The Project Management Plan: Topics to Learn for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam
Belinda S. Goodrich, PMP, PgMP, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP, PMI-ACP, CAPM
You know what they say about project management: “plan the work and work the plan.” While that adage is a bit out of date with the advancement of agile and adaptive project development techniques, planning is still at the core of any successful project. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI) and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), the ultimate tool for planning, managing, and monitoring and controlling your project is the project management plan.
Think of the project management plan as the ultimate “how-to guide” for your project, defining and describing how the project work will be determined, managed, monitored and controlled, and closed. This includes information on change management, configuration management, what project life cycle and approach will be used, and how all aspects of the project management will be handled. Depending on the complexity of the project and the environment, the project management plan may be a simple high-level document or something much more in depth.
There are two primary components of the project management plan: the subsidiary plans and the project management performance measurement baselines.
The word subsidiary refers to being a part of something bigger. That is exactly what these plans are: a component of the overall project management plan. Subsidiary plans provide a more detailed level of information and direction around a specific area or aspect of the project. Subsidiary plans may be developed for any of the knowledge areas, such as a cost management plan, a schedule management plan, a stakeholder engagement plan, a scope management plan, a communication management plan, etc.
Subsidiary plans may be simple bulleted lists or much more detailed, depending on the complexity of the project. Not all subsidiary plans will necessarily be used on every project. For example, if you will not be working with any sellers or vendors, a procurement management plan would be unnecessary.
Performance measurement baselines are developed at the start of the project and define the intended performance of the project. There are three primary baselines: scope baseline, schedule baseline, and cost baseline. Consider these baselines as the measuring sticks, against which you will measure the performance of your project. The baselines are created through the planning processes and are considered a key component of the project management plan.
To accurately assess project performance, the baselines are “frozen” and only updated when there is a significant authorized change to the scope of the project. This could include adding scope or work to the project or removing work from the project. These baselines are used during the monitoring and controlling processes to assess the performance and progression of the project and determine the need for any type of corrective or preventive actions.
The project management plan is one of the essential tools for managing any project, from simple endeavors to large, complex engagements. PMI considers the project management plan to be mandatory as it reduces risk to the organization while also providing clear guidance. Should the project manager or a key team member leave the project, the project management plan enables successors to get up to speed quickly on project specifics.
On the PMP® exam, many of the questions ask, “what is the first thing/best thing/next thing you do?” and frequently, the correct answer is “check the project management plan.” On the exam, PMI may refer to the project management plan as the project plan, removing the word management.
Project Management Professional (PMP)®, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), “PMP,” “PMBOK” are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
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