A project plan is being used widely in different projects and different disciplines to help the project team execute the project in time and within the predefined budget. Despite the fact that the project team members have used project plans, seen it or at least heard about it, many of them look at the project plan as a deliverable which should be created by the project planner for them and they can use it, without any input or effort in development of such an important project management tool. In the other words, still some project team members, and even project managers, look at the project plan as a product and not a process.
A close look at the steps in creation of a project plan makes it clear that we are facing a process not a product. One can summarize the most important steps in development of a project plan as follow:
- Defining the project goals, objectives, deliverables and scope of the work
- Determining project time frameworks, constraints and milestones
- Creating Product Breakdown Structure (PBS), Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), Organization Breakdown Structure (OBS) and Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS)
- Defining the required activities, resources, cost components and risks
- Making the preliminary project plan, communicating the results, implementing it and adjusting the plan
Plan, do, check, act
As it may be noticed in the above mentioned steps, creating the project plan requires different inputs from different departments. Project planners need to consider the initial assumptions regarding the important aspects of the project on the basis of project specifications and requirements, implement them in the preliminary version of the project plan, communicate them with the responsible departments and project team members, adjust the assumptions and implement new assumptions in the project plan and update it considering the latest adjustments. The picture below clarifies this process better.
Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle is a widely used procedure in the project management field. For the project plan, this process is of great importance. Only by implementing this process we can continuously improve the quality and usability of the project plan.
The other concept that can clearly describe project plan development process is the V-Model. This model is a graphical representation of the system or product development process (see figure below).
As it is shown in the figure above, development of a project plan can be illustrated by a V-model. In the left side of the V-model, the required steps for the creation of the preliminary project plan have been shown. At the bottom of the V-model, the preliminary project plan has been created and it is ready to be verified during the implementation phase. The right side of the V-model contains the required steps for the testing and integration of the project plan. Using the validations in different levels of this process is necessary for continuously improve the reliability and enhance the quality of the project plan.
In short, project plan should be treated as a process instead of a product. Approaching the project plan as a process in a project team and following an organized and well-defined procedure in development of it can have a significant effect on the final outcome of the project. Project team members should recognize that their cooperation and inputs in development of the project plan is very vital, not only in start of the project, but also during the life cycle of the project where the project plan is updated regularly.