessary communication or erroneous double-work.
- Improve Flexibility: Project management software can help you identify bottlenecks and potential problems early on, so you are able to adapt in anticipation. If you are attempting Agile project management, flexibility is crucial.
- Support Organizational Commitment: Using a software tool often provides the transparency necessary to get executives to support your project. Once they have visibility into processes and progress, they will be more likely to grant the buy-in you need to procure resources and succeed.
When deciding which tool to use, consider the following:
- Buying Tools vs. Developing Software Internally: This will depend on the capabilities and availability of your in-house developers as well as on your budget. Additionally, consider whether or not you have the bandwidth to engage with a vendor and maintain the relationship over time.
- Open Source vs. Free vs. Subscription: Open source software provides a great opportunity for organizations with limited budgets and development resources to build on top of the existing open platforms. There are also many free programs available (not open source). However, be wary that free options may have limited functionality. For organizations with larger budgets and a greater need for powerful functionality, most paid platforms bill on a subscription basis.
- Usability Requirements: Consider your team’s skill level. While you might be drawn to a tool with fancy functionality, it will be pointless (and perhaps even detract from project success) if it is too difficult for your team to use or learn.
Ultimately, software tools are a fantastic way not only to elevate the accuracy of tracking project metrics and progress, but also to save time, build flexibility, and stimulate communication among your team.
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What Is an Implementation Plan & How Do I Create One? (Example Included)
Build an implementation plan in minutes with ProjectManager. Plan projects, manage resources and track progress with powerful features that your whole team can use.
A project management plan is critical for the success of any project. Similarly, an implementation plan, also called a strategic plan or strategic implementation plan, outlines requisite steps for the execution of a strategy, tactic or change within an organization, or project.
Without an implementation plan, your organization could be rolling out big changes with nothing but an online reference guide and a stressed-out developer trying to make everything happen. In addition to a great implementation plan, you should also use project management software to help you through the implementation process.
So what is an implementation plan, how do you make one, and how do you execute it successfully? Let’s take a look.
What Is an Implementation Plan?
An implementation plan is a project management tool that facilitates the execution of a strategic plan for a company or a project by breaking down the implementation process into smaller steps while defining the timeline, the teams and the resources that will be needed.
Related: Free Implementation Plan Template
Strategic planning is done on an organizational level, dictating the direction of the company strategy and allocating resources to make that strategy come to life. Thus, the implementation plan traces the edges of that, mapping out how to best implement a strategic plan from the outset, and how to effectively manage it as it gets put into place.
Project management software like ProjectManager greatly simplifies the implementation planning process. Schedule and execute your implementation plan with our robust online Gantt charts. Assign work, link dependencies and track progress in real time with one chart. Plus, if your team wants to work with something other than a Gantt chart, our software offers four other project views for managing work: task lists, kanban boards, calendars and sheets. Try it for free today.
Components of an Implementation Plan
There’s not really a standard one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to creating your implementation plan. However, we’ve created an implementation plan outline for your projects. Here are its components.
- Project Goals & Objectives: The project goal is the ultimate goal of your project, while the objectives are the key milestones or achievements that must be completed to reach it.
- Success Criteria: The project manager must reach an agreement with stakeholders to define the project success criteria .
- Scope Statement: The scope statement briefly describes your project scope, which can be simply defined as the project work to be performed.
- Resource Plan: Create a simple resource plan that outlines the human resources, equipment and materials needed for your project.
- Risk Analysis: Use a risk assessment tool like a SWOT analysis or risk register. There are different tools with different levels of detail for your risk analysis.
- Implementation Timeline: Any implementation plan needs a clear project timeline to be executed properly. You should use an advanced tool such as a Gantt chart to create one.
- Implementation Plan Milestones: You need to identify key milestones of your implementation plan so that you can easily keep track of its progress.
- Team Roles & Responsibilities: The implementation plan won’t execute itself. You’ll need to assign roles and responsibilities to your team members.
- Implementation Plan Metrics: You’ll need KPIs, OKRs or any other performance metrics you can use to control the progress of your implementation plan.
How to Write an Implementation Plan
Follow these steps to create an implementation plan for your project or business. You can also consider using project management software like ProjectManager to help you with the implementation process.
1. Research and Discovery
Start by identifying what you’ll need for the execution of your implementation plan:
- What teams need to be involved to achieve the strategic goals?
- How long will it take to make the strategic goals happen?
- What should be allocated from a budget and resources standpoint ?
By interviewing stakeholders, key partners, customers and team members, you can determine the most crucial assignments needed and prioritize them accordingly. It’s also at this stage that you should list out all the goals you’re looking to achieve to cross-embed the strategic plan with the implementation plan. Everything must tie back to that strategic plan in order for your implementation plan to work.
2. Map Out Assumptions and Risks
This acts as an extension to the research and discovery phase, but it’s also important to point out assumptions and risks in your implementation plan. This can include anything that might affect the execution of the implementation plan, such as paid time off or holidays you didn’t factor into your timeline , budget constraints, losing personnel, market instability or even tools that require repair before your implementation can commence.
3. Assign Responsibility
Each activity in your implementation plan must include a primary champion to be the owner of it. For tasks to be properly assigned, this champion will need to do the delegating. This means that they ensure that all systems are working as per usual, keep track of their teams’ productivity and more. Project planning software is practically essential for this aspect.
To learn more about how project planning software can help you map out every step of your project implementation plan, including the designation of tasks, watch the short video below. With the help of software, it’s easy to craft a detailed plan that everyone can reference, so everyone gets their work done on time.
4. Determine Activities
Next you need to finalize all the little activities to round out your plan. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What are the steps or milestones that make up the plan?
- What are the activities needed to complete each step?
- Who needs to be involved in the plan?
