What’s a Project Management Plan?

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Most of us who have worked on IT projects (or any projects, really) are accustomed to working with a project schedule, usually created in Microsoft Project or other scheduling tools. Often, when we talk about project “plans”, it’s the schedule we’re referring to. However, there’s another, equally important plan that is essential to a well-run project: the Project Management Plan. This is sometimes called a Project Implementation Plan, or just a PMP. Why is it important?



Why Should You Create a PMP?

When you begin a project, you typically have a “customer” – a person, company, or group of people who will be the recipients of your project’s output. You will work closely with some of these customers during your project – even if you are only providing regular status reports. As the project manager, you may have a set of practices, procedures, or just general operating guidelines that you plan to use while the project is ongoing. That’s great; these are the “extras” that a seasoned project manager can bring to a project. But, does your customer know what you’re thinking? When you attempt to implement one of your own “best practices”, will your customer agree with your approach? Maybe. Will your approach be a surprise or create confusion? Maybe.

 What Should a PMP Include?

In any case, project initiation means planning, not guessing. So, document your project operating plans and best practices in advance – that’s your Project Management Plan. Here is my list of the information that should be included in a PMP:

  1. Basic charter-related information, such as the project background, purpose, and sponsor. You may also include high-level project deliverables. Include this directly or reference your charter if you have one.
  2. High-level dates; more detailed dates if known.
  3. Team identification, roles, and responsibilities.
  4. Project risks– what they are and how they will be managed?
  5. Project documentation– what will be maintained and where will it be stored. How will it be accessed and by whom? (CMMI calls this “Data Management”)
  6. Assumptions and constraints– write down any decisions/inputs/resources, etc. that may be required to complete the project, especially those where there may be confusion.
  7. Change management (very important)– what’s the process to be followed when a change is requested or needed?
  8. Metrics – how will you measure progress and final success for this project?
  9. Project communications– will there be regular status reports and meetings? Who’s taking minutes? What should be contained in the status report? Must certain communications be done in meetings, or is email acceptable?
  10. Quality Control/Assurance – is this to be included? How will it be conducted and managed?
  11. Project issues– how and where will they be recorded and managed?
  12. Vendor management– if purchasing, a third-party vendor, or a subcontractor will be part of the project work, how will they be managed? What’s the communication flow? Who gets to approve deliverables?
  13. Process impact– is there an expected impact on the customer’s business process? How will that be managed and communicated?
  14. Training– will the customer know how to use the delivered solution or will they understand any updated processes? How will the project address knowledge transfer?

This looks like a long list – and there may be other items to include – but these are questions that will likely arise during the execution of any project. By thinking these through in advance and working with your customer through the planning process, you can greatly reduce surprises and uncertainty about how things will work.

You don’t need to write a new PMP from scratch for every project. Remember your “best practices”? Use them, re-use them, and improve them. Unless your customer has a specific reason to change your practice, it’s highly likely that your recommendations will be accepted and adopted. Also, don’t forget that the PMP is designed to be updated throughout the life of the project. You may find that a planned management strategy is not having the desired outcome and needs to be changed. That’s fine – just make sure to obtain customer input and agreement.

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