Construction Planning: Everything You Need To Know

By: on April 1, 2024
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As a construction manager, mastering construction project planning in order to complete projects on time and within budget is key. If you don’t have a construction project plan in place, you may be looking at costly design and implementation mistakes, even regulatory flaws. But what exactly is construction planning, and what does a successful planning process look like?

In this article, we've taken the five phases of construction project management—concept and initiation, planning, execution, performance/monitoring, and project close—and adapted them to fit your needs as a construction project manager. We've also explained how construction software can help at each step.

What is construction planning?

Construction planning is the process a construction manager uses to determine how to manage and execute a construction project, from building design to completion. It lists the activities and schedules for each part of the construction process.

A construction plan defines the scope of work, sets timelines, allocates resources, and establishes communication protocols. In short, it's the master plan that ensures project planning in construction runs smoothly and meets its deadlines, budget constraints, and quality standards.

As a bonus for you, we've created an easily downloadable master construction planning template that covers all the bases and serves as a great starting point. The template will make your job much easier and help you save time. Get your copy here.

Construction planning process

Follow these construction project planning steps to ensure success.

1. Initiate the project

Every construction project, no matter how big or small, must start with a business case that outlines its feasibility and the steps required to complete it.

Start by creating a project initiation document (PID) that describes the following in general, not technical, terms (the technical part comes later):

  • People: Workers needed, including contractors and subcontractors such as plumbers and electricians.

  • Resources: Materials needed for what's outlined in the design and building plans.

  • Budget: Total cost estimate of the project, including labor, materials, equipment, fees, and permits.

This document outlines the needed resources and keeps your stakeholders and crew informed. Download our free project initiation document template to start planning your construction project. Our master template also has a construction budget calculator, construction estimator, and bid template to simplify the estimation and contracting process.

Bonus tip

Use document management software to organize and store all project-related documentation in a central repository. Also, ensure everyone on the project team knows where to find and how to use the system to avoid disruptions.

2. Create the project plan

Now comes the part where you'll turn the PID into a more concrete construction plan by setting S.M.A.R.T. and C.L.E.A.R. goals. You'll use the specific resources you listed in the previous step to inform a broader strategy that will guide your project execution.

Let's start with the definition of S.M.A.R.T. goals:


Set specific goals for your project, such as deadlines for key milestones.


Agree on how you will measure success for goals. For example, is it good enough that you have started laying concrete by the deadline, or should it be completely set by that date?


You need a plan in place for how you will achieve these goals. For example, does your project depend on a specific material that might not be available in the quantity you need when you need it? If so, you need to make adjustments.


Your goals must be within your construction manager's abilities. For example, if your project includes plans to finish the electrical work within three months when you've never completed it in less than six months for a project of this size, you're setting yourself up for failure.


Lay out a specific time frame within which you can realistically expect the project to achieve these goals.

Next, let's take a look at C.L.E.A.R. goals, which are a slight variation on this strategy:


Get everyone on board. Before the project begins, meet with the entire team to lay out what's expected and have them help you identify any possible obstacles.


Limit these goals in scope and time frame to avoid getting overwhelmed.


Ensure the goals will get your employees fired up and on board.


Break big goals into achievable tasks to not overwhelm your workers.


Be flexible because you can never predict what will happen on a construction site.

Bonus tip

Identify the team members responsible for fulfilling each goal in the specified time. Regularly monitor the project status and conduct check-ins using construction management software features such as to-do lists, notes, reminders, and Gantt charts for project visualization.

3. Execute the plan

It's time to execute your plan. To keep everything on track, create a high-level project timeline that includes major milestones and key deliverables. Once you have a timeline in place, start mapping out the details of each project stage.

Next, call a team meeting to discuss the building construction project plan and schedule. If possible, talk to each person on your crew individually to discuss expectations and allow them to ask questions about anything they're confused about.

You might also need to assign a project manager(s) to oversee your teams. If you're a very small business, you may be the only project manager, but you must have a schedule for what you'll be checking and when.

Bonus tip

Develop a project timeline and track progress against milestones in real time by using construction scheduling software. This software will give you better visibility into the project, help identify potential risks and issues early on, and let you course-correct as needed to stay on track.

4. Track your progress

You must accurately track the performance of your construction project team and ensure they're meeting the parameters you've set. In the event of an unsuccessful project, this process ensures you have data to figure out why you failed so it doesn't happen again.

