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Project Management Plan: The Basics

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In a previous post, 7 Essential Project Planning Documents, I referred to the "Project Management Plan" as one of the key planning documents that fosters project success. 

Sometimes people confuse the project management plan with the schedule or the scope plan. But it's more than that. 

A project management plan is the planning document, capturing the entire project end-to-end, covering all project phases, from initiation through planning, execution and closure. 

A comprehensive plan covers at least the followings areas and components: 
(Note: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide -- Fourth Edition) covers these in Chapter 3. Instead of putting the elements one by one, I grouped them by purpose/meaning.)

  • Overview: Why the project is being conducted and its primary objectives 
  • Scope: Business needs, requirements, deliverables, constraints and work breakdown structure 
  • Schedule: Activities schedule and project milestones 
  • Costs: Project budget and its funding approach
  • Quality: Quality measurement and control approach
  • Project team: The people working on the project, their roles and responsibilities 
  • Communication: Communication type, channels and the reporting approach 
  • Risks: Risk index, methods to identify and evaluate risks, risk mitigation and contingency planning
  • Procurements: Required procurements and purchase processes
  • Closure: Closure approach, including the deliverables hand-off protocol 
  • Changes: Procedures used to track changes in the project 
  • Baselines: Scope, schedule and budget baselines
When writing a project management plan, the approach depends again
on the project's size and context. I personally use the following approaches:

  • The master document approach is where the entire project, with all the underlying planning details, is documented within the same master plan.
  • The index approach, when all subsidiary planning documents are written as separated documents and linked or referenced in an index-like plan.
What approach do you use when crafting a project management plan? What elements do you use?


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Agree, Project management plan is very critical to any project. As is like any customer/stakeholder etc., to a project without which you cannot execute a project.

Agreed, this is critical. Just as important is sponsor/stakeholder buy-in to the Project Management Plan. The longer and more complex the project, the more likely there will be "drift" in the understood requirements of the project. Having this solid framework to reference is a must.There are few activities more pointless than drafting the Project Management Plan after the project is in full swing.

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