What is a Project Management Plan? With Tips and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 17, 2022

Published November 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The successful completion of projects is a crucial expectation by project managers, project teams, companies, and stakeholders. While you can start a project and improvise along the way, you may have better outcomes if you develop a project management plan first. Understanding a project management plan is essential to your project's success and can help you use the resources well. In this article, we define what is a project management plan, discuss why it's essential, assess its components and highlight the steps of preparing one.

Related: Why Project Management Is Important (And Tips for Success)

What is a project management plan?

A project management plan, or a project plan, details how specific people manage a project. It describes how specific individuals execute, monitor, control, and close a project. The report outlines the project's scope and objectives and serves as the formal reference point for all stakeholders.

Project managers often develop a project plan during the planning stage, and it comprises several other documents. While it includes a schedule or a task list, its scope extends beyond this aspect. The relevant departments formally approve the project management plan at the start of the project, but you may update it as the project progresses.

Related: How to Become a Project Manager (With Salary Expectations)

Why is project planning important?

A project plan is necessary because, as the work progresses, stakeholders can measure the project's performance against the performance measurement baseline in the project management plan. The schedule, scope, and cost baselines comprise the performance measurement baseline. If there's any deviation from the baselines during the project, the project manager makes adjustments to correct them. Formal changes to the baselines may be necessary if the adjustments don't fix the deviations.

Project managers ensure the teams achieve all the baselines, and the company and project sponsors enjoy the project's full benefits. The project manager plans and anticipates obstacles. They formulate ways to overcome these challenges and ensure the project satisfies all baselines per the project plan. If they prepare well, they may spend less time managing the project.

Parts of a project management plan

The project plan informs stakeholders what, how, and when things are going to get done. There's no one project management plan that works for all companies and projects. The project manager tailors the project plan to the project's unique circumstances and industry demands. Here are the main parts of a typical project plan:

  • Executive summary: a brief description of the document's contents

  • Project scope and deliverables: an outline of the project's boundaries and an account of how to divide the project into measurable deliverables

  • Project schedule: a high-level view of the project's milestones and tasks

  • Project resources: the personnel, budget, and other resources needed to achieve the project's goals

  • Risk and issue management plan: a list of threats to the project's successful completion and a plan for identifying, addressing, and controlling them

  • Communication management plan: a plan for the communication between project teams and stakeholders during the project

Related: Tools of Project Management You Can Use as a Project Manager

How to formulate a project management plan

Follow these eight steps to developing a project plan:

1. Determine the project's objectives

Establishing the project's scope and objective is the first task to create an effective project management plan. Consider the reasons for having the project, its targets, and the effect it has on stakeholders when determining your project's goals. You may also evaluate your priorities and use your findings to determine your goals. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want the project to achieve?

  • What do you require to get there?

  • How do you measure your success?

  • What takes priority?

  • How can you reach the deadline?

  • What teams do you need?

  • Who are on the teams?

  • Which roles does each team member play?

  • Who are the project's stakeholders?

2. Conduct research

Research your company's history and current undertakings of similar matters. The evaluation allows you to benchmark, develop quantifiable goals, and formulate the project's steps. Be objective and thorough in getting helpful information. You may ask yourself these questions:

  • How are things working now?

  • How are things not working currently?

  • What do you require to complete the project successfully?

  • What are the stakeholder's expectations and needs?

  • What are your deliverables?

  • What is your budget?

3. Develop an outline for the plan

Start outlining the project's steps once you have ideas about the project's direction. The outline is a game plan that the project team follows throughout the undertaking. Ensure the steps are clear and concise. Include these aspects in your project outline:

  • the project's goal

  • the stakeholders

  • the budget

  • the deliverables

  • the project's scope

  • the timeframe for the deliverables and tasks

4. Discuss the plan with the project team

Discuss the plan with the project team before sending it to stakeholders for approval. The unit can be more receptive to your ideas and plan if you have good communication skills. Consider their input to handle challenges and inspire confidence, which is crucial to the project's success. Discussing the project plan with your team helps determine if it's feasible to finish the program within the estimated deadline. They may also help you anticipate risks and obstacles. You can improve your project plan by reviewing and discussing it with your team.

