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How to Create a Project Plan in Excel [Step-by-Step]

17th May, 2024
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    How to Create a Project Plan in Excel [Step-by-Step]

    The most crucial aspect of project management is the project plan in excel. An effective project plan includes a scope definition and a feasibility study. Only after a successful plan has been laid out can execution begin. Various project management software programs can be used for effective project planning, and one of the simplest and widely used in project plan in excel.

    Microsoft Excel is one of the world's most popular spreadsheet software programs. People of all ages use it in schools, colleges, homes, and offices. In addition, excel is used in the majority of organizations to generate progress reports and manage business data.

    What is a Project Plan?

    A project plan, according to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), is a formal document that is approved by all parties involved and provides guidance on how a project is executed and controlled.

    A project plan is intended to deliver on the project's scope, contribute to the decision-making, and allows stakeholders to communicate smoothly. A project plan can present several points, including the list of all the stakeholders, the future vision and mission of the business, the cost baseline, plans to manage the business, etc. A project plan is more than just a project timeline. There is so much more to excel, and you can ace it with the best Project Management courses available online.

    Why Do You Need Project Tracker?

    The primary reason for using a Project Tracker is inefficiency and uneven resource distribution. Project management software can help us accomplish more with fewer resources. The primary reasons are listed below:

    1. Task Overflow
    2. Resource Distribution
    3. There is no set priority list.

    The Multiple Projects tracker has several advantages:  

    1. Provides an overview of the data without delving too deeply into it.
    2. Can repeat the process without difficulty.
    3. Effective Resource management.
    4. Capable of switching from one task to another. 

    The Importance of Creating a Project Plan

    A project plan is one of the essential components of a successful project. It documents and communicates expectations, controls timelines and deliveries, and calculates and manages risks. In general, it serves as a road map for all project participants. The following are the four most significant advantages of a project plan:

    Here are some of the important reasons for having the best project plan.

    1. Smooth Communication

    As stated earlier, having an outline of your project allows each and every member to have a clear picture of the project. In fact, by handing over a project outline you can get feedback much earlier from stakeholders. This will save time for both parties.

    2. Increase Transparency 

    Another important reason for having a project plan in hand is the level of transparency it offers regarding your project. Even if you miss out on some points while discussing the project, the outline of your project will have those covered! There’s always a place where stakeholders and team members can look for a bit more information.

    3. Keep Things Organized

    Many projects, when broken down into parts, have hundreds of milestones to achieve, tasks to accomplish, etc. At times tracking these can be quite difficult, especially when your team members have a busy schedules. Missing out on certain tasks can have a huge impact on the overall performance of the project. Hence, it is extremely important to have a project plan that keeps things organized.

    How to Create a Project Plan in Excel (Step-By-Step)

    You might have been wondering for a long time how to make a project plan in excel. Here are some step-by-step instructions with an Excel project management template. We'll show you how to make your project timeline after you've created the table with your project information.

    1. Add Headers to the Table 

    To begin, you must add some headers to your table.

    • In your spreadsheet, leave the first-row blank. Fill in the headers on the second row. Tasks, Responsible, Start, End, Days, and Status are used in this example. You could also include more headers for granularity, such as Budget, Cost, etc.
    • To center the text in the headers, highlight the text and click the center icon in the Alignment group.
    • To format the headers for proper spacing, highlight the text you just typed and click Format on the Home tab in the Cells group. Next, choose Column Width and set the width to around 15-20 to allow enough space to enter your project information.

    2. Add Your Project Information

    • Begin by filling up the Task column with the tasks for your project plan. You are free to input as many or as few assignments as you choose. To visually arrange your project plan, give each collection of activities or stages a label. In this example, the terms prerequisites, inception, development, operations, and launch are employed.
    • Then, fill in the person in charge of each job, as well as the start and end dates.
    • To add the computation of days automatically, pick the ays column cell and enter "=". Following this, pick the cell containing the End Date and enter a Minus (-) there. The last step is to choose a start date and enter the code. Following that, choose the cell's bottom right corner and drag it down the entire column. That's all! The values will be computed automatically for you using the specific formula.
    • Enter the task's current state. Terms such as pending, in process, under review, completed, and so on can be used.
    • Enter the task's current state. Terms such as pending, in process, under review, completed, and so on can be used. 
    • Make sure all of your data is in the table, although the spacing will be wrong depending on how long your text is. To fix this, select all of your data and then, under the Cells group, click Format. Next, choose Autofit Column Width to have the column width altered automatically to fit your content.
    • To centre your content, select it and then click the centre symbol in the Alignment group.

    3. Add Colors to Convey Project Status at a Glance

    Colors and visual hierarchy can be easily added to your project plan. Floor the steps mentioned below to revise your color and visual effect in the excel sheet:

    • To change the color of the typefaces, choose the cell containing the text to be changed. Then, choose the Home tab and select the suitable color from a dropdown menu with a variety of color possibilities.
    • To change the background color of one or more cells, first select the cell (s). Then, using the paint bucket icon, pick the fill color.
    • Select one or more cells to format fonts. You may change the font style and size, as well as make the title bold, italicised, or underlined, on the Home tab. 

