Do you use a project management plan?
The project management plan documents all the project management processes used to manage the project. Remember, the project management plan is not the project schedule. New project managers often confuse the project management plan with the project schedule. The project schedule is the list of tasks needed to deliver the project; although it’s easy to intermix the terms because stakeholders often ask about the “plan.”
The key components of the project management plan include:
- Scope Statement
- Critical Success Factors and KPI
- Work Breakdown Structure
- Requirement management plan
- Schedule management
- Budget management
- Quality management
- Resource and staffing plan
- Stakeholder management plan
- Communication management plan
- Risk and issue management
- Procurement plan
Project Management Plan Challenges and Benefits
I have a love/hate relationship with the project management plan. For the experienced project manager, completing an exhaustive document that outlines the project management processes isn’t the best use of time. For experienced project managers, schedule, scope, financial, and resource management processes are part of the project manager’s DNA. Many of the project management processes are also defined in a company’s existing PMO practices.
The project management plan template is usually a lengthy document that will never be completely read or appreciated. If you put one together, your stakeholders might skim it but don’t expect a detailed review. The project management plan isn’t a very Agile solution as project managers will spend a lot of time documenting processes when communicating would be better served. Your project stakeholders are not project managers so they won’t understand or necessarily care about the processes used to manage the project.
Before the PMP police come after me, the project management plan does add value under several situations including:
- You are managing a program with multiple project managers and workstreams.
- You are managing a large project with multiple workstreams leads responsible for communication and coordination
- In consulting projects, the client project manager has expectations for the delivery team and the processes need to be clarified and communicated
Under these situations, there are multiple leads responsible for coordinating and communicating across the project. In internal projects, it is still important to clarify how the scope will be managed, where requirements will be captured, and where documents are stored. In external projects with a client project manager, the client and vendor need to agree on how the project will be managed. Discussing and agreeing on these PM plans are very important and help establish the direction of the project.
However, these plans DON’T need to be in a 50-page document that no one will actively read.
A Better Way to Put Project Management Plan in Practice
I’m an advocate of creating the PM plan in a different format. Below are a few steps you can take to improve communicating the project management processes without writing a small novella.
1. Create the project management plan in a Powerpoint or Google Slides format
I’ve found stakeholders will rarely read a large Word document but they will review concepts in a slide format that they can quickly skim and review. If there is a key point they want to discuss, it is easier to identify it on a slide instead of buried in the fourth paragraph on page 37.
The slide format also forces the project manager to succinctly define their point in bullet points instead of paragraphs.
2. Review key slides with your business customer to align on the project management approach
Once you have the processes defined in a slide format, review the processes with the business customer or the client project manager. You will find all the slides in the project management plan may not be client or customer-facing. Simply delete those slides and keep the slides that are relevant to customer communication.
3. Reuse specific slides from the Project Management Plan for the Project Kick-Off presentation
I recommend creating the project management plan prior to the project kick-off meeting. If you follow this approach, you’ll have had the conversations with the client project manager and are aligned with the project kick-off communication. Including key slides from the plan, also improve the project kick-off deck and demonstrate your thoughtfulness and organization. This format also promotes reuse for future projects!
The project management plan is a useful construct. However, I’ve found it helpful to change the format. PMOs should stop authoring 25-page PM plan templates and instead provide a set of reusable processes in an easy to consume slide format. By adopting this approach, you’ll find your project management processes will be reusable and scalable across projects and programs! Give it a try and let me know about your progress in the comments below.