- What are the stakeholder requirements?
- What resources should be allocated?
- Are there any milestones we need to list out?
- What are the risks involved based on the assumptions we notated?
- Are there any dependencies for any of the tasks?
Once all activities are outlined, all resources are listed and all stakeholders have approved (but no actions have been taken just yet), you can consider your implementation plan complete and ready for execution.
Implementation Plan Example
Implementation plans are used by companies across industries on a daily basis. Here’s a simple implementation plan example we’ve created using ProjectManager to help you better understand how implementation plans work. Let’s imagine a software development team is creating a new app.
- Project Goal: Create a new app
- Objectives: All the milestones that must be achieved to reach that ultimate goal.
- Success Criteria: The development team needs to communicate with the project stakeholders and agree upon success criteria.
- Scope Statement: Here’s where the development team will document all the work needed to develop the app. That work is broken down into tasks, which are known as user stories in product and software development. Here, the team must also note all the exceptions, which means everything that won’t be done.
- Resource Plan: In this case, the resources are all the professionals involved in the software development process, as well as any equipment needed by the team.
- Risk Analysis: Using a risk register, the product manager can list all the potential risks that might affect the app development process.
Benefits of an Implementation Plan
The implementation plan plays a large role in the success of your overall strategic plan. But more than that, communicating both your strategic plan and the implementation of it therein to your team members helps them feel as if they have a sense of ownership within the company’s long-term direction.
An implementation plan that’s well communicated also helps to increase cooperation across all teams through all the steps of the implementation process. It’s easy to work in a silo—you know exactly what your daily process is and how to execute it. But reaching across the aisle and making sure your team is aligned on the project goals that you’re also trying to meet? That’s another story entirely. But with an implementation plan in place, it helps to bridge the divide just a little easier.
Additionally, with an implementation plan that’s thoroughly researched and well defined, you can ensure buy-in from stakeholders and key partners involved in the project. And no matter which milestone you’re at, you can continue to get that buy-in time and time again with proper documentation.
At the end of the day, the biggest benefit of an implementation plan is that it makes it that much easier for the company to meet its long-term goals. When everyone across all teams knows exactly what you want to accomplish and how to do it, it’s easy to make it happen.
Implementation Plan FAQ
There’s more to know about implementation plans. It’s a big subject and we’ve tried to be thorough as possible, but if you have any further questions hopefully we have answered them below.
What Is the Difference Between an Action Plan and an Implementation Plan?
The main difference between an action plan and an implementation plan is that an action plan focuses exclusively on describing work packages and tasks, while the implementation plan is more holistic and addresses other variables that affect the implementation process such as risks, resources and team roles & responsibilities.
What Is an Implementation Plan in Business?
A business implementation plan is the set of steps that a company follows to execute its strategic plan and achieve all the business goals that are described there.
What Is an Implementation Plan in Project Management?
Implementation plans have many uses in project management. They’re a planning tool that allows project managers to control smaller projects within their project plan. For example, they might need an implementation plan to execute risk mitigation actions, change requests or produce specific deliverables.
How to Make an Implementation Plan with ProjectManager
Creating and managing an implementation plan is a huge responsibility and one that requires diligence, patience and great organizational skills.
When it comes to a project implementation plan, there are many ways to make one that’s best suited for your team. With ProjectManager , you get access to both agile and waterfall planning so you can plan in sprints for large or small projects, track issues and collaborate easily. Try kanban boards for managing backlogs or for making workflows in departments.
Switching up the activities after a milestone meeting with stakeholders? You can easily update your implementation plan with our software features. Add new tasks, set due dates, and track how far along your team is on their current activities.
Implementation plans are the backbone of an organization’s strategic overall plan. With ProjectManager, give your organization the project management software they need to gain insight into all resources needed, view activities on their lists and collaborate with ease. Sign up for our free 30-day trial today.
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Secrets of successful change implementation
Any executive who has led a major change program knows that even the most carefully planned programs can fail because of mediocre implementation. Turning plans into reality isn’t easy, and certain companies seem to be better at it than others. To learn how some of the world’s leading companies ensure implementation excellence, we conducted a survey of more than 2,000 executives in 900 companies across industries. 1 1. The online survey was conducted from January 14 to January 24, 2014, and garnered responses from 2,079 executives representing the full range of regions, industries, company sizes, functional specialties, and tenures. The results reported in this article also include responses from an additional 151 global executives surveyed at an earlier date. To adjust for differences in response rates, the data are weighted by the contribution of each respondent’s nation to global GDP. We asked respondents to evaluate their company’s implementation performance, capabilities, and practices.
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Our survey revealed that “good implementers”—defined as companies whose respondents reported top-quartile scores for their implementation capabilities—achieved superior performance on a range of financial-performance metrics. Perhaps more important, two years after a change effort has ended, good implementers sustain twice the level of financial benefits as poor implementers do.
So what can other companies learn from successful implementers?
The factors that matter most
Every transformation leaks value at various stages of the implementation process: some prioritized initiatives are never done, others are implemented but don’t achieve bottom-line impact, and still others may fail to sustain their initial good results. But at every stage of the process, good implementers retain more value than poor implementers (Exhibit 1).
Clearly, implementation is hard to get right. Fewer than half of respondents say that most or all of their change efforts in the past five years met their initial goals and sustained results over time. Probing deeper into the responses shows that the root causes of this failure cluster around three critical themes: organization-wide ownership of and commitment to change, regular and effective prioritization, and deployment of the right resources and capabilities (Exhibit 2).
