Many professionals think of a Project Management Plan as a Gantt chart or a Schedule. Professionals who carry this misconception into the PMP® certification exam are the least likely ones to pass the exam. As you will see in this article, a Project Management Plan is a document that defines how a project is executed, monitored, and controlled; it is much more than a schedule chart. A solid understanding of the project plan can pay rich dividends throughout your preparation for the PMP® certification exam, and also help in managing projects. 

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What is a Project Management Plan?

The Project manager creates the project management plan following inputs from the project team and the key stakeholders. A Project management plan is a formal, approved document that defines how the project is executed, monitored, and controlled. It may be a summary or a detailed document and may include baselines, subsidiary management plans, and other planning documents. This document is used to define the approach the project team takes to deliver the intended project management scope of the project. 

As the work proceeds, the performance of the project is measured against the performance measurement baseline included in the project management plan. The scope baseline, schedule baseline, and cost baseline are collectively referred to as the performance measurement baseline. If there is a deviation from the baseline while the work is being done, the project manager deals with them by making adjustments to correct the deviation. If these adjustments fail to correct the deviations, then formal change requests to the baselines become necessary. 

Project managers spend a substantial amount of time ensuring baselines are achieved, ensuring the project sponsor and the organization get the full benefits of their projects. Besides proper planning, a project manager’s abilities also lie in efficiently controlling the project and ensuring project deliverables are on time—and that the project is completed per the project management plan.

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What Is a Project Management Plan Used For?

There are no shortcuts to a thorough understanding of your project than through a well-written, well-structured project plan document. 

When compared to the project charter, which is a high-level strategy for the program, your project management plan breaks down that high-level perspective into the practical day-to-day operation of your project, addressing everything you must accomplish in order to achieve your project objectives.

Everything from timeframes to budgets, resources to deliverables, and more will be plotted out in a complete project plan, providing you with a roadmap of what needs fixing that you could use to manage and analyze your project.

What are the Components of a Project Management Plan?

A project management plan is a collection of baselines and subsidiary plans that include:

  • Baselines for scope, schedule, and cost
  • Management plans for scope, schedule, cost, quality, human resources, communications, risk, and procurement
  • Requirement management plan
  • Change management plan
  • Configuration management plan
  • Process improvement plan

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The Importance of Project Management Planning

There is a tremendous amount of planning that goes into any successful project. When you're a project manager, you'll have a lot to remember at all times. As a result of your project plan, you will know precisely what to concentrate on at each stage of the project, where to allocate resources and time, as well as what to watch out for in case things run over schedule or over budget. 

In order to get the most out of a project, you need to put in a lot of effort upfront to create a project plan that will serve you well throughout the project's lifespan. Here are five reasons why project management planning is essential.

  • It Serves as a Starting Point for Your Project

Your project plan, based on the agreed-upon scope, timeframe, and budget, will be developed in accordance with the authorized project charter. Having these baselines in place, specified, and authorized by the project owner will allow you to compare the actual progress of your project to how it was expected to be achieved.

This is very beneficial since it allows you to rapidly assess whether or not your project is progressing according to plan and, if it isn't, what needs to be done to fix the situation.

  • The Project Is More Organized

There are no alarms or surprises when your project is written out in a clear project plan. To make sure there is no space for misunderstanding or miscommunication, your thorough project plan will lay out all of the deadlines and deliverables in great detail so that everyone involved is aware of exactly what is expected of them.

  • It Lays Down the Project’s Scope in Detail

Another advantage of this alignment is that it prevents scope creep. When the project plan document clearly defines the stakeholder's expectations and all agreed-upon deliverables, it's easy to identify when anything is out of scope.

In addition, it makes it simpler to deal with these issues. As a result, everyone can be persuaded of what they initially committed to, and there is no doubt about what is (or isn't) within the scope of the project, owing to a written contract or project planning sheet.

  • It Provides for More Efficient Project Management

Breaking down the project's work into digestible parts like deliverables, goals, or tasks makes it much simpler to figure out what resources you'll need to get it done.

Once again, you may have begun to explain this in the scope statement at a basic level, but your project management plan would be where you become more specific about how you're going to utilize the resources you have available.

  • It Instills Confidence in Your Endeavor

Project sponsors, stakeholders, and the project team (and, if you're feeling really down, even yourself) might be comforted by knowing where you're heading and why.

When you have a project plan document, everyone can understand how your expertise as a project manager is advancing the project's and the organization's objectives in unambiguous terms.

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Things You Need to Know Before Writing a Project Plan

 You need to know these five things before you begin developing a project plan.

  • Determine the Project’s Baselines

The first step in creating a project strategy is to ensure you understand the fundamentals. Start with establishing the project's scope, timeline, and cost baselines, since these restrictions will dictate the remainder of your project planning.

Aside from the project charter, here is the place where you truly begin to map out these baselines and establish reliable estimations. Because you'll be comparing them to other projects to see how well yours does, be as specific as possible.

  • Determine the Repercussions of Your Project’s Failure to Meet Its Goals

Alternatively, you may ask yourself: what must happen first in order for the next step to be possible? Establishing your project's dependencies early on allows you to better manage your timetables, identify possible roadblocks, and minimize delays.

  • Select Key Players in the Undertaking

There are likely to be additional project stakeholders as you go through the project management plan as well as go through each step in more depth than you identified during your stakeholder analysis.

