The Project Schedule and The Project Plan
By Ann Drinkwater
A project schedule is not the same as the project plan. Repeat after me, the schedule is not the project plan. As the name suggests, the project plan is a collection of documents used to manage the execution of a project. The schedule includes dates for tasks and milestones in the project plan and is an element of the plan, but is not comprehensive enough to be considered a plan. The project plan goes much deeper than a timeline and is the overall blueprint for the project. According to the PMBOK, the project plan may include the following:
- Project charter
- Description of project management approach or strategy
- Scope statement
- Work breakdown structure
- Cost estimates
- Performance measurement baselines
- Major milestones and target dates
- Key or required staff
- Risk management plan
- Subsidiary management plans:
- Scope management
- Schedule management
- Cost management
- Quality management
- Staffing management
- Communication management
- Risk response
- Procurement management
- Supporting detail
- Outputs from other planning processes
- Constraints and assumptions
- Technical documentation
- Standards documentation
You should determine the level of detail needed, based on the size of the project. From the list above you can see this list is quite extensive and much more encompassing than a list of tasks, assignments and expected dates. I often hear companies and individuals refer to the schedule as the overall plan for the project, which is inaccurate and a risk for your projects and organizations. Without capturing and managing the information above, you are not truly planning for and managing the outcome of your projects.
I previously wrote about areas to be aware of when selecting a vendor, including their ability to plan. Planning is fundamental to project success. The ability to plan and to derive what is important from vast amounts of information and stakeholders is essential. We all know the saying “if we don’t have a clear plan on where we are going we won’t know when we get there”, but if we don’t have a clear understanding on the other areas listed above; our projects and teams will flounder. Not properly addressing and continuously managing the items above will create significant concern from executives and others funding the project, as well as those the project is being designed for.
While we may not have all the answers when we start planning the project, we need to remember that planning is iterative and these plans are not created in a one-time session. The act of creating these guides will require you to think through the necessary factors and truly analyze the situation, creating a response to all possible scenarios.
Ann’s professional focus is information technology project and program management. She is a certified Project Manager (PMP), a certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and a member of the Washington D.C. Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Educationally she holds an MS in Technology Management and a BA in Organizational Leadership and Development.
© Copyright 2005 - 2010 Ann E. Drinkwater. All Rights Reserved.