How to Document a Project Plan: The 10 Elements of A Good Project Plan

One of the largest issues that a new project manager faces is how much to write in his project plan. Of course, the actual amount and depth you need will vary from project to project and and with different types of projects. So will the emphasis you place on each of the sections. One of the first tasks that you need to perform as a project manager is to determine the required depth and emphasis on each element.

In this article, I'm going to identify the ten sub-plans you need for your project plan. Each of these is effectively a complete plan on their own. In some cases, you will need to develop the plan during the project planning process itself. In other cases, you should be able to adapt a predetermined plan and process.

1. A plan to manage risk events.

This is probably the most important of the plans. Not everything that occurs within a project is certain. Some things can be predicted to be possible. Yet other things can not be predicted to occur at all. Regardless, these uncertain events (called risk events) must be managed. Where possible they should be avoided or encouraged. Plans should be in place to mitigate or take advantage of them should they occur. One of the mistakes that new project managers often make is they focus on the negative. The result is a project plan that focuses on mitigation. However, risk also can result in a positive result. A risk plan should include processes and plans to take advantage of when risk events are in the project's favor.

2. A plan to communicate.

One of the major reasons for project failure is a break in communications. Every project needs a plan to ensure that appropriate communications between the project team and the various stakeholders occurs. This includes within the team itself. It also includes between the team and the sponsor and management team. And it includes between the team and the clients and ultimate beneficies of the project. However, it also includes communications between the team and others affected by the project. This can include such diverse groups as the general public or the families of the project team.

3. A plan to manage change.

Change is a reality. Especially when it comes to a situation as filled with unknowns as a project. When the project begins, most teams are not as aware of needed information as they would prefer. They are forced to make educated guesses. However, as time continues information is collected. As a result, it is often necessary to revisit the previous decisions and produce new plans based on improved information. In addition, other changes may occur within the environment which necessitates changes made to the project. A change plan is mandatory to ensure that the project does not become something it was not intended to be, and yet allow it to vary as needed. The plan also needs to ensure that exclusive oversight is maintained.

4.A plan to manage quality.

Quality does not just happen. It needs to be built in. The quality plan needs to identify the standard to which the project product needs to be judged. It also needs to identify how the project will be judged. Finally, it needs to identify how the project will ensure that it is producing a quality product.

5. A plan to manage the scope.

Just as a project may change because of new information, or new conditions, so it may also change because the participants decide to adjust the purpose of the project. A separate plan related to the project change plan is required in order to manage changes to the purpose and extent of the project. These changes will affect the project as a whole and require management approval. In order to ensure appropriate governance, the project needs to have a plan to ensure that only the correct tasks are performed.

6. A management plan for the team.

Of course, people do not just manage themselves no matter how self-reliant the team is. Appropriate skills need to be available. Tasks need to be assigned and reported on. All of this is included in the team management plan.

7. A management plan for the materials.

Not all projects strictly sole on the team members. Sometimes, it is necessary to obtain raw materials or equipment in order to complete the project. This plan details details which materials and equipment. It also states when the materials are required and how they will be obtained.

8. A list of tasks.

The work break down structure is a list of the tasks that make up the project. Often associated with the WBS is a related list. This list includes who is responsible for the task. It also includes an extended definition of the task and its products.

9. A schedule.

In many ways, this is a summary of everything that has gone before. It takes each of the tasks and puts them into the order they will be done. Finally, it assigns a date to the start and completion of each of the tasks.

10. A budget.

The budget plan details the management of the project's actual costs and budget. In addition, it also details the amount budgeted to the project.