What Is a Project Management Plan?

Page Coleman

The project management plan is a living document to describe and control a software development project. It facilitates communication between the manager, project team, and stakeholders. Some of the key sections are the project description, team organization, high level due dates, and sometimes also include additional sections that clarify the work of the project team.

The project management triangle illustrates the trade offs between time, cost, and quality that must be considered when creating a project plan.
The project management triangle illustrates the trade offs between time, cost, and quality that must be considered when creating a project plan.

In the introductory section, readers will find a description of the project and evaluation standards. High level deliverables, or the “products” that will be created, are usually found next. Examples of deliverables include requirement documents, code bases, and quality assurance documents.

Another section of the plan describes the team’s organization. Both internal and external resources will be listed. The list is usually composed of business analysts, programmers, quality assurance analysts, subject matter experts, other technical and business resources, and the project manager.

Individual deliverable due dates must be scheduled to ensure the overall project can meet its deadline. This section often includes just the major deliverables and their due dates. These work plans are essential to keeping the project on time.

The project manager may use techniques, called project controls, to help the project run smoothly. These project controls are often included in the plan. Controls can include the frequency of status updates and the tolerance of variation between planned and actual results that will trigger escalation.

A project management plan may also include monitoring processes. It may list the methods that will be used to track actual work and compare it to scheduled work. Adherence to the schedule directly affects the budget, which is important to project planning. The plan may state the methods used to track actual costs and compare to expected costs.

Communications plans cover when, how, and to whom reports on the project status will be made, and may be in the overall plan. Any project assumptions, constraints, or dependencies will also be described. Risk management is usually discussed, which will record the risks and the plans to monitor and manage them as needed. The project management plan may define how any issues will be tracked and managed.

The team’s technical tools may be listed in another section. This can include the software development life cycle and the software tools various disciplines use in their work. For example, business analysts may use a requirements management tool, developers may use source control software, and quality assurance staff may use tools for managing test cases. Configuration management tools may also be recorded, and these tools help ensure that the correct work products, such as software code, are logged and released correctly.

Quality assurance plans describe the methods and tasks used to ensure the products meets quality stands. The complexity of the quality insurance plan is dependent on the size of the project. For this reason, a separate document may be used for the details of large plans.

A well-documented system can be far easier to maintain and support, so user documentation is frequently created as part of a project management plan. This documentation may include install instructions, help files, and training guides. The plan may have a section for process improvement as well, which can include opportunities for the team to use improved or new processes or tools.

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