What is a project plan?

What is a project plan, what is it for, and what's included?
A project plan, generally speaking, is the collection of information that defines the objectives, deliverables, tasks, schedule, and many other elements required to achieve the desired outcomes of a project. A Project Plan document (sometimes referred to as a Project Management Plan document), is created as a communication tool. It captures what the team understands the goals of the project to be and summarizes what the team has decided to do, how, and by when—including how the project will be managed to meet those goals.

For large projects involving multiple organizations, the Project Plan document is useful for capturing all the major parameters of the project in one place and providing them to everyone. It can evolve and be used as a working document and communication tool during the early investigation and planning work, as the team works through aspects of the project.

For smaller projects, a more streamlined version of the Project Plan can be created. The same benefits hold: clearly stating what the project must accomplish and how the team will do so, and making sure all the involved team members and their organizations are on the same page.

There is no one right definition for a Project Plan document, but all plans contain common elements to define what, how, by whom, and by when: definition of the project objectives; deliverables; and major work activities with associated schedule milestones and resource needs. It is also common to include plan information from other functional groups that are related to the project outcomes, for example, Quality, Manufacturing, and Marketing plans.

For specific information on Project Plan development see our guideline Planning and Scheduling: Create Project Plan Document. For more information about project plans and to see examples of project plans for hardware, software, and other types of projects, follow the link to our Resource Index for Planning and Scope.

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