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 for 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 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
Every implementation plan 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 of 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 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.
- Conduct research
Get insight from key experts on your team about the process and resources they’ll need. Come up with your first impressions on what goals, timeline, personnel, and budgets will be realistic.
Afterward, add a list of potential risks you assume will come up at some point. For example, you can include:
- 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 does 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.
- Write a summary
Define each big picture component of the project. Make sure your draft includes:
- 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
- What obstacles you foresee and how your team will overcome them
- Which ROIs you’ll use to measure success
- Define all resources
For your overall project budget, timeline, and team, figure out how much of each resource:
- 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 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. Further explain the evaluations 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.
- Create a management plan
A management plan defines who is in charge of overseeing progress and what their milestones are. It should also list the manager’s contact information plus a thorough communication plan.
Include details on:
- 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 that status notifications are automatically sent to those who were waiting to move onto 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
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 towards 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 their 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 help 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.