Related: Essential Project Manager Technical Skills

5. Finalize your plan

Start the finalization process of your project plan after gathering all the information and discussing it with your team. You present this project management plan to stakeholders. You may use an online project planning software to finalize the plan. An excellent project planning tool ensures your project plan is professional and makes your ideas and thoughts concise and clear. Use a Gantt chart to help stakeholders visualize the undertaking's timeline.

6. Share the project plan with your team

Distribute the plan to the team members. Be ready to handle concerns or questions about your program that these stakeholders may have if they don't see their issues in your project management plan. You may also guide them through the plan to help them understand it.

Related: A Guide to Project Team Roles and Responsibilities

7. Execute your plan

Once all stakeholders know and understand your plan, it is time to execute it. The insight from the stakeholders and your preparation is crucial as you execute your plan. If you prepare well, you may encounter fewer challenges during the project and achieve better results.

8. Review the project

Reviewing the project during its execution and after completion can help you get helpful information. You may discover what worked and areas with challenges. Use the information on the project's challenges and successes to make better decisions. Thank team members for their effort and insight. The appreciation boosts their morale and energizes them for your next project. Consider these questions:

  • Did you meet your deadlines?

  • Why were there delays?

  • How can you prevent future delays?

  • Were there any unforeseen issues that surfaced?

  • How did you handle these problems?

  • How can you improve how you handle unexpected problems in the future?

  • Did you meet the project's objectives?

Related: How to Define and Measure a Key Performance Indicator

Examples of project management plans

Each industry can have its project plan format. Industries have different project plan designs because the project plans are often for internal users. These individuals are within the company, and they may include employees, management, and shareholders. The project manager prepares them to suit the stakeholders' needs and the industry's practices. Here are a few examples of project management plans:

  • New acquisition: This project management plan details how a company acquires new investments or talents.

  • Corporate business review: This project management plan outlines how a company evaluates its corporate structure and position.

  • New technology implementation: This project management plan guides a company on integrating new IT solutions with its existing setup. It may also outline how the entity gets its staff to know and embrace the setup.

Related: What Is a Business Strategy vs. Corporate Strategy?

Project management risk plans

Every project has risks that can constrain its success. Knowing these threats is crucial to avoid them throughout the project. You can mitigate them if you can identify them. Here are the components of a project risk management process:

  • Identify potential challenges: Involve all stakeholders in identifying and categorizing risks.

  • Evaluate the risks: Determine the likelihood of their occurrence and how they can affect project completion. Use a risk register to compile your risk evaluation.

  • Discuss solutions and create a plan: Consider how the project team tackles emerging risks. Project managers use their problem-solving skills at this stage.

  • Monitor risks: Assess risks as they happen throughout the project. You may encounter unforeseen challenges. Delegate the right individuals to resolve them.

Related: Understanding How to Complete a Risk Analysis

Project planning tools

A good project plan involves managing the project's tasks, activities, and resources. It can take you considerable time and resources to manage the initiative using spreadsheets, notebooks, or sticky notes. Project management software can simplify your project management and planning. It provides you with project management transparency and features to ensure the successful planning and execution of projects. You may also get more time for the actual project, as the tool allows you to handle administrative tasks efficiently.

A project management software can facilitate communication among and within teams, help you track performance metrics, store data in a centralized location, and allow you to generate project reports during its execution. The tool can be helpful during the planning phase, where there are many project management challenges. Using it can be essential for the successful completion of projects.

Related: How to Understand Project Management Triple Constraint

Now that we have defined what is a project management plan, discussed why it's essential, assessed its components and highlighted the steps of preparing one, you can successfully implement your own plan.

Related: What Is Project Management? Definition, Steps, and Skills

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