Ownership and commitment
For both successful and unsuccessful transformations, roughly two-thirds of respondents indicated that the single most significant factor influencing a transformation’s outcome is the degree of ownership and commitment of the organization’s leaders. To be clear, “ownership” and “commitment” involve much more than just “alignment.” People seeing someone else’s car being stolen may reasonably be expected to take down the number and call the police. How might they react differently if it were their car? Commitment is a level of psychological investment that drives personal, proactive action—and becomes even stronger when failure may have adverse consequences. At a very basic level, successful transformations typically reinforce ownership through clear accountability for specific targets and individual incentives for key players that are strongly aligned to success.
The right leadership style. Organizations that excel at implementation foster a leadership style that sets bold aspirations with clear accountability—emphasizing the challenging and supportive dimensions of leadership over the authoritative and consultative qualities that may be effective in other situations. Successful leaders are relentless in pushing and encouraging their reports, while also greasing the wheels through tough decision making.
Keeping this pace of change going represents a significant investment of time and attention. For example, the global head of the transformation program at a big healthcare company ensures that she or a direct report participates in every critical milestone-report meeting. Her presence as an active role model reinforces the transformation’s importance for the company and encourages the involvement of local leadership.
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The right buzz. Great implementers also create the right buzz around change by engaging the broader organization. They recognize that few employees have any interest in their employer’s share price, let alone its return on equity. Rather than spamming everyone with generic communications materials, leaders instead methodically cascade a compelling change story through the entire business. It’s a difficult balance: the core message must be meaningful to as broad a range of the workforce as possible yet also be personal and relevant to the specific audience.
Implementing a transformation is a long-term effort, and the demands it places on personnel will evolve over time. To keep people engaged, the change story must adapt as well. At a basic-materials company facing closure of several of its operations, the change story focused on moving away from a victim mentality. Once the transformation began to take hold and the facilities were no longer under immediate threat of closure, the message—and the team’s energy—easily could have dissipated. Instead, the transformation team harnessed the earlier momentum and adapted the story to celebrate pride in being a world leader, within both the company and the industry as a whole. Since then, the business has continued to deliver year-on-year improvements and outperform its competitors.
The right supporting organization. Finally, the ownership and commitment are difficult to maintain in a major transformation without the support of an effective and empowered project-management office (PMO)—a formal entity directly responsible for leading the change effort and monitoring its progress. The PMO should be led by a relatively senior person who reports to a C-level executive and carries that executive’s authority. The role of PMO leader is therefore an important stepping-stone for a high performer, and it should be filled by someone who is seen as a future C-level executive. Although the ideal PMO leader will be chosen from within the company, we’ve found that it’s more effective to bring in a skilled leader from outside than to appoint an insider who lacks the leadership skills to rally the troops.
Prioritization of initiatives
Some transformation efforts flounder because too many initiatives are going on at once, spreading the organization’s resources too thin. Accordingly, what an organization chooses not to do is every bit as important as what it does. But for a prioritization process to help a transformation succeed, its scope must be broad. For example, existing initiatives must be scrutinized with the same rigor as new ones, because zombie projects drain precious resources—especially leadership attention.
Understanding risks. The starting point in any strong prioritization process is a robust fact base, with a clear understanding of the size and nature of each opportunity, its timing, and any impediments to delivery. Usually, prioritization applies the twin lenses of value and ease. While this approach can be effective, the “ease” criteria are often subjective and reinforce bias. As a result, teams may underestimate risk on projects they deem attractive and undervalue opportunities that superficially seem less promising.
For this reason, a critical step is to conduct a rigorous assessment of the risks associated with each change in the transformation portfolio, typically based on probability and severity. A risk review should cover the full gamut of unintended outcomes that can derail implementation or cause material damage to the business—including safety or regulatory compliance, customer or talent attrition, and benefit leakage. Done well, the review counters the seductiveness of big numbers and the resulting tendency to overlook challenges. And by incorporating the perspectives of a broad range of stakeholders, it keeps the prioritization process from being gamed into promotion of pet projects.
Mitigating and re-ranking. Factoring in mitigation strategies (such as preemptive measures, contingency plans, and monitoring), then racking and stacking initiatives according to their risk-adjusted value gives leaders a portfolio perspective. With that information, and based on the total incremental risk they are prepared to accept, they can make informed decisions as to the business’s aspirations. 2 2. Many initiatives may well decrease risk by increasing stability, introducing standardization, improving transparency, etc. At a large refining business, this approach made the risk-effort trade-offs much clearer, shifting the dialogue from “That’s too hard” to “How do we make this easier?” The result: faster implementation of priority initiatives and deferral of ones that were easy to implement but carried hidden risks.
Prioritization should not be a one-time event, but rather should serve as a core tool to assign resources flexibly as dictated by available facts. Effective implementation pilots are therefore an important investment. Organizations that execute well typically have well-grooved approaches that not only manage pilots tightly, but also ensure that the key lessons are drawn from the experience. Rather than using the pilot as a box-ticking ritual, successful organizations use it both as an opportunity to refine an initiative and as a critical go/no-go gate.
Resources and capabilities
At the best implementers, change programs can count on having enough people with the skills and motivation required to manage a fast-moving and often ambiguous set of challenges. Rather than looking only to people who happen to be available, these organizations fill pivotal roles based on merit and free the successful candidates from their current duties. Each person’s role is well defined, and expectations and responsibilities are aligned with the resources available. Employees’ duties lie solidly within their areas of specialty or are appropriate for their skill levels. All employees receive feedback and ongoing coaching.
Unfortunately, most organizations don’t start out from this position, leading to mismatches between the skills of the team and the requirements of the transformation. This is hardly surprising, given the way that transformations act as a discontinuity: after the change, the organization will make very different demands on its people, from the technical requirements of their roles to the way they interact with peers, managers, and subordinates.
