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Within the Planning Process Phase, the project team will begin creating project documents that will identify all of the processes and activities necessary to successfully deliver the project outcomes. The project team documents those processes and activities in a comprehensive set of plans known as the Project Management Plan (PMP).

The PMP and other documents created during the Planning Process Phase will explore all aspects of the project such as scope, duration, cost, quality, communications, resources, risks, procurement, and Stakeholder engagement. There is significant value in the planning process – preparing for unknowns, challenging assumptions, seeking input from various Stakeholder – and it is important that there is active participation by the sponsoring organization and the project team. Though some organizations choose to engage outside experts to lead the development of project plans, project team participation in PMP development is crucial for achieving the best results for understanding, focusing, and implementing the associated processes and activities.

See a graphic of all six Key Elements of the Planning Process Phase in the Additional Resources chapter. For a broader view, the CA-PMF Key Elements Table (PDF) compiles all Key Elements across the Project Management Lifecycle (PMLC). This 11 x 17 inch document can be downloaded and printed for easy reference.

Each process phase Key Element is discussed independently below. Click on a Key Element title to expand the view and see the additional content.

Recommended Practices

It Takes a Village…to Make a Project Successful
Proactively reach out to other organizations or project management practitioners to identify lessons learned that could be significant for the current project. Consult with project professionals who have implemented similar technology, worked with the same vendor, or managed Stakeholders with similar characteristics who are willing to share valuable insights. Leveraging knowledge and experience of others can be extremely beneficial to the success of the project.

Connect the Dots… Clarify the Scope
Ensure that the project scope statement(s) clearly satisfies the needs expressed in the business case. Prioritize high-level scope items and use those priorities to drive project planning and project decisions. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) should develop requirements based upon the business case and scope statement(s). These activities will help avoid scope creep and create a baseline for scope traceability throughout the PMLC.

Make a Deliberate Choice When Determining the Delivery Method
When planning the implementation for projects that are more than a year in duration, consider an incremental or modular approach to be able to deliver new functionality to users continuously. Instead of delivering all functionality at once, include several releases of functionality over the course of the project, with the highest priority first, so that users can begin realizing business value in months instead of years.

No Matter the Size or Scope, the Schedule is a Key Component
It is critical to develop and rigorously manage the project’s schedule. The greater the size and complexity of the project, the more important it is to have a well-defined schedule to help manage tasks and scope.  Ensure that the project team has the requisite skill level to build, maintain, and report against the schedule.

Who wants to talk about Security?
It’s hard to overstate the importance of security for any project. This includes both IT-related security and the physical security of the project team and sponsoring organization. Engage security professionals early and often, including the Information Security Officer (ISO) of the sponsoring organization, security consultants as required, and any other resources that may be of assistance.

The ISO both protects the security of project operations and ensures any system or solution built by the project has adequate security safeguards in its architecture to protect confidential and sensitive data. For both duties, the ISO must be familiar with state and federal security standards and procedures. It’s typically much easier and less expensive to build security into a system under development than it is to try to “bolt on” security fixes later.

Effective Change Management Requires Close Attention to an Organization’s Culture
Organizational Change Management (OCM) is a structured approach for managing the effects of change on people as it relates to new business processes, changes in organizational structure, cultural changes, or implementation of a new system. OCM typically includes communicating to Stakeholders about the how, what, when, and where for changes that will affect them, especially if their current jobs will be affected or changed.

Be sure to focus on the culture of the organization. It is critical for successful change management and is an aspect of organizational change that leaders often fail to consider. Organizational culture can be very difficult to transform. It is important to shift the culture by leveraging the way people already think, behave, work, and feel. Identify and bring to the foreground those elements and behaviors that align with the desired changes. Attract people to the change and reinforce the behavior with positive incentives, recognition, and feedback.

Project Sponsors and other leaders must recognize that significant change requires reaching out to every person affected by it. Resistance to change is a natural response; however, it can be overcome through leadership commitment, reinforcing behaviors, and engaging in active communication throughout every level of the organization.

Plan to Continually Discover and Validate User Needs
Solicit user feedback frequently throughout the project lifecycle to ensure that user needs are met. This activity extends beyond just requirements gathering. Plan for user interactions during analysis, design, build, and especially test phases to continually discover, refine, and validate user needs through each phase.

An ongoing research and test feedback loop will relieve some of the pressure and risk associated with waiting to engage users only during system or user acceptance testing at the end of the project. By continually involving users, the project team can make corrections and adjustments as they surface, which will increase the likelihood of meeting business and user needs.

Early Governance Helps Set Stakeholder Expectations
Projects typically operate under multiple constraints, determined by the priorities for cost, schedule, and scope. Projects also involve uncertainty, and complex decisions are required to achieve successful outcomes. Therefore, it is recommended that comprehensive project governance be established early in the project. Project governance establishes criteria, time frames, processes, and roles and responsibilities to ensure timely and effective decision making.  Using the governance process, Stakeholders should identify their criteria for project success and provide that to the project team.

