Project Management Guide
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How to Create a Project Management Plan

A Project Management Plan (PMP — not to be confused with the Project Management Professional certification) defines not only when a project will be delivered, but also how it will be delivered. If a document only contains what will be done and by when, it is not a true Project Management Plan.

This can be confusing, as there are a number of explainers on how to create a project management plan or a project plan that leaves out key components. A complete project management plan must include guidelines on how a project is executed, monitored, and controlled. According to the Project Management Institute, it should answer all of the questions listed below:

  1. What is to be done?
  2. When will it occur?
  3. How much will it cost?
  4. Who will do it? 
  5. What product(s) or service(s) will be delivered as a result of the effort?
  6. What is the responsibility of both the developer and the user?
  7. Who is responsible for accepting the product as completed?
  8. What determines task completion?
  9. What mechanics will be employed to deal with mechanics formally?
  10. How will actual progress be measured?

How to write a project management plan

The creation of your plan should start with a project management plan template. The length and level of detail included in the plan will depend on your organization and project. Many companies will already have an internal template they prefer to use, that outlines the level of information they need. The plan should always begin with a title page, version history, and table of contents. A strong project management plan will include all of the following information:

  • Project scope baseline & scope management plan
  • Project schedule baseline & schedule management plan
  • Project cost baseline & cost management plan
  • Human resource management plan
  • Communications management plan
  • Risk management plan

Depending on the project, there may also be additional supplemental plans such as:

  • Issues management plan
  • Quality management plan
  • Procurement management plan
  • Requirement management plan
  • Configuration management plan
  • Process management plan
  • Change management plan
  • Stakeholder management plan
  • Training plan

Appendices to the plan may also include:

  • The approved business case for the plan
  • The approved Project Charter
  • Key terms and acronyms
  • Any additional relevant information such as:
  • Statement of Work
  • Customer requirements documentation
  • RACI (responsibility matrix)
  • Stakeholder management plan

How to develop a project management plan

Clearly, a lot of information goes into the creation of a project management plan. It’s reasonable to wonder how a project manager pulls it all together. First, you should be aware project plans are often considered “living” documents. This means they are expected to be updated and changed as the project matures and/or you discover new information requiring a change to the plan. Second, it takes time and effort to pull together a solid project management plan. You can follow these steps to do it as efficiently as possible:

Step 1: Meet with project stakeholders

Even if project stakeholders have already been identified in another document, such as the business case or project charter, it’s important to review the list and make sure it’s still accurate. Then, meet with all project stakeholders to discuss the project objectives and scope. This ensures everyone is on the same page, particularly concerning assumptions, constraints, and expected outcomes. Discuss the planning process with stakeholders and make sure you have their commitment to helping with the process.

Step 2: Define key project roles

All key stakeholders should be asked to provide input for the parts of the project relevant to them. To handle this, it’s important to define which stakeholders are involved with each area of the project. This is often part of the stakeholder management plan or even part of the communication management plan. Relevant stakeholders include the project sponsor, team members, end-users, and any other people directly involved, such as business experts, auditors, or quality testers.

Step 3: Hold a kick-off meeting

The kickoff meeting brings stakeholders together to discuss the project and initiate planning. Some topics typically discussed during the kick-off meeting are:

  • The business case for the project
  • The expected outcomes and benefits of the project
  • Stakeholder roles and responsibilities
  • Communication and reporting information (frequency of project meetings, etc.)
  • Timeline and process for completing the project plan
Step 4: Develop project baselines

At this point, you should be ready to develop your baseline scope, schedule, and budget. It’s often easiest to start with the scope, then complete the schedule, and finish with the budget baseline. However, the three are interdependent, so be aware any change to one will likely impact the other two. 

Step 5: Create baseline management plans

Once your baselines are created, you need to have plans for managing them. This includes reporting against them, monitoring for and managing variances, and outlining the circumstances that would require an updated baseline.

Step 6: Create the other management plans

As you know, planning is a huge part of a project manager’s role. The stronger your plan, the more likely your project will succeed. So, it’s not enough to simply plan how you will manage baselines. Plans should also be created to manage all other significant aspects of, or inputs to, the project. As discussed earlier, there can be a broad range of management plans, but the minimum should include resource management, risk management, and communications management. 

Further reading