Characteristics of a Project Plan
The project plan is sometimes confused with the project schedule. According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), the project schedule is one of several components of the overall project management plan. A plan helps the project team achieve the goals of the project by describing the tasks they need to perform. Essentially, a correctly completed project plan describes the work required, the time required to complete the work, the resources assigned to do the work and the cost of the project.
Managing the project scope includes identifying the processes, deliverables and stakeholder expectations involved in completing a project. The scope management component of the project plan documents the project's success criteria, including deliverables and work products, and defines what is and is not included in the project.
As part of creating the project schedule, the project manager identifies the tasks involved in executing the project, as well as the resources and effort required for the work. The project manager captures these items in the project's work breakdown structure (WBS), which feeds the overall project schedule. The project schedule puts dates to the tasks identified and specs out a timeline for the project.
The cost management plan describes the approach for managing and controlling costs throughout the project management process. It also identifies the person responsible for managing costs (typically the project manager), and the stakeholder with the authority to approve changes to the project and its budget. The cost management plan defines the format, standards and frequency for cost measurement and reporting.
The quality management plan documents how the project management team will implement and assess its quality assurance and quality control operations. Specifically, this section of the project plan describes the structure of the project's quality assurance policies and procedures, areas of application, project roles, responsibilities and authorities.
The purpose of the process improvement plan is to analyze and describe the steps involved in identifying non-productive project-related activities. The goal of the process improvement plan is to increase the project's overall business value. It includes a description of the goals, activities and responsibilities involved in implementing the process improvement plan, as well as what benefits the project will realize.
A project's staffing plan describes the project's resource requirements, as well as when and how the organization involved in executing the project will satisfy the project's human resources requirements.
The communication plan is important because it informs stakeholders of when they can expect communications about the project, who will give them the information and in what format. The communication management plan defines the communication needs of the project and sets expectations with project stakeholders relative to project reporting. It describes the various formats the project manager and project team will use to communicate project-related information.
The risk management component of the project plan describes the approach for identifying, mitigating and resolving project risks. As the project progresses, the project manager adds identified risks to the risk management plan, and reports on risks of high impact via the approach described in the project's communication plan.
The procurement plan defines how the project manager will manage procurement and purchasing related activities and tasks. The procurement plan is particularly important when working with third-party suppliers, as it defines the resources responsible for developing procurement documentation, such as the request for proposal (RFP), and how the project will manage conformance to the contract terms post-contract closure.