project plan vs project management plan

A few months back, I attended a local PMI chapter seminar. While I was having a conversation with other professionals, this topic arose: “Are project plan and project management plan the same?”

This discussion led us to some interesting discoveries, which I am going to share, along with my research on the topic.

During our conversation, we concluded that there was no standard difference between the project plan and project management plan.

The organization you work for determines the difference. They may decide to stick with only one term, both terms may be used as synonyms for each other, or they can refer to different types of plans.

Let’s discuss these two plans in detail.

Project Plan

The project plan is also referred to as a work plan in some organizations.

A project plan can simply be defined as a formal, approved document used to broadly guide the project and facilitate communication among the stakeholders. The project plan takes its objective from the project charter and the scope statement.

The project plan speaks in general, for example:

  • Why was the project undertaken?
  • What value will it add to the organization?
  • What will the output or deliverables of the project be?
  • Who will be involved in the project?
  • What is the deadline?
  • What are the project milestones?
  • What are the scope, budget, and schedule?
  • What technology is going to be used to accomplish the objective?

Project Management Plan

The project management plan is a formal, approved document that guides you precisely on how the work of a project will be done.

For example:

  • How will the project work be carried out?
  • How will the scope be managed?
  • How will you monitor and control the various project activities?
  • How will you deliver the product and close the project?

A project management plan is composed of many subsidiary plans such as scope management plan, cost management plan, risk management plan, and procurement management plan.

The project management plan is a meta-plan of the project plan. It contains the plan that guides the project management team to complete the project successfully.

The Difference Between the Project Plan and Project Management Plan

Some of the differences between these two plans are as follows:

  • The project plan describes the plan broadly with less attention to detail. It deals with high-level planning, while the project management plan uses every possible detail.
  • The project plan deals with the “what” part of the project, while the project management plan deals with the “how.”
  • The project plan is a visionary document, while the project management plan is executed to achieve the vision.
  • The project plan gives you the vision to complete the project successfully, while the project management plan defines and develops the system to be used to complete the project successfully.
  • These two terms are different for large projects, but they can be merged for smaller projects.

Please note that the PMBOK Guide does not differentiate between the project plan and project management plan, and therefore, this topic is not very important for the PMP exam. I have written this blog post because I thought it would be a good read for you, and you should now be able to differentiate these two terms if you ever encounter them.

Summary

A project plan and project management plan can refer to the same thing, or they can be different. In some organizations, you may see a distinction between these terms, and others will use them interchangeably. For your organization, you should speak with your seniors to find out how the company uses these terms.

How about your organization? Do you differentiate or is there no difference at all? Please share your experience through the comments section.