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Capability-building programs are therefore central to any successful transformation. The most comprehensive ones cover functional, managerial, and technical skills and are tailored to match requirements across the breadth of roles involved in the transformation. A typical starting point is the creation of a detailed skill matrix showing the skills that each role requires and that each employee has, which highlights important gaps and training needs by role. A stringent process for evaluating skill-building progress then fosters a continuous learning cycle as people at every level develop new talents.
A powerful force multiplier in large transformations is the development of a limited number of organization-wide management standards that govern behavior from the front line to top management. One company implemented a simple tool that required every employee to know the same five elements about his or her job, including how the role contributed to the business and what the employee could do without asking permission. By setting clear and tangible expectations, the standard gave people clarity and confidence about their role, freeing up valuable leadership time and highlighting key areas of friction that needed to be addressed. Over time, management standards become a set of organizational reflexes within the business, reducing much of the effort of delivering and sustaining change.
As for specific implementation practices, the executives we surveyed said their companies do fairly well at some practices associated with successful transformations. A majority said they develop standard operating procedures and regularly assess employees against their individual goals (Exhibit 3). But many said their companies falter when it comes to conducting effective meetings, having processes in place to identify problems, and giving employees effective feedback.
Improvement often depends on examples from above. A vice president at one global company found that members of his management team were spending up to three-quarters of their time in meetings. He therefore decided to forbid morning meetings altogether, freeing time for value-adding activities such as coaching staff members or helping solve issues at the front line. For the remaining meetings that were truly necessary, he imposed a one-hour time limit and required that all meeting hosts send an agenda and clear objectives in advance. As the role model, he made a point of leaving meetings after 55 minutes, and whenever an agenda and objectives had not been sent by a meeting’s starting time, he would ask that the meeting be rescheduled.
Getting these most important factors lined up from the very beginning is a big aspiration. The survey data reinforce that implementation is a discipline that develops with practice: good implementers were 1.4 times more likely than poor implementers to have change leaders who had personally led multiple change efforts. For organizations undergoing transformation for the first time, a strong starting stance is a focus on ownership and commitment, prioritization of initiatives, and capabilities and resources.
Alasdair Johnston and Joseph Tesvic are partners in McKinsey’s Sydney office, and Frédéric Lefort is a partner in the Gothenburg office.
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Implementation plan: What to include and 5 essential steps
A project plan or project implementation plan is a key strategic document that keeps teams on track throughout a project, indicating how a project is expected to run along with who’s responsible for what. It’s an extremely valuable planning tool — one that can be the difference between project success and project failure.
It’s also a fairly comprehensive document, and if you’ve never built one before, the concept can feel a bit overwhelming.
In today’s post, we’ll give you a five-step plan for building and implementing a project plan. First, we’ll walk you through what a project implementation plan looks like, why you should create one for every project, and what each plan should include.
What is a project implementation plan?
A project implementation plan is a document that defines how a project will be executed. Implementation plans explain the strategic goals and steps involved in a project, define the project completion timeline, and list the resources (including team members) necessary for a successful project.
Project implementation plans are sometimes called “strategic plans” because they lay out the strategy proposed for a project. But we like the longer name because it conveys more than just strategy: It suggests a process going into action, and it answers the question of how a team will arrive at a goal.
Using a project plan is one of several project management best practices . It’s also different from a work plan: A work plan deals with tasks, timeframes, and individual work packages, while a project implementation plan deals with a much wider range of information.
Check out our project management guide about creating baseline project plans .
Why every project should start with an implementation plan
Why start each project with an implementation plan? Simple: because you want the project to succeed, and you want an objective way to know if it succeeded.
Starting each project with an implementation plan accomplishes quite a bit for most teams and businesses, primarily because it creates a shared sense of vision and understanding and points toward a clearly defined goal.
Most teams realize these four benefits (and plenty more) when they create a thorough and functional project implementation plan:
It creates an actionable roadmap of the scope of work
Projects run the gamut from extremely simple to lengthy and complex. The more complicated and interconnected the project, the greater the chance for confusion.
Whatever the level of complexity, chaos ensues when team members aren’t clear on what to do, when to do it, or why they’re doing it.
A project implementation plan is the antidote to this kind of chaos because it shows all parties what the path forward looks like (the roadmap) — as well as what is and isn’t on that path (the scope of work).
It makes goals and communication transparent to all stakeholders
When all parties understand the goals of a project, you lessen confusion around those goals. There may still be disagreement on how to best achieve a goal, but there’s no confusion about what the team is aiming to accomplish.
Also, a central, accessible document containing all relevant aspects of a project creates a single source of truth for teams, managers, executives, vendors, customers, and more. When anyone and everyone associated with a project is working from the same playbook, teams and businesses enjoy clearer, more focused, and more transparent communication.
It holds your team members accountable
Around 70% of businesses report having at least one failed project in the last year. We’ve all been part of a project where no one seemed accountable for problems or even total project failure. Of course, no one likes taking the blame and finding a scapegoat isn’t always terribly productive. Still, if you have a team member or business unit that’s consistently failing to deliver, you want to know.
A strong project implementation plan makes clear who’s responsible for what within a project. It gives project managers and team leads a stronger understanding of task accountability, helping to hold team members accountable for their work.
And most of the time, better accountability comes with better results!
It helps your entire team stay on the same page
You’ll never completely eliminate scope creep (something that occurred within more than a third of projects in 2021), nor should you. Parameters for various deliverables or even the entire project can and do change over the course of a project, and sometimes a change in scope is clearly the right decision.
But not all scope creep is good. Especially with longer or more complex projects, it’s common for team members to lose focus on the top-level goals — not to mention the specific steps needed to reach those goals.
This loss of focus is preventable, though, as is the scope creep that grows from it. A project implementation plan keeps the big-picture goals and the steps required to meet them in focus. When a change in scope is warranted, it should be documented within or alongside the implementation plan.
