If you are new to the project planning and scheduling, you may not know the differences between project schedule and plan because these terms are sometimes used interchangeably. We saw that some PMP aspirants new to project management often do not remember the difference between Project Plan and Project Schedule.
Project Plan and Project Schedule may sound quite similar to a lot of people. Although each concept plays a role in completing a project on time, they are two different concepts. In this article, we will clarify the differences between them.
The PMBOK Guide describes the Project Plan as a formal, approved document which is used to guide both project execution and control. Some organizations use work plan instead of project plan.
The project plan is a comprehensive document which involves but not limited to the scope of work, baseline schedule, baseline budget, costs, project expenses, planning assumptions, etc. to facilitate communication among the stakeholders.
Typically, activities, milestones, resource requirements, major products are detailed and documented in project plans.
In other words, the project plan creates a road map to represent all the details of a project in a sequence from the beginning until the end of the project life cycle.
Simply put a project plan is an essential project document that is used to guide the project, and facilitate communication among the stakeholders.
The project plan answers general questions related to the project such as;
- Why did the organization undertake the project?
- What benefit will the organization obtain from the project?
- What are the deliverables or the products of the project will be?
- Which parties will be involved in the project?
- What is the finish date?
- What are the major project milestones?
- What are the scope, budget, duration and completion date of the project?
- What kind of technology will be used to perform the tasks?
As it is seen from the questions, the project plan deals with the “what” question related to the project. It provides a general vision for the project.
It is clear that every project needs a project schedule. Without a project schedule, your project will not achieve the goals in a limited time period. It details what work will be performed and when.
Resource allocation plans, mobilization plans, equipment plans, and procurement plans rely on project schedules. From this aspect, the project schedule generates a roadmap for other plans and provides dates for the project deliverables.
According to PMBOK Guide, a Project Schedule shows “the planned dates for performing activities and the planned dates for meeting milestones.”
A project schedule is a graphic presentation of all activities in a project required to produce the output. Gantt Charts, Network Diagrams, Critical Chain Method, Critical Path Method, and PERT techniques can be used to create the project schedules.
In other words, project schedules show the activities, durations, dependencies, milestones, start and finish dates, calendars and the critical path in a diagram.
The project schedule is often used in along with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) which divides the project scope into meaningful segments.
For better understanding the concept, let’s take a glance at the project scheduling steps.
Project Scheduling Steps
Project Scheduling is the act of determining which activities need to get done and which resources will be assigned to complete these activities in a specific period.
There are some steps to be taken in order to create a serviceable schedule
- Analyze the project scope and create the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure)
- Determine the activities
- Determine the resources
- Estimate the duration of each activity
- Assign the activity relationships
- Assign the resources
- Detail the schedule and analyze
- Monitor and control the schedule
Difference Between Project Plan and Project Schedule
- A project plan is an extensive document which includes project risks, budget, organization, scope, goals, objectives and also project schedule. On the other hand, project schedules involve planned dates and sequences of the project activities.
- A project plan focuses on the entire project. On the other hand, project schedules focus on the project activities, start and finish dates and dependencies.
- A project schedule alerts the project team about the critical path and potential delays.
- Project schedules are live documents that should be updated and reported regularly.
- A project schedule usually relies on software, methods, and techniques such as Gantt Charts, Network Diagrams, PERT, CPM, etc.
In project management, both Project Plans and Project Schedules are critical documents for a project’s success. Project Plans are comprehensive documents that also include Project Schedules. It guides project execution and control.
On the other hand, a Project Schedule is a graphic presentation of the project activities and activity details. It can be created by using tools such as Gantt Charts, Network Diagrams, CPM and PERT techniques. You can analyze and check the critical path of the project by using the project schedule.
They are different but interrelated project documents. Therefore, understanding each concept and having knowledge about their use will help the project managers to manage their projects effectively.
In this article, we discuss plan and schedule concepts. Note that these are important concepts from a project management point of view.
Are you using project schedules and plans in your projects? If you want to add or share anything, you can do by using the comments section below.
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