Project Plan Audit Smart List 

 September 26, 2020

By  Dave Litten

Project Plan Audit Smart List

Every project has a planning stage since it is well understood that inadequate planning is a known cause of projects so it is a key area for you to check on in project audit.

In the planning stage, three key documents will be prepared; these are the full project charter, the project management plan, and the stage plan for the first delivery stage.

The stage plan for the planning stage will have covered the work needed to produce all three of these documents.

Planning Audit Smart List

Does the plan reflects the control needed on the project? Under-planning is likely to lead to problems of course, while over-planning just wastes resources.

Check that the stage plan covers the production of all the required elements of the charter and project management plan.

Check that the stage plan is realistic and achievable overall. It is unlikely that a large expensive and complex project can be planned by one person in the planning stage that is just two days long.

A spotlight to check specifically alone of time has been allocated for risk analysis and planning. This is even more important if the project is a high risk one.

Another spotlight as the work involved in specifying and planning quality control is often under estimated.

Business case
Check carefully that sufficient time is included in the stage plan to produce a sound business case. The time will depend on the project justification and the amount a work already done.

Planning resource
Make sure that the staff resource needed to create the plans are included in the stage plan and that people involved are available. This may include subject specialists such as engineers and team leaders

Planning time
Check that the planning stage is long enough to build effective plans. As an example, ensure sufficient time has been allowed for resource levelling and calculating the budget. Check that the project manager has not produced the planning time in response to ill-judged pressure from senior managers to get on with the real work within the delivery stages.

Project board involvement
Check that the Resourcing for the plan includes project board members. That’s maybe in a planning workshop or to work on individual elements of the plan as the project manager cannot create the charter and project management plan in isolation.

Project Management Plan Audit Smart List

The project management plan is made up of a lot of component plans, and what follows relates to the plan:

Check that all the component elements needed for the project are included within the project management plan. Not every project needs all of them and the project might not need a separate are a key element plan as an example.

Check that the component plans are clearly written. Many people in the project such as team leaders and project board members, will need to refer to the plans as well as the project manager. The plans must therefore be clear and understandable to all, not written in some abbreviated form that only the project manager can understand.

To accompany the last point that plan should be clear and properly explained is the counterbalance that they should be concise.
Unnecessary detail and complexity in the plans result in too much resource being used to create them, but importantly those plans must be maintained throughout the project therefore taking up more unnecessary resource.

Project board involvement
Although the project management plan is primarily the project managers document, the project board must check that the controls are sufficient and must input some of the information such as the availability of staff and finance.
Ensure that project board members have been involved in the production of the project management plan and that they agree with it from a project governance perspective.

Project plan Audit Smart List

As a project auditor you should be familiar with product, activity, resource and financial planning. From your experience, you will know the sort of things that planners can often miss, but there are few reminders of the main areas to help you cover all aspects:

Check the plans for technical accuracy such as that products have been correctly modeled as in inaccuracies can lead to errors in control.

Check the plans are complete including for example, management actions not just the product construction activity.

Ensure the plans are consistent with each other. For example, for every team product on the product plans, are there corresponding activities on the activity plans to build that product?
Quality checks and rework
Make sure that work to test products, including staff resource, is included and time and resource for some rework. Not every product will pass its quality check first time.

Check that the people shown as resource on the plans are available at the time frame indicated within the plan. Check that non-working days such as public colleges and annual holiday entitlement for staff members are accounted for on the plans.

Take a critical look at the plans to ensure that they are realistic and achievable. Check that staff members are not allocated 100% unless activity durations allow for some non-working time.

Is the timing sensible on the activity plans including, where appropriate, lead or lag times? It is not uncommon for a project manager to forget about leads and lags when putting together the project schedule of activities.

Check that there is sufficient contingency in the plans as it should really be visible and clearly labeled rather than hidden in inflated estimates.

Dave Litten

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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