Essential components of a great implementation plan
Most well-designed implementation plans contain these essential items, though it’s important to note that implementation plans vary widely, just like the projects they’re attached to.
These elements comprise a solid foundation for your next implementation plan. Start with these, but feel free to add additional elements that make sense for your industry or project type.
The scope statement outlines the scope of the project — essentially, what work will be performed in the project (and what work would be considered out of scope).
Project milestones, goals, and key objectives
Project goals are the high-level outcomes the project aims to achieve. Key objectives are the steps or intermediate outcomes that will occur throughout the project in support of the project goals. Project milestones are the points of measurement along the way, usually significant or tangible in some way.
Examples of milestones across a few industry contexts include wireframe completed, beta launch, copy drafted, or the completion of a phase, segment, or function that’s part of the whole.
Detailed resource plan
A project’s resource plan indicates which human resources are involved along with their time or workload commitment. You should also include materials and equipment (typically, only what’s beyond the standard stuff every employee already has) needed for successful project completion.
Estimated implementation timeline
A key element of any implementation plan is a concrete timeframe for the project (and its implementation). These dates are rarely perfect at the outset of a project, but they provide a goal to work toward and give stakeholders some context for what they’re signing off on.
Most project teams use project management software for creating project timelines , often in the form of a Gantt chart.
Implementation plan milestones
Your implementation plan may benefit from its own set of internal milestones, separate from the broader project milestones. These internal milestones are more useful on highly complex projects with multiple levels of approval and numerous departments supplying information.
Implementation plan milestones could look like these: initial stakeholder information gathered, plan drafted, plan discussed and feedback incorporated, final sign-off by all stakeholders.
Implementation plan KPIs & metrics
Your key performance indicators (KPIs) or other metrics reveal how well the team is accomplishing the implementation plan. Establish measurable indicators, state what they are within the plan itself, and then track them over the course of the project.
Here, a quality project management tool is essential if you want to succeed with measurements that span the length of a project.
5 easy steps to create your project implementation plan
Now you know what needs to go into your project implementation plan — but how do you actually create one and get the implementation process started?
We know this process can seem daunting at first, and it does take some upfront work. But the process doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. Follow these five easy steps to create an implementation plan that helps keep your project and your team on track. Then, as future projects arise, use these questions as a template of sorts to create a quality implementation and management plan for each one.
Teamwork’s project management template is an easy way to start building your plan today.
1) Define your goals and milestones
Before you can create a plan for how to get where you want to go, you need to spend some time deciding where you want to go .
So, before you start building out any other part of a project implementation or action plan, start by devoting time to the what and the where:
What are you trying to accomplish? (Project-level goals)
What needs to happen to reach those goals? (Project objectives)
What are the intermediate steps or milestones that demonstrate progress along the path toward the project’s goals? (Project milestones)
Once you establish goals, objectives, and milestones — and achieve buy-in from key stakeholders and project team members on those goals and milestones — you’re ready to proceed to step two.
2) Conduct research by interviewing, surveying, or observing
Research is one key element of a successful implementation plan. In many project contexts, this research looks like interviewing or surveying various stakeholders, subject matter experts, department leaders, and so on — gathering the information necessary to build your implementation strategy.
Sometimes observation is a key strategy as well: Watching what another team (or vendor or external organization) does or has done on a similar project can provide valuable insights.
3) Brainstorm and map out potential risks
Every project has inherent potential risks. Some of these can be foreseen, while others seem to come out of nowhere. Take the pandemic as one example of the latter category. Yes, businesses should have business continuity and disaster management policies in place, but few — if any — businesses had a concrete plan of action lined up for a global pandemic.
So, there are risks you can’t plan for and could never predict. But there are plenty of risks that, with a little bit of brainstorming and planning, should be easy to discover. These are the ones you need to target as you perform a risk assessment.
Map out the known risks, along with potential impacts and mitigation strategies for each one. Some risks are entirely avoidable so long as you take appropriate risk management actions. Others may not be completely preventable, but having a plan in place will greatly reduce their impact.
4) Assign and delegate essential tasks
Every good implementation plan will include a work plan or action plan that lists out the tasks within the project to a certain level of granularity. These tasks eventually get plugged into a calendar or schedule of some sort, often within project planning software suites like Teamwork .
No matter what method or platform you’re using, at this stage, you need to map out or schedule these tasks. As a part of this step, make sure you assign and delegate tasks to specific resources (or, at minimum, specific departments or work groups).
This step is key to successful project execution, as it assigns responsibility and accountability for every task included in the plan, bringing clarity to who’s doing what and when.
5) Finalize your plan and allocate resources
Next up is allocating resources. You already assigned tasks to people (or departments) in the previous step, so what do we mean here that’s any different?
Put simply, there’s a difference between putting on paper that “Sam will handle task 35” (assigning tasks) and actually making sure that Sam has the capacity to handle task 35 (allocating resources).
In step 4, all you really did was determine who’s doing what. Now, during resource allocation, you make sure that your assignment plan is achievable. Resource allocation means assigning tasks to resources that are actually available. In other words, you need to make sure task 35 doesn’t land on Sam’s desk the same day as 10 other tasks.
Last, once everything else about your plan has been crafted, vetted, and approved, it’s time to finalize the plan. Usually, this involves sending out the completed plan for a final round of approvals.
Once approved, the project implementation plan becomes a single source of truth for the team and other stakeholders. So make sure to store the plan in a central, accessible location. ( Teamwork is a great place for this , if you ask us!)
Create an effective project plan with Teamwork
Creating a project implementation plan requires careful planning and attention to innumerable details, but the results are worth the investment. Increase your project success rate, productivity, morale, and more by keeping teams focused on the right shared outcomes.