    Aside from this, backdrop colors might be included in project designs. Furthermore, the status column's typeface may be changed to highlight the project's current state or milestones that have been met. For further information, you can always take a Professional Project Management course for more details. 

    4. Create the Project Plan Timeline

    You've already entered your project information into the table; now it's time to create the project timeline template in excel. Dates can be added and formatted. 

    • In another column adjacent to the previous one, enter the two project timeline dates. Please keep in mind that this must be on the same row as your table headings. The next step is to hold Shift, pick both dates, and drag them from the first to the last. 
    • The cells are rather huge, as you will discover. To make the timeline more compact, select all dates and lower the text size. In this instance, we've gone with font size 9. 
    • By clicking on the dates again in the cell groups, you may select the format choice. In addition, by selecting the autofit column width option, one may change the width of a column. 

    5. Make the Project Timeline More Colorful

    • First, make your timeline have the same background colors and text formatting as your table. 

    • You have now generated a matrix of sorts. You have a row for each task, and you just fill in the cells on the right side of your timeline with the start and finish dates for each job. Click the paint bucket symbol after selecting a cell (or many cells). Choose your preferred color. 

    How Do I Make a Gantt Chart in Excel?

    A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that is commonly used in project management. It provides a graphical representation of the project schedule template Excel, which aids in the creation and tracking of deadlines as well as the resources needed to complete the project. 

    To make a Gantt chart in Excel, follow these steps: 

    1. Set up a project table 

    Each task is listed in its own row, along with the start date and duration (number of days required to complete that task). 

    2. Create a bar chart in Excel

    • Choose a start date range, B1:B11. 
    • Select the bar chart group from the Insert tab. 
    • Then, in the 2-D Bar chart group, choose a stacked bar. 

    • As a result, we'll have a bar graph like the one shown. 

    3. Including a tenure column in the chart 

    • Click anywhere on the chart with the right mouse button. 
    • From the dropdown menu, select "Select Data." 


    • The "Select Data Source" dialogue box will appear. 
    • The start date is already specified in the entries. 
    • To enter the tenure, click the "Add" button. 

    • Enter "Tenure" in the Series name field. 
    • Then, select the "range selection" icon. 

    • Then choose the tenure from the first cell in C2. 
    • All of the relevant cells should be dragged. 

    • In the dialogue box, click "OK." 
    • This bar graph appears on the screen. 


    4. Inserting a task description into the Gantt chart

    • Navigate to the "Select Data Source" dialogue box. 
    • As shown in the figure, select the "Edit" option. 

    • Now you can see the tasks on the left side of the Gantt chart.

    5. Switching from a bar graph to a Gantt chart 

    • Select "Format Data Series" by clicking on the bars. 

    • In the "Format Data Series" dialogue box, select "No Fill." 

    • Based on the data you entered, you can see the Gantt chart. 

    • Select the task panel. 
    • From the "Format Axis" dialogue box, select "Categories in reverse order." 

    • The tasks are now in the proper order, and you have this Gantt chart. 

    • The dates on the Gantt chart, as you can see, are from 11-Dec, whereas the dates have been entered are from 01-Jan. 
    • In any box, copy the first date. 

    • Click on the copied date and select the dialogue box shown in the "Home" menu. 

    • In the dropdown menu, select "Number." 

    • You can now see a number in the selected box. 

    • Now, click on the dates in the Gantt chart to bring up the "Format Axis" dialogue box. 
    • We'll enter the number from the previous slide into the "Minimum" box here. 

    • This is the final Gantt chart you will receive: 

    6. Improving the Gantt chart's design

    • You can change the color of the bar or add effects to it. 

    The Top Project Plan Excel Templates

    A project plan is most commonly used in the context of project management, with Gantt charts used to plan and report progress as the project changes. The Gantt chart distinguishes a project plan from a work plan template in excel, making it a more integrated project plan with a way to track tasks against timelines. A Gantt chart is a dynamic, horizontal bar chart that visualizes a project schedule and is useful for communicating project status to stakeholders. This type of template is intended for project managers who are in charge of large projects involving a large number of people. 

    Complete with a Gantt chart, project plan templates are most commonly used in situations such as construction project management or where a more agile project plan is required. However, when creating more complex project plans, some people prefer to use project management software, allowing them to update and manage their plans more flexibly easily. 

