What is a Project Plan vs. a Project Schedule?

Projects come in a variety of sizes. Their costs vary as does the time it takes to complete them. But there are some components of every project which are indispensable and two such items are the Project Plan and the Project Schedule. Both are important and can be described as two of the main tools or components required to help steer the project all the way to a successful completion.

The Project Plan can be described as the master plan. There are many other documents associated with the project but most if not all are related to the Project Plan. It’s a formal document, a vitally important document which states just how the project will proceed, how it will be managed and monitored.

Any and all subsidiary plans which are drawn up as part of the project are created because and out of the Project Plan. It is the authority for the creation and implementation of additional secondary plans.

The Project Schedule is far more specific. It has a unique purpose which is akin to a timetable. The project schedule lists all the tasks to be completed within the project and most importantly, when they start and when they will finish. The Project Schedule allows project managers to know precisely which tasks are on schedule and those which are not.

The Project Plan may be the master plan but the Project Schedule goes into fine detail. It considers the schedule and the structure of the project and sets out time lines, responsibilities, milestones and more. Knowing who is responsible for a task, when it will start and finish and what are the important milestones along the way are all detailed in the project schedule.

Anyone who uses the words ‘plan’ and ‘schedule’ as interchangeable is wrong and can cause confusion. The words have separate meanings and roles and while they are directly related, each should be seen as serving a unique purpose.

The Project Plan contains a broad outline of many components of the project including the following components. Within each of the following can be listed a wide range of specific tasks, plans and information on how each will be performed and assessed.

  • Objectives
  • Solutions
  • Timelines
  • Resources

Having Timelines seems to clash with the contents of the Project Schedule but in the Project Plan the information is of a general nature. The Timelines in the Schedule are far more complex and apply to every single task within the overall project.

Because of the complex nature of the content within a Project Schedule, so much of the work in creating such a document is done today using specialist software. The resources needed are in manpower, materials and equipment and other details include the running times, the intended outcomes and the solutions to any problems which may occur form a multi-layered and highly detailed program. The latest IT products greatly assist in the formation of today’s Project Schedules.

There are many reports and support materials on good project management. None is more important than understanding the structure, differences and the unique qualities of the Project Plan and the Project Schedule.


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  5 comments for “What is a Project Plan vs. a Project Schedule?

  1. lucrare diploma
    October 25, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    It is perfect time to make a few plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve learn this put up and if I could I want to counsel you some attention-grabbing things or tips. Maybe you can write subsequent articles relating to this article. I desire to learn more issues about it!

  2. Shanna Kirkendoll
    November 1, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I am always looking online for tips that can help me. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: What is a project?
  4. O.Patanjali Sastry
    September 2, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    According to PMBOK it’s better to call it Project Management Plan as it contains the subsidiary plans of other knowledge areas i.e. Project Scope Management, Time Management & Cost Management etc.

    Project Schedule, as you mentioned it can be a Microsoft Project (MPP) file.

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