Successful construction managers typically use key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor the performance of their projects. Some typical KPIs you can track include:

  • Project objectives: Are you on schedule and budget?

  • Project performance: Is the project proceeding smoothly, or are you facing some obstacles you weren't expecting?

  • Quality: Sure, the crew is hitting their milestones, but is the work up to the quality you want at this stage?

To stay on top of your construction project schedule, maintain accurate records to analyze progress and decide on course corrections. Keep our documentation tracker template handy to track all project documentation and deliverables.

Bonus tip

Track project data and progress using project tracking software that supports construction projects. The software will be the single source of truth for all project-related information, allowing you to make data-driven decisions and avoid potential disruptions.

5. Closeout and evaluate the project

Just because the building is constructed doesn't mean you're done with the planning process. The lessons learned and data gathered from this project will help inform how you approach your next project, so performing the close-out tasks is important. This work can also serve as some of the pre-construction planning for your next project.

Thanks to your clearly defined building construction project plan and a way to track performance and obstacles, you're well-equipped to conduct an even more successful construction planning process the next time. You'll know where the obstacles are and what mistakes were made, which will then inform how you can tweak the next construction plan to maximize success.

But this process shouldn't happen only in your head. Call a final meeting with your crew to discuss performance. Conduct a brainstorming session to get ideas on what you could have done better, and take extensive notes. Your team is your eyes and ears, so don't miss the opportunity to collect their valuable insight.

To formally close the project, create the actual project budget, compare it with the original budget, and draft the final project report to share with key stakeholders.

Why is construction planning important?

Construction planning and management help you stay on budget and achieve your desired timeline

When you plan accordingly, you will:

  • Minimize delays and budget overruns by identifying potential issues so that you can proactively mitigate risks. 

  • Increase the quality of your construction projects, ensuring each step is completed to the required standard. 

  • Develop schedules for team members and optimize equipment use to maximize productivity and minimize downtime. 

Types of construction project planning

The type of construction project planning methods you use will depend on the industry and scope of work. However, most construction planning teams will need to be familiar with the six different types of construction planning in order to pave the way for successful execution:

  • Strategic planning: This involves meeting with various parties, such as corporate managers and clients, to ensure project alignment. By understanding project expectations from the get-go, project managers can create a master delivery plan with set guidelines. 

  • Business planning: Typically created before a project begins, this is a draft that outlines project tasks and assignments required by specific team members. This planning process often includes a bid and contract for the client to sign.

  • Operational planning: In this phase, construction teams work together to complete all necessary tasks within their detailed plans. Operational plans are tied to projected timelines and an anticipated completion date.

  • Resource planning: This step ensures a project has all the necessary materials, workers, and resources to complete it on time. This phase can include asset, workforce, and material management. 

Construction project management involves many moving parts, so construction software is valuable. From enhanced communication and collaboration to real-time access to data, construction management software improves organization and operational efficiency while reducing costs and delays.

Tips for leveraging construction software in your construction planning process 

Here are some tips to help you leverage construction software to optimize the planning process:

  • Prioritize the power of automation when possible. Benefit from automated notifications, accounting services, automated takeoffs, etc. 

  • Use available templates for tasks such as cost estimates, scheduling, etc. Not only will this save you time and money, you can ensure consistency. 

  • Optimize regular communication and collaboration. Was there a delay with the concrete crew? Centralize communication so that the next tradesmen know that scheduling has changed. 

  • Use software features to your advantage, such as sharing videos or photos. This will give team members an understanding of project progress. 

Key strategies for managing risks and minimizing delays in construction planning

Now's the time to fix your construction planning process to keep your next project on time and within budget. And it's a lot easier to do than you think. Here are a few simple construction project planning strategies to improve how you run your construction projects:

  • Evaluate your current construction software. Does it offer the features discussed above? If not, it may be time to start examining options that do. Compare solutions and read user reviews here, or check out our construction software buyers guide for more help.

  • Create a mock project initiation document, and ask yourself questions: Have I been going into this level of detail before a project? How can it help me? How can I incorporate this into my next project?

  • Examine your current work schedule. Where can you schedule time to conduct an extensive planning process that incorporates all of these steps? Be intentional and carve out some time to do it. 

Get the most out of your construction planning software

Project planning in construction is fundamental to the management and execution of projects. However, the planning process is not without its challenges. To ensure success, leverage construction planning software, selecting options that best suit your needs and use case.