Are you in the process of studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam? Have you read through what the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) says about the Project Management Plan? Confused? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are in the right place. In this article we are going to discuss what the Project Management Plan is, why fully understanding the Project Management Plan is essential to both project success and PMP Exam success, what subsidiary plans and documents are, and once approved how changes are made to the Project Management Plan.
What is the Project Management Plan?
According to the PMBOK® Guide, the Project Management Plan is “the document that describes how the project will be executed, monitored, and controlled.” Objectives of the Project Management Plan include documenting assumptions and decisions, communicating how the project will be executed, and documenting high level goals, costs, and milestones. The Project Management Plan is much more than a single document that is created and set aside. It integrates subsidiary plans and documents, it is created during the Planning Process Group and is expected to be updated as the project progresses. It is a living document.
Why is understanding the Project Management Plan essential to both project success and PMP Exam success?
That is because it is the “go to” document used to answer questions during the project, and understanding what kinds of questions it may answer is vital to both project and PMP Exam success. The Project Management Plan should be able to answer why a project was sponsored and what problem it is expected to resolve or what value the project is expected to add. It should describe the work to be performed and what the major deliverables or products are. It should identify who is involved in the project and what their responsibilities are and how they are organized. It should define how the work is to be executed in order to meet project objectives and how any changes will be monitored and controlled. If all of these are included in the Project Management Plan, then you will be able to answer the why, what, who, when, and how type questions that may arise during a project.
What are subsidiary plans and documents?
These are most often outputs of the other Planning Processes. For example, the Cost Management Plan is an output of the Plan Cost Management Process. It describes how project costs will be planned, structured, and controlled. It is considered a “subsidiary plan” to the overall Project Management Plan. Subsidiary plans are all of the “plan” outputs from the Planning Processes that include Scope Management, Requirements Management, Schedule Management, Quality Management, Process Improvement, Human Resource Management, Communications Management, Procurement Management, and Stakeholder Management. The subsidiary plans may be defined at a high or detailed level depending on the type of plan, the specific needs of the project and the requirements of the performing organization.
Subsidiary documents are the baselines developed as part of the Planning Processes. They include the schedule baseline, cost performance baseline, and scope baseline. Don’t forget that the scope baseline also includes the scope statement, WBS, and WBS dictionary.
How are changes made to the Project Management Plan?
Changes to the Project Management Plan are made through a Change Control System. This system consists of methods to request, review, and approve changes. Requests are typically made using a form, either paper or electronic. Requests are then reviewed by the project manager, project sponsor, select set of stakeholders, a change control board, or by whoever is tasked to review requests by the performing organization. Once a change is approved the Project Management Plan is updated. Changes that are not requested through the Change Control System or approved should not be implemented. Including unapproved changes will let the project go out of control.
The Project Management Plan is a vast topic and this article has only scratched the surface of a few aspects. There are many other facets such as the other inputs besides subsidiary plans and documents, how it is used to communicate how the project will be executed and controlled, the importance and usage of a Project Management Information System, and the formality of the Project Management Plan all of which are vital to know and understand for the PMP Exam. A few additional aspects to keep in mind when studying the Project Management Plan are that it is typically a formal written document, that it guides project execution and control, that it is approved by the project stakeholders, and that the project cannot start until the Project Management Plan is approved.
In order to understand this topic completely read the Develop Project Management Plan section in the PMBOK® Guide. Then explain what a Project Management Plan is, how it is developed, and how it is changed to a friend who is not a project manager. Because if you can explain it clearly to them, then you fully understand it yourself; and use a Project Management Plan for your projects because practice makes perfect when it comes to the PMP Exam.
About the author: Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 26,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast at http://www.pm-prepcast.com and The PMP Exam Simulator at http://www.pm-exam-simulator.com