He was looking at the project management plan template. It was one of many project management templates that were part of the training program he was just attending. He got somewhat confused and asked me, "Is this the project plan?"
I could understand his confusion, as I can remember having exactly the same question when I was at the start of my career in project management. And these two terms really seem to be similar, don't they? Project plan, vs. project management plan.
CC image courtesy of Dimitry B. on Flickr
When you look at the PMBOK Guide however, you will not find the term “project plan”. There is no such thing. But people do use it, so let’s try to make it more clear.
When people say “project plan”, what they usually mean is the project schedule. When your boss or your client asks you for a project plan, they are interested in what your team is going to do, and when they are going to do it. Focus is mostly on the time perspective of the project.
Project schedule is most often presented in a form of a Gantt chart, with bars representing the activities, and they are positioned on a timeline so that it is easy to see when each of them is planned to be done. Unless you have a really simple project, your Gantt chart may have hundreds, thousands, or even many more activities listed, so your boss might not be interested in so many details and might just want to see the plan when the major deliverables will be delivered. In that case instead of the Gantt chart you may present the milestone list, with only the milestones and their dates. And that would be your project plan.
This plan is very different from the project schedule, though. Its name actually says everything you need to know — it’s a plan that shows how the project will be managed. While project schedule (or “project plan”) tells us how the project deliverables will be delivered (when the project activities will be performed), it doesn’t tell us how we are going to manage that delivery.
Project management plan consists of several parts, and each covers one of the aspects of managing the project. It defines how are we going to manage project changes when they are requested or encountered. It tells us how we are going to manage the risks. How will we make sure that our project deliverables reach the desired quality level. How are we going to procure the components that we can’t produce ourselves. And even how we plan to plan our project activities, meaning how we are going to create and manage the project schedule. See the difference?
Let’s say that we have a project with a goal to implement a software system in an organization.
In our “project plan” (aka project schedule) there would be phases like requirements definition, solution design, solution development, solution testing, and solution integration. These phases would be split into activities, and for each activity there would be dates when we plan for our team to perform them.
In our project management plan, among other things mentioned above, we would define the process, what steps are we going to do in order to define the project schedule, meaning reviewing the customer’s documentation, interviewing the stakeholders, creating the WBS, determine the dependancies, estimate activity duration and cost, and so on. In that plan we would also describe the process how we intend to manage and update the schedule when needed.
If you're looking for a template, check the very rich library at PMI's ProjectManagement.com
Let me know what you think about the differences between a project plan and a project management plan.
To your success and brilliance,
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