We’ve hinted at this a few times already, but project implementation planning (along with all the other documents and documentation you need to prepare to get a project off the ground) is infinitely easier when you use the right tools.
Teamwork is a powerful project management suite that gives you a central location to store project data, robust yet flexible templates, and visibility into current and past project data. Teamwork can cut down on the detail work and keep your information organized in a more user-friendly way, empowering you and your teams to achieve more and stay on track.
Ready to step up to a better project management experience? Sign up for Teamwork today and get started for free!
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A Manager’s Guide to Successful Strategy Implementation
- 25 Feb 2020
To address new challenges and business concerns, organizations must constantly monitor, evaluate, and adjust their strategic initiatives. When a new strategy needs to be implemented, it’s typically up to managers to ensure it rolls out successfully.
Whether you’re an aspiring, new, or seasoned manager, understanding the strategy implementation process and how it relates to organizational change is critical to ensuring you can be effective over the course of your career.
Here’s an overview of strategy implementation, as well as a step-by-step guide you can use to more effectively bring about change within your business.
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What Is Strategy Implementation?
If you're relatively new to management, you might be wondering what the term “strategy implementation” means.
Strategy implementation is the process of turning plans into action to reach a desired outcome. Essentially, it’s the art of getting stuff done. The success of every organization rests on its capacity to implement decisions and execute key processes efficiently, effectively, and consistently. But how do you ensure that implementing a strategy will be successful?
In the online course Management Essentials , Harvard Business School Professor David Garvin says successfully implementing and executing strategy involves “delivering what’s planned or promised on time, on budget, at quality, and with minimum variability—even in the face of unexpected events and contingencies."
While developing a strategy is one of the first steps to implementing organizational change, the implementation itself is vital to a company’s success. Without an efficient implementation process, even the best-laid plans may not come to fruition.
If you're a manager who wants to implement strategic change within your organization, follow these seven steps to introduce and roll out a new strategy successfully.
7 Key Steps in the Implementation Process
1. set clear goals and define key variables.
The first step of the process is straightforward: You must identify the goals that the new strategy should achieve. Without a clear picture of what you’re trying to attain, it can be difficult to establish a plan for getting there.
One common mistake when goal setting—whether related to personal growth, professional development, or business—is setting objectives that are impossible to reach. Remember: Goals should be attainable. Setting goals that aren’t realistic can lead you and your team to feel overwhelmed, uninspired, deflated, and potentially burnt out.
To avoid inadvertently causing low morale, review the outcomes and performances—both the successes and failures—of previous change initiatives to determine what’s realistic given your timeframe and resources. Use this past experience to define what success looks like.
Another important aspect of goal setting is to account for variables that may hinder your team’s ability to reach them and to lay out contingency plans. The better prepared you are, the more successful the implementation will likely be.
2. Determine Roles, Responsibilities, and Relationships
Once you’ve determined the goals you’re working toward and the variables that might get in your way, you should build a roadmap for achieving those goals, set expectations among your team, and clearly communicate your implementation plan, so there’s no confusion.
In this phase, it can be helpful to document all of the resources available, including the employees, teams, and departments that will be involved. Outline a clear picture of what each resource is responsible for achieving, and establish a communication process that everyone should adhere to.
Implementing strategic plans requires strong relationships and, as a manager, you’ll be in charge of telling people not only how to interact with each other and how often, but also who the decision-makers are, who’s accountable for what, and what to do when an unforeseen issue arises.
3. Delegate the Work
Once you know what needs to be done to ensure success, determine who needs to do what and when. Refer to your original timeline and goal list, and delegate tasks to the appropriate team members.
You should explain the big picture to your team so they understand the company's vision and make sure everyone knows their specific responsibilities. Also, set deadlines to avoid overwhelming individuals. Remember that your job as a manager is to achieve goals and keep your team on-task, so try to avoid the urge to micromanage .
4. Execute the Plan, Monitor Progress and Performance, and Provide Continued Support
Next, you’ll need to put the plan into action. One of the most difficult skills to learn as a manager is how to guide and support employees effectively. While your focus will likely be on delegation much of the time, it’s important to make yourself available to answer questions your employees might have, or address challenges and roadblocks they may be experiencing.
Check in with your team regularly about their progress and listen to their feedback.
One effective strategy for monitoring progress is to use daily, weekly, and monthly status reports and check-ins to provide updates, re-establish due dates and milestones, and ensure all teams are aligned.
Related: How to Give Feedback Effectively
5. Take Corrective Action (Adjust or Revise, as Necessary)
Implementation is an iterative process, so the work doesn’t stop as soon as you think you’ve reached your goal. Processes can change mid-course, and unforeseen issues or challenges can arise. Sometimes, your original goals will need to shift as the nature of the project itself changes.
It’s more important to be attentive, flexible, and willing to change or readjust plans as you oversee implementation than it is to blindly adhere to your original goals.
Periodically ask yourself and your team: Do we need to adjust? If so, how? Do we need to start over? The answers to these questions can prove invaluable.
6. Get Closure on the Project, and Agreement on the Output
Everyone on the team should agree on what the final product should look like based on the goals set at the beginning. When you’ve successfully implemented your strategy, check in with each team member and department to make sure they have everything they need to finish the job and feel like their work is complete.
You’ll need to report to your management team, so gather information, details, and results from your employees, so that you can paint an accurate picture to leadership.
7. Conduct a Retrospective or Review of How the Process Went
Once your strategy has been fully implemented, look back on the process and evaluate how things went. Ask yourself questions like:
- Did we achieve our goals?
- If not, why? What steps are required to get us to those goals?
- What roadblocks or challenges emerged over the course of the project that could have been anticipated? How can we avoid these challenges in the future?
- In general, what lessons can we learn from the process?
