Project management

Project planning " 6 steps to project success ✓ + tips

The start-up phase of a project may be inspiring and motivating, but is detailed project planning really necessary? Gain insights into the importance of project planning and ensure your project's success with 6 crucial steps.
Project planning " 6 steps to project success ✓ + tips

As a project manager, you create a plan that serves as the basis for implementation. This not only provides structure, but also enables you to monitor the progress of the project and always know where you stand. In this blog, we give you 6 steps to make your project planning a success.

Table of contents - What you can expect:

Successful project planning in practice
6 steps in project planning
Project planning with ZEP - All the advantages
Aim of project planning

What is project planning?

Project planning is clearly closely linked to projects themselves. But what does the term actually mean? According to Gabler Business Dictionary project" is defined as follows:

"Temporary, relatively innovative and risky task of considerable complexity, which usually requires special project management due to its difficulty and importance."

What exactly does that mean? Project planning aims to lay the foundations for the realisation of a project. This includes planning the timeline, the scope of the tasks, the budget and resources as well as defining the objectives.

How does successful project planning work in practice?

"Create a project plan" can give rise to very different expectations in practice. Project planning is defined as a generic term for all activities that are to take place before implementation - the term is therefore very broad here. In this interpretation, all activities in the start or definition phase must be carried out alongside the actual planning. The 7-W questions from classic project management offer you very good support for this:

📍 Where do we stand? 📍 Why are we doing the project? 📍 What should be achieved? 📍 Who is involved? 📍 How can we achieve the goals? 📍 When should the goals be achieved? 📍 How much will the project cost?

If you define the term more narrowly, then it often "only" refers to the creation of a schedule in combination with the tasks to be carried out. You can therefore either carry out project planning in great detail or in a rudimentary way. Regardless of which option you choose: For every project, ask yourself what exactly the goal should be.

6 steps in project planning

In practice, you can basically divide project planning into 6 steps that can contribute significantly to the success of the project:

Phase planning: Define phases & milestones
Project structure planning: Define sub-projects
Project schedule: Set sequence
Scheduling: Estimate project duration
Resource planning: Assign personnel
Project controlling: Estimate project costs

Step 1: Phase planning

Delineating the individual project phases is often an intuitive step for all those involved: when do we deal with what and in what order? To ensure an optimal overview, you could, for example, create a graphical phase plan consisting of two main parts:

1. project phases: These represent time-limited phases in the course of your project in which specific activities are to be carried out and results achieved.

2. milestones: These are particularly important measurement and test points in your project at which certain results or states are to be achieved.

The first planning phase is therefore the project organisation. This is where you make preparations and carry out initial coordination for the realisation of the project - the rough planning, so to speak. After completing this phase, you present the details to all project participants in a project plan structure.

Step 2: Project structure planning

In the second section of project planning, you deal with the project content: Which tasks should be completed? And what is the best way to coordinate a large project? Break the project down into its individual components in order to better manage the tasks. You can do this with the help of a work breakdown structure (WBS). The content of the project is subdivided and displayed hierarchically in a tree structure. The work breakdown structure is made up of 3 key elements:

1. overall project: At the top is the project as the superordinate element. To keep an eye on progress at all times, you can add various statuses: in planning, in progress, in review, completed.

2. sub-projects: In the centre are sub-projects, which - depending on the scope of the project - are managed by project managers. This is where you define when a task is to be started. Keep an eye on other sub-projects so that the time budget is not exceeded.

3. work packages: At the bottom are defined tasks that are completed by project team members. Always ask yourself how extensive the individual tasks are and, if necessary, define a planned effort in order to compare how effective your planning is.

Without a clearly defined work breakdown structure, the organisation of your projects quickly becomes confusing and the process is jeopardised. With a WBS, you can organise projects - no matter how large or small they are - into a comprehensible and detailed structure, making it easier to achieve your goal.

Step 3: Project schedule

The project schedule comes into play in the next section of project planning. While you have focussed on collecting and structuring all content and tasks in the work breakdown structure, you aim to map all resulting processes in the project schedule - the phase plan for your project management, so to speak. The defined sequence of individual activities takes centre stage here. This allows you to map out which processes are dependent on each other, which tasks you can work on in parallel and how relationships between the tasks can be worked out.

The project schedule ensures that all relationships between the defined work packages are clear. This not only promotes targeted processing, but also ensures that no tasks are overlooked. The so-called RACI matrix can help you with this Process optimisation as you can define exactly which project participants are responsible for what.

Definition of RACI matrix

Responsible: Which person is responsible for realising the task? Normally you define a single person here. This person can in turn involve other people in the process of a project or task.

Accountable: Who makes the decisions as to whether the task has been carried out correctly? The "Accountable" person delegates tasks to the "Responsible" person and checks the results of the implementation.

