Complete Guide to Gantt Charts

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How to Create a Project Plan in Excel (with Templates)

Creating a functional project plan is an essential first step in launching a new project. A project plan contains all the necessary information and steps for successful execution. Since inadequate project planning is often cited as a key contributor to project failure, it’s imperative to invest time into creating a project plan before beginning a new project.

Getting started with a project plan

Experienced project managers recognize the importance of project planning, but for those just starting out, it can be overwhelming to map out everything that should be included in a project plan. Strong project plans describe the project’s goals and objectives, involved stakeholders, budget, timeline, deliverables, and resources available for the project.  

Organizing all of a project’s information together can be challenging without the help of technology. And despite the availability of professional project planning software, most companies still use Excel to plan and track projects. Here are some examples of Excel project management templates from Vertex42 that can be used to create the different components of a project plan. However, if you’re looking to manage more complex projects, offers a variety of project planning templates.

Defining the goals and objectives

The first step in building a project plan is identifying the goals and objectives of the project.  This Project Planner Template from Vertex42 provides an easy way to list all the objectives in your project so you can begin outlining the associated tasks:

Project Planner Template
Project Planner Template

Alternatively, you can use's Project Planning template.

Identifying project stakeholders

Project stakeholders are individuals with a vested interest in the project. Stakeholders may include your management team, internal teams working on the project, and individuals who may be responsible for a specific project task. The easiest way to identify project stakeholders is by using a RACI matrix template. A RACI matrix identifies who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed at every stage of the project.

RACI Matrix Template
RACI Matrix Template

As an alternative to this template, you can use an Excel RACI template to ensure all project stakeholders are kept up to date on the project’s progress.

Creating a project budget

One of the most important pieces of a project plan is the budget, which outlines how much money is allocated to each step of the project. The failure to track the budget during project implementation can have serious consequences for your company and/or your client — depending on who is accountable for overruns.

There are several Excel Project Budget templates available, and also offers multiple customizable budget templates that can be used for any type of project and industry.  

Establishing a project timeline

Project schedule or timeline is another key component of a project plan. This is where you can track tasks that are due and monitor progress toward your milestones. The most common way to set a project timeline is by using a Gantt Chart, which provides a visual layout of each task and the dates by when project tasks must be completed. Gantt charts are popular with project managers because they provide a clear picture of the entire project, and can help identify at-risk dependencies that could lead to project delays. A Gantt Chart template, like this one from provides a comprehensive view of your entire project schedule, from start to finish.

Gantt Chart Template
Gantt Chart Template

An Excel Gantt Chart Template can also be used to oversee your project delivery dates.

Managing project resources

A skilled project manager knows that the team members assigned to the project are their most valuable assets. They understand that the project will not be completed in the most efficient way if some team members are overloaded with tasks while others have little on their plates. Managing project resources is all about tracking the work that has been assigned to team members and reassigning tasks as needed to meet the project timeline. Project resources can be easily managed with an Excel Task List Template, or, if you’re looking for additional features, this Project Status Report template from can help you track each team member’s workload in great detail.

Project Status Report Spreadsheet
Project Status Report Template

When to use Excel for project planning

Using Excel to plan your project might be sufficient if…

  • You’re working independently: Project management software comes with advanced features that are ideal for teams and organizations working with multiple internal and external resources. If you work by yourself or with a small group, Excel can work just fine.
  • You’re just starting out: If you’re in the early stages of building your business and you’re managing simple projects, Excel project plan templates will do the job. pricing is comparable to Excel online, so your budget won’t suffer with either option.
  • You need to analyze and manipulate data: Since Excel was originally created for data analysis by sorting and organizing data, working in Excel can be a great option.

Creating a solid project plan is the first step in managing any project, regardless of its size.

You can easily customize an Excel template and effortlessly import it into to enjoy the same spreadsheet features. Or, for more complex projects, choose from a gallery of templates available from

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