While failure is never the goal, an unsuccessful or flawed strategy implementation can prove a valuable learning experience for an organization, so long as time is taken to understand what went wrong and why.
Learning How to Oversee Strategy Implementation
Successful strategy implementation can be challenging, and it requires strong leadership and management skills. Effective delegation, patience, emotional intelligence, thorough organizational abilities, and communication skills are crucial.
If you’re looking to build your skills and become a better manager , consider taking a leadership or management course that aligns with your personal and professional goals. Management training courses are often flexible in design but offer critical, hands-on learning opportunities provided by leading industry experts that can be applied to any profession.
Do you want to improve your management skills? Explore our eight-week online course Management Essentials , and learn how you can spearhead initiatives that enable your organization to improve and innovate.
About the Author
The Ultimate Guide to Implementation Plans
Implementation plans provide step-by-step instructions for everything from digital marketing campaigns to ending hunger in rural communities . They’re used to transform abstract concepts within strategy plans into real-world action. The only downside is that implementation plans can be challenging to pull off. Some industries see as much as a 75% failure rate in plan execution.
The good news is you can succeed where others have failed by creating a successful implementation plan with the tips and strategies outlined in this guide.
Keep reading to discover must-have components for implementation plans, a thorough step-by-step planning method, and advice on how to avoid common pitfalls.
What is an implementation plan?
A project implementation plan (also called a strategic plan) is a combination of strategy, process, and action. It outlines the steps a team will use to achieve a shared objective. An implementation plan covers all aspects of a project , including the budget, timeline, and personnel.
The perfect project plan includes:
- Objectives, requirements
- Scope assessment
- An outline of deliverables
- Task due dates
- Risk assessment
- Stakeholder , team, and process management plans
- Team member roles and responsibilities
- Resource management
- Communication tools
Roadmap planning breaks down big-picture goals into measurable project phases, tasks, and subtasks. Each category is clearly defined with its own deadlines and resource allocations. Tasks and subtasks are assigned to team members who will complete and approve each one.
In other words, if the goal is the "what," the implementation plan is the "how."
An implementation plan is often presented as a written document or planned in a project management solution . The latter is a better fit for this particular roadmap because, as you can probably tell, implementation plans are complex and comprehensive. Implementation plans should all contain solutions for:
- Tasks and subtasks
- Any additional resources
It’s also important to note that having a flexible implementation plan is key for dealing with changes that come up once the project is live.
What are the benefits of implementation planning?
The benefits of implementation planning range from organizational to relationship-building to increased profitability. A solid implementation plan:
- Creates an actionable roadmap from project inception to completion
- Makes communication simple and crystal clear
- Improves employee retention in the long-term
- Organizes all resources in one manageable place
- Helps businesses be proactive instead of reactive
- Offers transparency to clients and collaborators
- Builds trust among stakeholders
- Holds everyone accountable
- Outlines a daily and weekly workflow the whole team can follow
- Improves the likelihood of buy-in
- Makes collaboration more fluid and synergistic
- Helps businesses commit to long-term goals
- Gets everyone’s thoughts out of their heads and into one accessible place
When do you begin implementation planning?
Because it’s so involved, it’s important that you don’t begin implementation planning too early or too late.
Why? The process of creating an implementation plan is time-consuming. Most of the tasks involved require you to wait on communication or approvals from multiple stakeholders. The process also requires lots of research, goal-setting, gathering or defining resources, and getting team availability together.
Avoid planning too early by waiting until the project is officially greenlit. The definition of greenlit means something different to every agency. However, most would agree that a signed contract and successful deposit payment are good markers.
After those client onboarding tasks are complete, you can begin implementation planning. Remember, the project can’t begin without these plans, so have a system in place to kick off and support implementation planning ahead of time.
What is an implementation timeline?
An implementation timeline is a visual representation of all project-related due dates. That includes:
- The final project due date
- Dates your team needs to complete each phase by
- Due dates for individual tasks and subtasks
These dates aren’t set in stone yet. However, accurately forecasting effort and mini-milestones now will make the implementation phase that much easier.
Implementation timelines are often represented by visual Gantt charts . A Gantt chart uses bars to track the progress of each phase, task, and subtask all at once. Wrike users can add task dependencies, which trigger automatic chart updates and notifications to team members in charge of the next steps.
Gantt charts also help project managers identify possible roadblocks. With every single step laid out, it’s easy to see where resources are stretched too thin and whether or not milestones are realistic.
How do you make an implementation plan?
Follow these steps to create a successful implementation plan:
- Choose an implementation planning tool Project management solutions like Wrike can help teams share information, start and complete approvals, and set up timelines with ease.
- Holidays or upcoming PTO
- Delivery time for goods and materials
- Additional training or onboarding of outside team members
- Review the strategic plan Ask yourself, where do the implementation plan and strategic plan align so far? Where does it conflict? When in doubt, always edit your implementation plan to support your strategic plan.
- What the project is
- Why it’s important
- Who is involved
- What is each person’s role in the project
- What all parties hope to achieve
- The obstacles you foresee and how your team will overcome them
- Which ROIs you’ll use to measure success
- Is available for the project as a whole
- Should be allocated to each key phase
- Will be monitored, and who will oversee it
- Will be broken down into trackable categories
- Collect related materials Gather the documents you need to plan and execute the project all in one place. Include data from past projects that may help you accurately forecast this one.
- Define how progress will be measured and monitored Choose KPIs that align with your project goals, then chart progress within your project management solution. Come up with a plan for who is in charge and how often they’ll check in.
- Outline management buy-in criteria Get crystal clear on what managers are looking for, what information they need to approve or reject, and any other information that will decrease resistance.
- Do a stakeholder analysis Create a chart that defines each stakeholder’s level of impact, influence, and attitude. Explain the evaluations further and create an action plan for each person or group.
