PMP Certification Essentials – The Project Management Plan (PM Plan) Explained

The Project Management Plan (PM Plan) Explained

While studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification Exam, PMP aspirants will read from the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) about the Project Management Plan (PM Plan). This is the most important document (or collection of documents) for any projects as well as the PMP Exam. This post will discuss how the Project Management Plan (PM Plan) is defined according to the PMBOK® Guide, why the PM Plan is pivotal to your PMP Exam success as well as project success.

The Project Management Plan According to the PMBOK® Guide

The Project Management Plan is defined at (per the PMBOK® Guide):

the document that describes how the project will be executed, monitored, and controlled.

The Project Management Plan includes descriptions on assumptions and decisions, how the project will be executed, and all the high level goals, costs, and milestones. It is a living document that integrates subsidiary plans and documents. Though it is created during the Project Management Planning Process Group, it will be continually updated as during the life-cycle of the project.

Why the Project Management Plan is Important?

The PM Plan is often considered to be the single most important document for any projects. This is because it is the fundamental document that documents all the important decisions, facts and understandings of the project. It describes what are the goals and deliverables of the project, how to carry out the project, how risks are to be resolved, which persons are responsible for what, how the project is monitored and controlled, how to make changes to the PM Plan, etc. Whenever questions arise, the project manager will need to consult the PM Plan for answers. In short, the PM Plan gives answers to the why, what, who, when, and how type questions that may arise during the execution of a project.

For the PMP Certification Exam, PMP aspirants need to know the Project Management Plan must be created for every project, whether the project is large or small. Sometimes, the questions will try to trick the Exam takers to skip the PM Plan for speed or convenience. While this may be true/practical for real world projects, abandoning the PM Plan is NOT an option from the perspective of the PMBOK® Guide and thus the PMP Exam! The Project Management Plan is typically a formal written document that should be approved by the project stakeholders. Project work cannot be implemented if the PM Plan has not been created and approved.

Subsidiary Plans and Subsidiary Documents

The Planning Processes described in the PMBOK® Guide creates a number of subsidiary plans and documents. These subsidiary plans and documents are used together with the Project Management Plan to plan and direct the project. These are also very important for project success.

Subsidiary plans are outputs from the following Planning Processes:

  • Plan Scope Management
  • Plan Schedule Management
  • Plan Cost Management
  • Plan Quality Management
  • Plan Human Resource Management
  • Plan Communications Management
  • Plan Procurement Management
  • Plan Stakeholder Management
  • Plan Risk Management

The Subsidiary plans include:

  • Scope Management Plan
  • Schedule Management Plan
  • Cost Management Plan
  • Quality Management Plan
  • Human Resource Management Plan
  • Communications Management Plan
  • Procurement Management Plan
  • Stakeholder Management Plan
  • Risk Management Plan

Take the Scope Management Plan as an example. The Scope Management Plan is an output of the Plan Scope Management Process. It describes how project scope will be planned, structured, and controlled. It is considered a “subsidiary plan” to the overall Project Management Plan.  The subsidiary plans can be defined at a high or detailed level depending on the type of plan, the specific needs of the project and the requirements of the performing organization.

Whereas, Subsidiary documents are the baseline documents that are also developed as part of the Planning Processes. These include the schedule baseline, cost performance baseline, and scope baseline (scope statement, WBS, and WBS dictionary).

Change Management of the PM Plan

Changes to the Project Management Plan/Subsidiary Plan can be made through a Change Control System. This system is also defined in the Project Management Plan which governs the methods to request, review, and approve changes. Changes requests are usually required to be submitted in paper or electronic form (formally written). Requests will then be reviewed by the project manager, project sponsor, select set of stakeholders, a change control board, or by whoever is tasked to review requests by the performing organization as defined in the PM Plan. Only after approval is obtained will the Project Management Plan be updated. Changes that are not requested through the Change Control System nor formally approved cannot be implemented. Otherwise, the project is out of control.

Summary for the PMP Certification Exam

The Project Management Plan (PM Plan) is typically a formal written document that is essential for every project. It should be approved by the project stakeholders. The project work cannot be carried out before the PM Plan is approved. It includes a number of subsidiary plans and documents.

The Develop Project Management Plan section of the Project Integration Management Process Group of the PMBOK® Guide gives further explanations on the PM Plan. 

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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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3 Responses

  1. Krzysztof says:

    Dear Edward,

    Could you explain the concept of the Project Management Plan Updates? If we are in Monitoring and Controlling Process Group (i.e. Control Communication) it means that we have approved PMPlan document and all subsidiary plans. Why PMPlan Updates are not made only by Change request output?

    Kind regards,

    • Edward Chung says:

      Your concept about change request is correct. Since the Project Management Plan is a formally approved document, changes must be submitted as change requests which are controlled by the Change Control System.

  2. Hi i would like to take the PMP Certification and is hoping that you may be of assistance, can we link?.