Project Plan is usually a document that defines how the project is planned and how the project organization should be organized, performed, monitored and controlled. Project plan may be related to the program as well. Then it can be called program plan but the content is virtually identical with the project plan. There are many different definitions of what the project plan is and what it includes. Two of the most common definitions are according to the standards in project management:
According to PMBOK: “A project plan is a formal, approved document used to guide both project execution and project control. The primary uses of the project plan are to document planning assumptions and decisions, facilitate communication among stakeholders, and document approved scope, cost, and schedule baselines. A project plan may be summarized or detailed.”
According to PRINCE2: “A project plan is a statement of how and when a project’s objectives are to be achieved, by showing the major products, milestones, activities and resources required on the project.”
The project plan should ideally include 4 basic questions relevant to the project and its management:
- Why? For what reasons is the project realized? What problem or deficiency should the project solve? Why is it necessary to expend resources and efforts on its implementation?
- What? What is the aim and outcome of the project? What are the main products or outcomes of the project?
- Who? Whot will contribute on the project? What will be the responsibilities of individual participating in the project? How will be the participants of the project organized?
- When? What is the project schedule? What are the important milestones during the project? What is the project timeline and when the especially important points called milestones occur? Is the project complete?
Project objectives should reflect the SMART approach, as well as objectives in strategic or another management. The project plan may contain many other requirements such as risk management plan (risk analysis including action proposals) and the definition of formalities applied in the project. These include approval procedures, changing requirements, method of project documentation preparation, subcontracts approval, financial plan and other.
Use of the project plan in practice: project plan as formalized above expression is important for communication between the client and the project implementers and their mutual understanding on the 4 basic questions and possibly other formalities. In fact, the project plan may be a single document or may consist of different subdocuments (such as a schedule can be created separately in the form of the Gantt chart). In practice, the extent and formality of the project depends on the subject and the complexity of the project itself, whether it takes place only with the involvement of own employees, or whether the project requires a external contractor (outsourced), how the project is financed and the like. The key is reconciliation and compliance of both participating on why the project exists, what is its purpose, who is involed and when the project is to be done.