Clear Performance Metrics Benefit Both Contractors and Project Managers
Contract management entails understanding and evaluating all aspects of a contract for compliance. It is recommended that the Contract Manager work with the Quality Manager to ensure that the project’s Quality Management Plan clearly identifies performance metrics.

Metrics can help quantify the quality, scope, and timeline for each of the contract deliverables. For example, one metric might be the number of days late that a deliverable was submitted, or the number of review cycles required by the state before the deliverable can be approved.

When performance metrics are included in the Quality Management Plan, the project can communicate expectations to contractors. The metrics also allow the Project Manager to identify trends and variances so that he or she can identify and address potential problems. This allows the Project Manager to better manage state and contractor resources.


The following table identifies primary participant roles and responsibilities for this process phase. In some cases, a project might have unique requirements that call for additional roles or responsibilities depending on the project’s size, type, and complexity.

Definitions of all roles referenced in the CA-PMF is provided in Project Role Definitions in the Additional Resources chapter.

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* May also be referred to as Business Sponsor.


The following processes are associated with this process phase. The list below contains a high-level description of these processes. See the Processes and Activities section of the Planning chapter in the CA-PMF for more detail.

  • Prepare for Planning Process Phase Activities – In the Planning Process Phase, the project team identifies and standardizes process and procedures that it will use throughout the life of the project. The project team will also define and baseline the project’s scope, budget, and schedule, against which the team will track performance and progress.  In preparation, the team should review, confirm and update the Project Charter as well as project priorities including schedule, cost, scope, and the RACI Matrix. The project team should also conduct a planning kickoff meeting, prepare to complete a Complexity Assessment, and prepared for initial development of a Project Management Plan and appropriate subordinate plans.
  • Develop Planning Process Phase Artifacts – After completion of the preparation activities, the project team can begin developing the core project management documents that will be executed during the Executing Process Phase. These include the Project Management Plan, appropriate subordinate project plans, the project work plan, the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), project schedule, staffing estimates, and project budget.
  • Approve and Baseline Planning Process Phase Artifacts – Once the Project Manager is satisfied with the planning artifacts, he or she submits them to the Project Sponsor for approval. The Sponsor can approve, request revision of the documents based on new information, determine a new project direction, or even cancel the project. Projects plans are then baselined as reference points after all needed internal and external reviews and approvals are received.
  • Optimize Planning Process Phase Artifacts – Approved and baselined Planning Process Phase artifacts will require periodic and systematic revisions and updates as new information becomes available. Changes to one document often will require changes to other artifacts. Ongoing optimization efforts will include project plans, scope, schedule, staffing, and costs.  When making any change, it is important to follow the processes and procedures documented in the PMP or Change Control Management Plan. This ensures that changes are approved at the appropriate level of governance.
  • Project Approval Process – The state’s project approval process continues during the Planning Process Phase. Refer to the Framework Resources section in the Additional Resources Chapter of the Framework if the project is reportable and PAL (Project Approval Lifecycle) documentation needs to be completed. Additional information on PAL can be found at SIMM 19.
  • Conduct Procurements – If applicable, project procurements can be conducted once the Project Management Plan and/or relevant subordinate plans have been approved and there is a baselined scope, schedule, and cost for the project. Procurements may include hardware or software purchases, or contract services for expertise that does not exist on the project team. The project may need to contact the CDT Statewide Technology Procurement Division (STPD) for guidance and approval of IT procurements, depending on the level of the sponsoring organization’s delegated purchasing authority.
  • Planning Process Phase Review – The Planning Process Phase Checklist should be completed once all phase activities are completed.  This confirms that the project has completed all of its Planning Process Phase activities and is ready to proceed to the Executing Process Phase.


The following activities are undertaken in support of the processes that are associated with this process phase. The list below contains a high-level description of these activities. See the Processes and Activities section of the Planning chapter in the CA-PMF for more detail.