Consulted: Who is contacted for the implementation? This often concerns technical experts or third parties who are not directly involved in the implementation, but who act in an advisory capacity, for example.

Informed: Which person is informed about the results of the task? As a rule, there is no two-way communication here, only information is transmitted.

Step 4: Scheduling

Time planning or scheduling is closely linked to the project schedule and starts exactly where it ends in the project planning. These steps can also be easily combined with each other. In both cases, however, the aim is to map all project processes, including their sequence.

If you are planning a project, also assign specific dates to the individual tasks for their sequence. A popular method for graphical representation is the so-called Gantt chart. This combines the visualisation of the individual sub-projects and their task packages with the relationships and time distribution on a timeline. As a project manager, you can therefore recognise at a glance when and for how long a task is to be processed.

Step 5: Resource planning

A time frame is important, but who will carry out the individual tasks? A precise Resource planning answers the following questions during project planning:

➡️ What resources do you need?

➡️ What qualifications must the project participants have?

➡️ Do you need material resources?

➡️ How many resources are required?

➡️ At what point in the project do you need these resources?

As soon as you have clearly defined all resources, you can allocate them to individual tasks. This allows you to keep track of all the workloads of your project participants and recognise from the outset where bottlenecks could occur so that you can take countermeasures in good time if necessary.
Always keep an eye on the workload of everyone involved in the project to avoid overloads. Thorough and forward-looking capacity planning is particularly important, as resources are only available to a limited extent and may also be needed elsewhere in the company.

Step 6: Project controlling

Have you carried out the entire project planning according to the steps described? Then budget planning and project controlling are no longer a major problem. After resource planning, you know the cost amount that a resource incurs per time unit. If you work with a tool such as ZEP, you can use the Prices & Receipts Module store individual cost rates for each individual personnel item. Budget planning then virtually takes care of itself. ZEP not only makes budget planning easier for you at this point, but also during the rough planning of your project. Project controlling thus becomes a constant instance for your project management and project control from project planning to completion.

With software like ZEP, you can not only optimise your team's performance thanks to precise Project time tracking but also ensure that all targets remain within the planned time and budget.

How does project planning software improve your project management? All the advantages of ZEP at a glance!

Project planning software is a crucial tool for efficient project and programme management. Multi-project management. It enables teams to systematically plan, organise and execute their projects. One of the most powerful solutions on the market is ZEP, a software that offers numerous advantages for managing projects more successfully. The most important advantages of ZEP are listed below:

✅ Time and cost recording Precise recording of working hours and project costs
✅ Detailed reports Comprehensive reporting tools for transparent project monitoring
✅ Efficient resource planning Optimised allocation and management of resources
✅ Real-time overview Constant availability of current project data
✅ Team collaboration Improved collaboration through shared database and communication tools
✅ Simple operation Clear user interface for quick familiarisation
✅ Scalability Flexibly adaptable to the size and complexity of the project
✅ Data security High level of data protection thanks to advanced security measures
✅ Cloud-based solution Access from anywhere and at any time
✅ Integration Seamless integration into existing systems and tools thanks to a wide range of interfaces


With its six steps, project planning is at the centre of the project management. With precise planning and a suitable tool such as ZEP, you can create the basis for your Project success. From planning individual activities to resource planning, ZEP allows you to cover the entire project process digitally. This allows you to react to unexpected adjustments at any time without overloading your team.

Through the Use of ZEP you can carry out your project planning precisely, analyse all progress and track processes. Optimise your workflows to work more productively. So that your projects are a complete success!


Why is project planning important?

Project planning is important as it provides structure and an overview of the entire project process. It enables progress to be monitored and helps to utilise resources efficiently in order to achieve the project goals on time and with maximum profitability to reach.

What is the aim of project planning?

The aim of project planning is to lay the foundations for the successful realisation of a project. This includes defining objectives, planning the timeline, allocating resources and estimating costs.

What should a project plan look like?

A project plan should cover all phases of the project and define important milestones. It should contain detailed structure and flow charts, clearly define the tasks and their sequence as well as the allocation of personnel and other resources.

How long does project planning take?

The duration of project planning depends on the complexity and scope of the project. As a rule, planning can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, although thorough planning at the beginning can save a lot of time and effort.

Tanja Hartmann CEP

Tanja Hartmann

Content Marketing Manager at ZEP

More interesting articles

Time recording for small businesses " All rules & tools ✓
Find out why project time tracking is essential for small companies and how modern software such as ZEP can help. Optimise your work processes, increase efficiency and stay competitive!

Read article

Professional Services Automation Software: PSA advantages

Find out how PSA software such as ZEP can optimise your service company - for improved efficiency and profitability.

Read article