During this time, you should also consider which stakeholders have to be informed and engaged at which stages of the project in order to create a more thorough stakeholder management plan.

  • Identify the Project’s Key Milestones

What are the most important signs that your project is moving forward? Your project may be broken down into a series of smaller, more manageable parts, each with a clearly stated objective. This keeps the team engaged, enables you to celebrate your successes, and shows how the overall development is moving along.

  • Establish the Responsibilities of Everyone Involved in the Situation

With a clear picture of the labor and resources required, you can begin choosing who should be doing what. Each item must have a designated owner to ensure that it is completed.

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Creating a Project Management Plan

As per the PMBOK® Guide, the project management plan is an output of the Develop Project Management Plan process in the Project Integration Management Knowledge Area.

The Project management plan is not created all at once. It is progressively elaborated, which means it is developed, refined, revisited, and updated. Since the project management plan integrates all the knowledge area management plans into a cohesive whole, it needs to be assembled after all the component plans have been created.

Most of the components of the project management plan are created in various processes defined in the PMBOK® Guide; for instance, the Communications Management Plan is developed in the Plan communications process.

However, the Schedule Management Plan, Cost Management Plan, and Scope Management Plan are created in the Develop Project Management Plan process. When a project charter is created in the initiating process group, it contains a summary of scope, budget, and a summary (milestone) schedule.

Since you already have these things at the time you begin developing the project plan, you can go ahead and develop the scope management plan, cost management plan, and schedule management plan. Later, when you perform the Plan Scope, Estimate Costs, and Develop Schedule processes, you can revise the components of the project plan with more detail to reflect a deeper understanding of the project.

How to Create a Project Management Plan? [ Explained in 6 Steps]

Step 1 - Create a High-Level Template for Project Planning

When it comes to your company, what does a project plan appear like? Starting with any existing resources that you can use as a reference, such as project plan examples or project plan templates, is a good place to start when developing a project strategy.

Make use of whatever resources your company makes available, such as a high-level template for planning projects, a project planning worksheet, model plans, or a calendar for preparing projects

Step 2 - Define Your Project Objective 

There are many free templates and examples available to lend a helping hand with your preparation, but remember to choose the proper one for your project type when using one.

Your project management plan should be personalized to your project type, workforce type, and specific demands. IT project plans for new equipment rollouts, for example, are likely to vary from agile project plans, which in turn are likely to differ from more comprehensive strategic project plans.

Gantt charts, task lists, and other project management elements may help you ensure that your plan is effective.

Step 3 - Identify All Stakeholders

Once your project outline is ready, you have to identify the key stakeholders in the project success. Hence, it is important to collect all your requirements. Once you have collected this information, you need to define the scope of the project for each stakeholder and mention clear deliverables. To ace this step of project management good communication skills are required. 

Step 4 - Get Feedback From Your Customers, Project Stakeholders, and Team Members

A strategy written in a vacuum is less likely to acquire the support it needs when the time comes. Your stakeholders will feel more involved in the project planning process if you include them, and it sets the stage for an integrated team atmosphere that will benefit your project.

Make sure you gather feedback from the project's leading characters when you establish a project plan, whether it's a planning meeting, a brainstorming session, or a one-on-one interview. Also, as an additional perk? It's an excellent chance for you to continue establishing connections with key stakeholders that you began developing throughout the stakeholder and project charter and analysis.

Step 5 - Any Previous Project Management Planning You’ve Done Should Be Included

If you've already completed stages 1-5 of project planning, you should include the results of those steps into your project management plan, as well as any research you've done up to this point. 

The Project Management Institute's Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide and Standards recommend the following strategies for your project management plan:

  • Plan for scope management
  • Plan for the management of requirements
  • A strategy for time management
  • A cost-cutting strategy
  • Plan for quality control
  • A strategy for managing resources
  • A strategy for managing communications.
  • A strategy for risk management
  • The procurement strategy
  • Stakeholder outreach strategy

While the PMBOK suggests implementing these 10 strategies as a baseline, you may discover that various projects need different methods.

Each of these areas should be covered at some point in your project management planning, even if they aren't comprehensively documented.

Step 6 - Choose a Central Location for Your Project Management Strategy

Your project management plan, including your project charter, should be kept centrally so that all parties involved, including stakeholders, the team members, management, and clients, can easily access it.

How to Turn Your Project Management Plan Into a Plan of Action

Using a project management tool, you can bring your defined project management strategy to life, ensuring that you remain on schedule, hold your team responsible, and promote openness throughout the project.

Project Management Plan Approval

Since the project management plan is a formal document that is used to manage the execution of the project, it must receive formal approval. Who grants the approval for the project management plan depends on the organizational structure and a number of other factors.

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Usually, the customer or the senior management of an organization does not approve the project management plan document. The customer signs the contract but often leaves the internal workings of the organization delivering the project. Typically the project plan is approved by the project manager, project sponsor, or the functional managers who provide the resources for the project.

It becomes less difficult for a project manager to get the project management plan approved, if:

  • All the stakeholders are identified along with and their requirements and objectives.
  • The project manager handles conflicting priorities in advance.

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Conclusion

Are you ready to learn how to best handle project schedules, costs, the scope of work, project constraints, market competition, stakeholders, and more? Simplilearn’s Post Graduate Program in Project Management will help you jumpstart your career in Project Management.

Followed by PGP, you can also go through some frequently asked Project Manager Interview Questions tutorial so that you can be interview ready.

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