  • Complete the Complexity Assessment – The Complexity Assessment is typically based on assessments of both the business and technical complexity of the project. These include organizational factors of the sponsoring organization; knowledge of the target user group; Project Manager and team member experience; the time constraints associated with implementation; the political visibility of the project; and the organization’s familiarity with the proposed solution. The Complexity Assessment provides a structured approach for identifying risks and can help drive planning efforts to help lessen risks. The Department of Technology (CDT) requires completion of the Complexity Assessment as part of the Project Approval Lifecycle (PAL) for review at specified stages/gates.
  • Update the RACI Matrix – Initially drafted during the Initiating Process Phase, the RACI Matrix can now be updated based on new information. This includes updating the RACI Matrix using the Project Management Plan and subordinate plans that will be developed based on the determined complexity of the project, and assigning the appropriate project team members.
  • Hold Planning Process Phase Kickoff Meeting – The Project Manager and Project Sponsor should conduct a Planning Process Phase Kickoff Meeting. The meeting should include review of the Project Charter and the project’s purpose, priority, and vision. The Project Manager should review upcoming planning activities and outline each person’s role in the planning process. The Project Manager may choose to go over the updated RACI Matrix.
  • Set Project Practices – Project practices are the rules, standards, and tools that will be used by the project team during the project but that have not been included in the Project Management Plan. Not all projects will need to develop specific project practices but it is something to consider at this time. Examples of project practices include document storage standards; adherence to security, confidentiality, and conflict-of-interest requirements; and energy conservation. Engage the project team in the development of practices and ensure all team members know about them.
  • Develop the Project Management Plan (PMP) – All projects must develop a Project Management Plan. The PMP describes the mechanics of how aspects of the project will be planned and managed throughout the project management lifecycle (PMLC). The PMP may be a single document containing separate sections for each of its components (often true for smaller projects), or it may simply reference standalone subordinate plans for specialized areas (more common for larger and more complex projects). The Project Manager may assign plan development to appropriate team members, and will determine which subordinate plans may also be needed. The PMP should draw information from the Project Charter, the RACI Matrix, the Stakeholder Register, and other project documentation that is available from the Concept and Initiating Process Phases.
  • Develop Subordinate Project Plans – To gain familiarity and knowledge, the Project Manager should review all subordinate plan narratives, templates, and instructions included in the Framework. Actual selection of which subordinate plans to use for a specific project will depend on the project’s size, complexity and special needs. Subordinate plans include Change Control, Communication Management, Contract Management, Cost Management, Governance Management, Human Resources (HR) and Staff Management, Implementation Management, Issue Management, Maintenance & Operations Transition, Procurement Management, Quality Management, Requirements Management, Risk Management, Schedule Management, Scope Management, and Stakeholder Management.
  • Develop the Work Plan – The project work plan is the next step in refining the project’s preliminary estimates for the scope, schedule, and resources that were prepared during the Initiating Process Phase. The work plan is developed with new information that has been gathered and analyzed. This activity includes a Work Breakdown Structure, which is a decomposition (breaking down) of a project into smaller components that are more manageable in terms of size, duration, or responsibility. Another tool, the project schedule, is developed to  communicate what work needs to be performed, which resources of the organization will perform the work, and the time frames in which that work needs to be performed. Using the WBS and the project schedule as a starting point, the appropriate staffing levels are determined based on the type of project tasks and overall implementation schedule. The project budget is developed by aggregating estimated costs, including staffing, contracted services, facilities, hardware and software, and supplies.
  • Baseline Project Plans – For IT projects that are not reportable to control agencies, the Project Manager may baseline the Planning Process Phase artifacts once they are approved by the Project Sponsor. This provides references points for future progress and any changes. For reportable IT projects, final approval of the project scope, budget, and schedule may require actions by the Department of Technology, the Department of Finance, and/or the Legislature. The project can baseline these artifacts once the required external approvals are received.
  • Optimize Project Artifacts – As more information is identified and developed, the project may need to update and refine its planning documents, including those relating to the core areas of project scope, schedule, staffing, and cost. When changes are made to any of these artifacts, follow the processes and procedures documented in the Change Control Management Plan. This ensures changes are coordinated throughout all of the project’s work areas and planning documents, and that changes are approved by the appropriate project authority
  • Complete the Planning Process Phase Checklist – A checklist can assist the project team with quickly and confidently identifying areas of concern within this phase of the PMLC. In this case, completion of the checklist provides a clear milestone that the Planning Process Phase is complete.


A number of project management outputs are developed during the Planning Process Phase. The outputs are associated with tools available for your use.

For a complete list of all tools that are part of the CA-PMF see the templates page. A list and definitions of all Templates referenced in the CA-PMF is provided in Which Templates Should I Use and When? (PDF) section in the Templates chapter.

[table id=8 /]* There are two versions of these templates available. A standard and a mini. The mini is designed for the smaller of the low complexity projects, pilot projects, and those who are exploring a proof of concept. The standard version is for all other projects.


The following deliverables are created as a result of the processes and activities completed during this process phase; these are called outputs. Many of these have an associated CA-PMF tool for you to use. These are described in the tools section. The outputs associated with this process phase are listed below:

  • Completed Project Management Plan (PMP) and Subordinate Project Documents
  • Completed Development of Project Policies
  • Updated RACI Matrix
  • Initial Risk Register
  • Completed Development of the Preliminary Plans
  • Completed Project Approval Lifecycle (PAL) Documents
  • Completed Planning Process Phase Checklist