How to Write a Project Management Plan

A Simple Guide to Follow

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A guide to writing your project management plan. Sam Edwards/Caiaimage/Getty Images

A project management plan is the document that sets out how the team will work on the project. It describes the project life cycle and covers how the work will be executed, monitored, controlled and then formally closed.

The project management plan is actually a generic term for all the sub-plans that you’ll be producing for the project. We can define the project management plan as everything that is covered in these plans:

  • Requirements management plan
  • Scope management plan
  • Schedule management plan
  • Quality management plan, if you have one
  • Cost management plan
  • Risk management plan (which should reference your risk log)
  • Change management plan
  • Procurement management plan, if you need one for the project
  • Configuration management plan, again, only if you plan to write one: you might not feel that it is necessary on your project
  • Human resource management plan

The project management plan also includes important information about the project’s baselines, especially for scope and schedule. This gives you a line in the sand that you can refer back to so that you can easily see what has changed when you finally close the project and compare planned to actual performance.

Having said that, the project management plan does exist as a document in its own right. Here’s what to include and how to reference those other sections.

How to Write the Project Management Plan Document

Start your document with the name of the project and the date.

Use a template from your Project Management Office if you have one, to save having to start from scratch.

Then include these sections:

Thresholds and Baselines: Spell out how the baselines will be managed for the schedule, scope, cost and quality areas of the project. Set out what the acceptable variances to plan will be (for example, +/-10%) and what you’ll do if it looks like those will be breached.

You may have already documented these in your Project Charter (find out how to write a Project Charter here).

Governance: Set out what project reviews, peer reviews and other governance measures you will apply as you go through the project management life cycle. As a minimum, you should include the formal sign off at the end of each phase. This is one of the roles of the project sponsor. You can also put in details of the quality reviews that you’ll hold if that’s appropriate for your project.

Methodology Decisions: This is a good place to write down which bits of your project management methodology you have decided not to do because it is not relevant. For example, you can note here that you are not going to do a procurement management plan because there is no procurement required for your project.

Anything Else: Don’t be limited to these headings. Include anything else that you think might be relevant to the planning of the project such as linkages to other projects in the company, external factors that may affect planning that you want to bring to someone’s attention and so on.

The Subsidiary Plans

If you merge all your project documents into one it will be a huge project management plan.

It’s best to include links (or at least a description of where the document can be found) in this document. Then if someone wants to go and read it, they can find it, without having your project management plan become so overwhelmingly long that no one looks at it at all.

Don’t forget to link to the baselines as well. For the project schedule baseline, save a version of your plan and link to that. For the cost baseline, save a version of your budget planning as of today and link to that. These documents are living documents and will change as the project moves on, but you’ll keep those original files so that you can look back on them and do the comparison.

Finally, add version control to your project management plan so that if you do need to update it you will easily be able to see if you are working on the latest copy.