Project Schedule vs Project Plan – If you are new to project management concepts, you may not know the differences between project schedule and project plan because these terms are sometimes used interchangeably. In our training programs, we saw that some PMP aspirants new to project management often do not remember the difference between these two important scheduling concepts. Project Plan and Schedule may sound quite similar to a lot of people. Although each concept plays a role in completing a project on time by meeting key milestones, they refer to two different meanings. In this article, we will clarify the differences between them.
The PMBOK Guide describes the Project Plan as a formal, approved document that is used to guide both project execution and control. Some organizations use the term work plan instead of a project plan.
The project plan is a comprehensive document that 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 accept the project?
- What benefit will the organization obtain from the project?
- What are the major 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 proper project schedule in place, your project will not achieve its goals in a limited time period. Basically, 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 the PMIs 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 along with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) which divides the project scope into meaningful work packages.
For a better understanding of the project schedule, 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
What is the Difference Between Project Plan and Project Schedule?
- A project plan is an extensive document that includes project risks, budget, organization, scope, goals, objectives, and also project schedule. On the other hand, project schedules involve forecasted dates and sequences of the project activities.
- A plan focuses on the entire deliverables and processes. 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 usage will help the project managers to manage their projects effectively.
In this article, we discussed the topic; project plan vs project schedule. Note that these are important concepts from a project management point of view.
Are you using work schedules in your projects? If you want to add or share anything regarding the project schedule vs project plan, you can do by using the comments section below.
A dedicated Career Coach, Agile Trainer and certified Senior Portfolio and Project Management Professional and writer holding a bachelor’s degree in Structural Engineering and over 20 years of professional experience in Professional Development / Career Coaching, Portfolio/Program/Project Management, Construction Management, and Business Development. She is the Content Manager of ProjectCubicle.