    1. A work plan template is intended to help you break down large project goals into smaller, more manageable steps. This template specifies what must be done, by whom, and when. A timeline is also included to help set expectations and improve transparency, keeping everyone on the same page about deliverables and deadlines. A work plan template is ideal for larger teams working on complex projects with numerous tasks and deadlines. 
    2. An action plan outlines all of the steps that must be taken to accomplish a specific goal. The template contains information about the actions that must be taken, the people who will carry them out, the due dates, priority, and status. While an action plan and a work plan are similar, an action plan focuses on goals. In contrast, a work plan template focuses on task phases, which are typically listed in chronological order. Individuals or small groups best use an action plan template. 
    3. A business plan template emphasizes business objectives and the strategy for achieving them. It focuses on your company's future and how you intend to achieve your goals. Business plans are much more strategic than work plans or action plans, and they frequently include a vision statement, business profile, economic assessment, and other elements. A business plan is best suited for people starting their own business, expanding their existing business, or seeking outside assistance.

    Download the Project plan template here!

    1. Project plan template (xlsx)

    2. Project plan template (xlsx)

    Project Plan Template

    Limitations of Using Excel to Create a Project Plan

    1. Extremely time-consuming

    It's easy to waste time finding, updating, and double-checking project information Because Excel is only suitable for certain data types, key documents such as the project statement and status reports must be found elsewhere. As a result, obtaining a comprehensive view of the project is impossible, including key decisions. 

    2. Inadequate project information

    Spreadsheets are prone to errors, especially when shared by multiple team members. It's impossible to know if you're using the most recent spreadsheet version, if the formulae are right, or if any data was modified or erased by mistake. In highly regulated in finances and healthcare sectors where the lack of transparency leads to serious issues.   

    When spreadsheets are saved in different locations, inconsistent data is kept in separate silos. You might consider the case where people save a particular document that is extremely important for a project in their local documents and forget to share it. In that case, the project work plan template excel could be put on hold for several weeks! 

    A lack of ownership adds to these frustrations; while many people may use the file, no one is in charge of ensuring its accuracy. 

    3. Excessive information

    It's a fact, that leading a team means tons of views or perspectives. For example, the information that a stakeholder looks for is quite different from what your team member might require. It's impossible to cater to all the requirements on an excel sheet. Furthermore, one has to spend their valuable time figuring out which relevant information to leave out and the ones to include. 

    4. Lack of cooperation

    Excel lacks essential collaborative capabilities like task lists, discussion boards, file sharing, and conversion tracking. As a result, team members find it difficult to verify the status of a work. They get confused on how to proceed with the task.   

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    Pros and Cons of Excel Project Plan

    Advantages of Using Excel

    • Excel is best suited for simple and singular projects. 
    • Significant time and money savings 
    • Comprehensive Spreadsheet Data Warehousing 
    • To-Do Lists and Project Schedule 
    • Instant Project Data Reporting with a Single Tool 
    • Graphs, charts, and three-dimensional maps 
    • Simple Work Scheduling Templates 

    Disadvantages of Using Excel

    • Collaboration Is Ineffective 
    • Fewer Real-Time Project Update Options 
    • The lack of an instant communication feature 
    • Obstacles to Ensuring Data Integrity 
    • Ineffective Issue Management 
    • Inadequate Time and Team Management 
    • Absence of Dedicated User Interface and Features 


    Excel project plan template has proven to be an effective and growing method for achieving successful outcomes for projects worldwide in hundreds of industries. When a professional decides to learn more about a solution, they are preparing themselves for success—and potentially putting themselves in a better position for leadership roles. There are several project managements excel template free and to learn more on how to use excel for project management you can surely take up the best PRINCE2 course online.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. Is there a project plan template in Excel?

    Yes, there is a project plan template in excel. This is a screenshot of the project plan template excel free download. It is based on the Interactive Project Plan Microsoft Excel Template. The free project plan template excel can be downloaded at the end of this topic.

    2. What are the 7 steps of project planning?

    1: Establish clear project goals
    2: Establish clear expectations
    3: Outline potential risks and how you'll manage them if hazards arise
    4: Reduce the number of meetings
    5: Arrange the ideal kickoff meeting
    6: Throughout the project, pull reports.

    3. What is a project plan template?

    A project plan template can be a simple project plan template excel or a complex one as per the requirement. For example, you can include a static timeline or a dynamic Gantt chart and concentrate on action items or business goals. Complete with a Gantt chart, project plan templates are most commonly used in situations such as construction project management or where a more agile project plan is required.

    4. How do I keep track of multiple projects in Excel?

    Excel is handy for tracking multiple projects, and there are several project plan template excel free download xlsx files. You can open and create new projects after downloading our multiple projects tracking template excel free download. Then add project plans and resources. This simple and easy-to-use template makes multiple managing projects a breeze.


    Kevin D.Davis

    Blog Author

    Kevin D. Davis is a seasoned and results-driven Program/Project Management Professional with a Master's Certificate in Advanced Project Management. With expertise in leading multi-million dollar projects, strategic planning, and sales operations, Kevin excels in maximizing solutions and building business cases. He possesses a deep understanding of methodologies such as PMBOK, Lean Six Sigma, and TQM to achieve business/technology alignment. With over 100 instructional training sessions and extensive experience as a PMP Exam Prep Instructor at KnowledgeHut, Kevin has a proven track record in project management training and consulting. His expertise has helped in driving successful project outcomes and fostering organizational growth.

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