Many people use the term "project plan" to mean the project schedule (or workplan). However, the project plan is actually the name given to all of the project management documents used during the project. This term actually made more sense in years past when you could envision a physical binder that contained hard copies of the project management deliverables. The term has less meaning today when all of your documents are stored online and many of them may never be actually printed. The project plan could be the name of the online folder that houses all of these documents.
The project plan specifically includes:
- Project Charter (Project Scope Statement). This is the document that describes the project objectives, scope, estimated costs, estimated duration, deliverables, risks, assumptions, project organization, etc.
- Project Management Procedures. This document contains the specific procedures for managing your schedule, issues, scope changes, risks, quality, etc. You should have organization-wide guidelines for these procedures that you customize as needed.
- Roles and responsibilities. Each stakeholder in the project should understand their role and responsibilities on the project. This includes the project manager, sponsor, steering committee, project team members, control board, etc. Again, these should be created at the organization level and customized as needed for your specific project.
- Schedule and Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Your schedule is definitely a project management deliverable. If you created a formal WBS to help create your schedule, you should save it in the Project plan as well.
- Staffing Management Plan. This is a plan that describes the staffing resources you need for your project, the skills you need, where the resources are coming from, etc.
- Communications Plan. This is a list of all stakeholders, their communication needs, how you will deliver the information, how you will manage their expectations, etc. You may also have a Stakeholder Analysis Plan, which is similar but created at a little broader level than a Communications Plan.
- Risk Management Plan. This is where you describe the project risks, how you rank the risks, how you will respond to all major risks, contingency plans, risk management tools, risk management specialists on the project, etc.
- Project Balanced Scorecard. This document describes the measures that you will use to validate that your project was successful. It includes the project success criteria, metrics that indicate success, targets for each metric, how you will collect the metrics, how you will report the metrics, etc.
- Project approvals. These approvals can be saved with each document or you can save all document approvals in one central location.
- There may be other project management documents that are also included in the project plan, but these are the major ones that might be applicable to your project. Instead of keeping these documents scattered all over the place it is a good idea to store them in the same area. If you do, you can now give this entire group of documents a name--the project plan!