At its most basic level, a project plan answers the questions ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘who’ and ‘when’. Here, we’ll create a product plan template informed by PRINCE2, PMP and APM. Showing how these three major frameworks outline plans will help you understand and make your own. They may also boost your understanding of the frameworks and help you decide which one(s) you want to study in more detail.
This is the project plan’s ‘why’ and ‘what’. Every framework has a business case which defines the problem the project will resolve. APM also recommends an options appraisal at this point. This lists all the considered solutions along with the chosen solution.
Every good business case also states how the organization will benefit from the project. These are called ‘expected benefits’ in APM and ‘desired outcomes’ in PRINCE2. If the benefits are material, a PMP project calls them the ‘major deliverables’.
All projects come with some element of risk. That’s why project plans should anticipate them as thoroughly as possible. PRINCE2’s initial business cases list the major risks. The more detailed Project Initiation Document will have a Risk Management Strategy for them.
APM’s expected benefits section also covers the project’s unavoidable negative impacts. This is different from risks, which are based on assumptions and may be avoidable. For managing risk, APM and PMP both have a Risk Management Plan. The project plan will have a section which lists what the risks are and how they might impact the business case.
This is the project plan’s ‘who’. It’s important that everyone knows their role and that every role is filled. For small projects and organizations, this often means doubling up roles. In PRINCE2 project plans, these are usually called Role Descriptions.
PMP usually calls this section Roles and Responsibilities, which is similar to the name of the PRINCE2 principle ‘Define Roles and Responsibilities’. You can use Roles and Responsibilities or Role Descriptions in your own project plan, as they’re both descriptive titles. Just make sure you include other roles, like sponsors, and not just the project team. Every stakeholder should be accounted for.
Sponsors will most likely consider this the most important part of a project plan, and projects don’t get off the ground without sponsor approval. A PMP project plan will have a dedicated Financial Management Plan. This identifies all financial requirements and how to finance them.
In a PRINCE2 plan, this section is usually titled Budgets. It covers time as well as cost, and also includes provisions for risk and change. It makes sense to place the Tolerances section after this, as it describes acceptable changes to the budget.
PRINCE2 is well known for managing projects by stages, but it’s familiar to PMP, APM and all good frameworks. It’s easier for the team and managers to complete projects when they’re broken down into manageable parts. It’s also easier for agile projects and for responding to unexpected risks.
The project’s major steps are called timescales in APM and schedules in PRINCE2. Whatever your qualification, it’s best to use the terms popular in the organization. Also consider Gannt charts, product flow diagrams or other graphical representations. They make timelines easier to create, understand and action, regardless of the project’s framework.
Despite their differences, all three frameworks referenced in this blog are based on best practices. They share many principles that make their project plans broadly similar, despite coming from different governing bodies. For more specific knowledge of how to structure projects, we have fully accredited training courses for PRINCE2, APM and PMP.