What's in a project plan?


by Paula K. Martin and Karen Tate, PMP, Contributing Editors

YOU'VE BEEN WORKING with your project team, planning your project, and now it's time to assemble the document. There are two major segments of a basic project plan: the detailed plan and the executive summary. Assemble the detailed project plan first, then extract the highlights for the executive summary.

The first section of the detailed plan is the Scope plan. Write down the scope description in which you describe the final deliverable in terms the customer can understand. Then define where the project begins and exactly where it ends—at what point are you finished and the next project or process becomes accountable. Next insert your scope boundaries table: what's included in your project, what processes will be affected by your project and which processes your project will affect, any overlaps with other projects. Don't forget to also include what's not included in the project so that there's no confusion about what you won't be doing.

Part of the scope plan is the Scope Quality plan. It starts with scope risk, which should include the scope risk rating for the final deliverable, the technical risks identified during your risk assessment meeting, and the countermeasures you chose to reduce the technical risks. And, don't forget to include who is accountable for each of the counter-measures chosen. Scope quality also includes customer acceptance criteria for the final deliverable and internal customer acceptance criteria for each interim deliverable. Now add the reviews and approvals table—in which you define the deliverables that need reviews or approvals, the people conducting the reviews, the type of review and the dates the review will begin and end. Remember, reviews and approvals take time and effort, so don't include any more than necessary to ensure scope quality.


Paula Martin and Karen Tate, co-founders of project management training and consulting firm Martin-Tate, specialize in team-based project management. They are also the authors of the Project Management Memory Jogger (available through the PMI Bookstore). A project plan template can be found on their website: www.projectresults.com. They can be reached at +513-563-3010 or +877-563-3010. Send comments on this column to [email protected].

The next section of your project plan will be Structure/Accountability. Your subproject work breakdown goes here. It shows how the project will be broken down into subprojects, the deliverables that will be produced by each subproject, and who is accountable for each deliverable. If you include activities in your breakdown structure (which we don't recommend), then make sure to include the person responsible for performing the activity or task.

The next section addresses Resources. Start by inserting your team composition/stakeholder table. In this table, list each project team member and his or her status (regular or ad hoc member) and each stakeholder and his or her status. If a stakeholder hasn't been included on the team, assign a team member to be a liaison to the stakeholder. Include the liaison in the table next to the stakeholder.

The Milestone Schedule comes next. There shouldn't be more than 10 to 13 total milestones, including the deadline date for the final deliverable. Now add your schedule risk assessment table. This table is similar to the scope risk table except it addresses risks to the schedule. Next, insert your deliverables schedule. (You can use any scheduling program to generate the schedule printout, but create the original schedule with your project team.) The staff effort estimate and/or forecast should be included in the Resources section, in addition to the spending estimate or forecast. (Creating a forecast will make it easier to monitor the plan during project execution.)

The final section is Change Management. Include your change management procedures and forms.

Now all that's left is the executive summary, which shouldn't run more than a page or so. It should outline the highlights of the project: The final deliverable and customer acceptance criteria; the key scope risks, risk rating and key countermeasures; the milestone schedule; the members of the project team; key schedule risks and countermeasures; the staff effort and spending estimates, including an accuracy rating; and any key project issues that need high-level attention.

VOILÀ, YOUR PLAN IS COMPLETE. All that remains is to have the sponsor, customer, and resource managers approve the document and you're ready to rock. ■

April 2000 PM Network



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