- Clarify day-to-day operations Include a work plan that goes over which processes will be used, which will be changed, and how future changes will be dealt with down the road. Choose who is responsible for approving, managing, and finalizing adjustments as they come up.
- Everyone’s preferred mode of communication
- What type of updates are expected when
- And how information will be shared Also, designate communication channels and leaders who will oversee them. Don’t forget to loop in both your implementation leader and strategy director. Stakeholders do not need to sign off on this section. However, you may choose to share it with them so they can see how you plan to keep everyone on track.
- Identify key project phases, tasks, and subtasks Break the project goal down into actionable steps. Give each phase a name, deadline, and set of related tasks. Use project status updates in Wrike to communicate task and subtask due date expectations with everyone involved. Updates are formatted as dropdown menu options which make it easy for individuals to quickly update the entire team when they’ve moved on to the next step. After, assign team members to complete and approve each task. Set up task dependencies within Wrike, so status notifications are automatically sent to those who were waiting to move on to the next step.
- Go over security needs If your project deals with sensitive data, outline what you’ll need to keep the entire project and team compliant throughout. List all digital and physical information sources that require privacy (think sensitive company financial data, home addresses, credit or bank account information, etc.).
- Provide a glossary Include industry terms that clients, stakeholders, and teams will need to know throughout the course of the project. Add project-related abbreviations, slang, or resource nicknames you expect will come up in communications.
What are the components of an implementation plan?
There are 13 components every implementation plan needs to have:
- Selected tools
- Preliminary research
- Strategic plan alignment
- Project summary
- Resource and materials list
- Goal monitoring and measurement
- Buy-in criteria
- Stakeholder management
- Operations plan
- Management plan
- Key phases and tasks
- Glossary of terms
A simple implementation plan template
Your own project implementation plan will have lots of information included, but a simple table including the steps needed to launch the project is always a good place to start.
In this example, a small business is preparing to launch an online store to sell its products. Let's take a look at how this looks on a simple table.
What are implementation planning best practices?
- Always be as specific as possible
- Don’t shy away from consulting experts and conducting additional research as needed
- Pull data from similar past projects (successful and unsuccessful), then apply what you learned
- Remember that 100% alignment between all stakeholders and personnel across the board is unrealistic
- Use a project management solution to quickly update plans when changes come up
- Centralize communication to save time and keep everyone on the same page
What information do you put in an implementation schedule?
Include an outline of the project timeline, goals, and tasks to keep teams on the same page. Combine that with key updates on:
- The progress of major phases
- Adjustments made to budgets, timelines, or personnel
- Upcoming challenges and planned solutions
Implementation schedules are also meant for stakeholders, so the information you put in one needs to be tailored toward their needs. Identify each stakeholder’s level of involvement and what information they want to receive.
What is the implementation process?
The implementation process is the step-by-step plan a team follows to achieve a shared objective. Each step is concrete and actionable. These instructions should be easily understood by anyone who reads them.
What is a good implementation plan example?
One good implementation plan example comes from Outdoor Equipment Manufacturer MTD . The brand uses Wrike to optimize its complex product development process.
Their projects involve having multiple active tasks open across a variety of teams at the same time. As a result, their implementation plan relies on custom workflows, visual progress updates, and a bird’s eye view of what’s going on across the entire organization.
Who creates implementation plans?
Project managers create implementation plans. They may choose to collaborate with team leads, subject experts, suppliers, and stakeholders to add important details. However, project managers are responsible for drafting, revising, and monitoring implementation plans the whole way through.
What are the challenges of an implementation plan?
- Foggy vision Implementation plans are only as good as the strategy they’re based on. Connect back to your original goals and strategy plan frequently when drafting the implementation process.
- Bad communication Instant messenger notes and email updates tend to get lost over the course of a project. Centralize all communication in your project management platform. In Wrike, use @ mentions to loop in stakeholders and collaborators.
- Lack of training Hire outside specialists or plan time for proper employee training on new projects, especially if those skill sets come with a learning curve.
How to use Wrike as implementation planning software
Create a foolproof project plan using Wrike’s visual Gantt charts, detailed task options, and robust templates . Each of these features helps project managers easily make and monitor progress. Use our two-week free trial to save time with customizable implementation plan templates you can use over and over again.
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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.
Implementation is the act of putting the strategy into place utilizing resources within an organization or department. Execution is completing the tasks as part of the implementation plan to complete the strategic initiative through resources of the organized team.” See how Smartsheet can help you be more effective
An implementation plan is a project management tool that facilitates the execution of a strategic plan for a company or a project by breaking down the implementation process into smaller steps while defining the timeline, the teams and the resources that will be needed. Related: Free Implementation Plan Template
Over time, management standards become a set of organizational reflexes within the business, reducing much of the effort of delivering and sustaining change. Implementation practices. As for specific implementation practices, the executives we surveyed said their companies do fairly well at some practices associated with successful transformations.
A project implementation plan is a document that defines how a project will be executed. Implementation plans explain the strategic goals and steps involved in a project, define the project completion timeline, and list the resources (including team members) necessary for a successful project.
7 Key Steps in the Implementation Process 1. Set Clear Goals and Define Key Variables The first step of the process is straightforward: You must identify the goals that the new strategy should achieve. Without a clear picture of what you’re trying to attain, it can be difficult to establish a plan for getting there.
An implementation plan covers all aspects of a project, including the budget, timeline, and personnel. The perfect project plan includes: Objectives, requirements Scope assessment An outline of deliverables Task due dates Scheduling Risk assessment Stakeholder, team, and process management plans Team member roles and responsibilities
What is business implementation? Business implementations, also called a business implementation plan, is a set of steps that companies use to determine how to implement a strategic plan within company activities to achieve one or more business plan objectives.