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The "Real" Project Plan

~ By Jorge Dominguez

Gantt chart

I need a project plan by tomorrow morning. As project managers, that's what we hear. But we know that what the boss usually means is that s/he wants a project schedule. There is a problem though, how can you come up with a schedule without having the "real" project plan first?

The project plan, or project management plan as defined by PMI (for simplicity, we'll call it project plan in this article), is completely different from a project schedule and is the result of the planning processes. A change in the project plan can affect the project schedule. The project plan describes how the project work will be performed. It is the primary source of information for how the project will be planned, executed, monitored, controlled and closed.

The development of the project plan is an iterative process in itself. It is composed of a single document or a master document with a series of subsidiary documents, each defining one or several areas of the project management process.

The project plan content varies based on the project scope and complexity of the project. PMI says that the plan includes:

  • The project management processes selected by the project management team
  • The level of implementation of each selected process
  • The descriptions of the tools and techniques to be used for accomplishing those processes
  • How the selected processes will be used to manage the specific project, including the dependencies and interactions among those processes, and the essential inputs and outputs
  • How work will be executed to accomplish the project objectives
  • How changes will be monitored and controlled
  • How configuration management will be performed
  • How integrity of the performance measurement baselines will be determined and used
  • The need and techniques for communicating among stakeholders
  • The selected project life cycle and, for multi-phase projects, the associated project phases
  • Key management reviews for content, extent, and timing to facilitate addressing open issues and pending decisions

A subsidiary plan may include but is not limited to:

  • Project scope management plan
  • Schedule management plan
  • Cost management plan
  • Quality management plan
  • Process improvement plan
  • Staffing management plan
  • Communication management plan
  • Risk management plan
  • Procurement management plan

The plan may include these other components, once they are known, in a subsequent iteration, but is not limited to:

  • A milestone list
  • A resource calendar
  • A schedule baseline
  • A cost baseline
  • A quality baseline
  • A risk register

A project plan is not a one-time deliverable that remains static throughout the project. Updates arising from approved changes during project execution may significantly impact parts of the plan. The project plan must be kept in sync with approved changes and this is an iterative and ongoing process called rolling wave planning and the results of these iterations are documented as updates to the project plan.

Now that we know what a "real" project plan is, it is time your boss does too. Don't you think so…? Well, I do.


Jorge Dominguez wrote the article "The "Real" Project Plan" and recommends you visit www.Expiriance.com for more information about project management.


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