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PRINCE2 - Planning (PL) part 2

Designing a Plan (PL1)

Fundamental principles

A plan is the backbone of every project and is essential for a successful outcome. Good plans cover all aspects of the project, giving everyone involved a common understanding of the work ahead.

Designing a plan will ensure that all aspects are adequately covered. It is important that all involved can easily understand the plan.


This sub-process includes decisions on the approach to planning for the project and therefore needs to be used early in the project.
These decisions must be made before any of the other Planning (PL) sub-processes can be used.

It may be sensible to have one plan format for presentation in submissions seeking approval and a more detailed format for day-to-day control purposes.

The strategies for tackling the project and ensuring quality of the products will already have been defined during Defining Project Approach (SU5) and Planning Quality (IP1).

Process description

Choices need to be made for presentation and layout of the plan, planning tools, estimating methods, levels of plan and monitoring methods to be used for the project.
Any recipients of plans and their updates should be identified.
There may be a central function that consolidates all plans for senior management, particularly if the project is pat of a programme.

Presentation and layout

Decisions need to be made about how this plan can best be presented given the audience for the plan, and how it will be used.
This will include the use of diagrams versus text and will be driven in part by any standards adopted by the project.

Planning tools

One of the first decisions will be to identify any planning and control aids to be used by the project.
There may be a company standard or the customer may stipulate the use of a particular set of tools.
The choice of planning tool may depend on the complexity of the project.
If so, the choice may need to be deferred until after some of the other planning processed.


The method(s) of estimation must be chosen.
Each facet of the project may need its own estimation method.

Estimating may be done by:

  • Using computer tools
  • A group of experienced planners
  • Top-down or bottom-up methods
  • Discussion with those who will do the work
  • Any combination of these

The method chosen should be evaluated and comments about their effectiveness made in the End Project Report and Lessons Learned Report when the project ends.

The estimating methods to be used in the plan may affect the plan design, so decisions on the methods to be used should be made as part of plan design.


There are two possible allowances that have to be considered for inclusion within the project’s plan structure:

  • A change budget
  • A contingency budget

These are not mandatory and their use depends on each project’s circumstances.


Ultimately the responsibility for the decisions in designing a plan rests with the Project Board, but in practice the Project Manager would produce recommendations for informal Project Board approval.

Local standards may pre-empt some of the decisions and where third parties are being used, Team Managers will usually expect to use their own standards.
The Project Assurance roles have a responsibility to check the designs.

Information needs
Management informationUsageExplanation
Project ApproachInputThe approach may impact on the number or stages and plan levels required.
Project Quality PlanInputThe contents of the plans, levels of detail and monitoring needs will be affected by the Project Quality Plan.
Corporate or programme planning standardsInputThese may identify the planning and estimating tools and methods to be used.
Project Brief (or Project Initiation Document)InputScope of the work to be planned.
Plan designOutputA statement of the planning approach, levels of plan, tool set to be used and major monitoring methods.

These are given in tabular form in the file ‘PL1 designing a plan.doc’ in the product package.

Key criteria

  • What planning, estimating, monitoring and risk assessment methods will be used?
  • What tool set should be used to help with planning, estimating, monitoring and risk assessment?
  • What level of detail about the products, their creation, quality checks and plan monitoring does the Project Manager require for day-to-day control?
  • What level of detail does the Project Board need:
  1. Before commitment to a plan
  2. To monitor progress against a plan
  • How many levels of plan are suitable for this project?
  • To what level of detail does each plan need to go?
  • How will any quality checks be shown on the plans?
  • How will tolerances be assigned?
  • Should there be a change budget?
  • What level of productivity for team members should be used?
  • How will contingency allowances be handled (if appropriate)?

A lot of time can be wasted in producing a very good plan to achieve the wrong objective.

The use of planning tools is not obligatory, but it can save a great deal of time if the plan is to be regularly updated and changed.
A good tool can also validate that the correct dependencies have been built in and have not been corrupted by any plan updates.

The Project Manager should decide what level of efficiency is to be taken for project members when planning their work.
No one is 100 percent efficient.
The estimator must know how to treat non-planned time such as telephone calls, ad hoc meetings and sickness.

Watch out for ‘double counting’ – for example, adding in allowances both when estimating and when scheduling.

It may be sensible to consider different levels of presentation of the plan for the different levels of readership.
Most planning software packages offer such options.

When working with sub-contractor companies, a copy of their plan(s) may form part of the overall plan.
A decision will need to be taken on whether sub-contractor plans are shown separately or built into the Project and / or Stage Plans.

Not all projects need a 45-page plan, but equally a half-sheet of paper is likely to be insufficient for most Project Plans.

Where the project is part of a programme, the programme may have developed a common approach to project planning.
This may cover standards – for example, level of planning – and tools.
These will be the starting point for designing any Project Plans.
Any project-specific variations should be highlighted and the agreement of programme management sought.

This product contains EVERYTHING in the publications:

Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 - 2005 edition
Managing successful Projects with PRINCE2 – 2009 edition
Directing Projects with PRINCE2.
The Complete Project Management package.

And much more besides - at a fantastic price.