Your project plan is made up of lots of different elements, and cost management is one of those. When you’re planning your project, your cost management plan sets out the processes required to make sure that your project hits its budget targets.
Your cost management plan should include these items:
1. Process descriptions
What processes are you doing to be using on the project for cost management? These include planning, estimating costs and how you will establish the overall budget. Add in some detail about what processes you’ll be following and where these can be found, for example if you intend to do bottom-up estimating or bypass the standard cost planning process on advice from your project accountant.
2. Accuracy levels
How accurate do you intend to be? Of course it would be great to say that you’ll be 100% accurate in all your estimates, but that’s unrealistic! State here what you are aiming for. You can also add that this will change as the project progresses. For example, you will start the project with lower accuracy targets because you won’t have as much information as you will later on. Then as you get further into the project you can amend your estimates with the latest, more accurate figures. Set out here whether you intend to do that and how you will go about doing those revisions.
3. Variance thresholds
What variance is going to be acceptable before you have to flag a problem to your sponsor? Talk to them about how much leeway you have in your measurements and when they expect you to be bringing them issues. You may find that they are prepared to give you quite a big bracket either side of your target before it becomes a problem.
Set out the percentage deviation from each of your major measures such as baseline budget so that you know exactly where your boundaries are.
4. Performance measurements
If there are any specific rules for performance measurements, make a note of them in this section of the cost management plan. This is particularly relevant if you are following Earned Value processes. If you aren’t, you’ll probably find that you don’t need this section. If in doubt, talk to your Portfolio Office about what they expect to see.
5. Units of measure
How are you measuring things? It might seem obvious to you that ‘25’ refers to days of effort, but someone else could read that as hours of effort and come to a very different conclusion! Specify how you will be measuring time and budget figures. This is especially important if you are working in multiple currencies as you’ll need to specify that here.
6. Reporting protocols
When are you reporting? How frequently? Who to? These are all questions to answer in the reporting section of your cost management plan. Agree the format of your plans with the project sponsor and anyone else who will be receiving them. Then set out exactly how often you’ll produce these reports. It is also worth including what you’ll put in them so that there are no surprises. It can be difficult to gather new data items once the project has started if you haven’t built in a way to record them, so get a clear idea now about what your stakeholders want to see.
7. Anything else
Finally, don’t take this list as the only items to be included in your cost management plan! Your Portfolio Office may have other ideas and your corporate template may require you to complete other sections. Even if it doesn’t, you can still amend your document and add in anything else that will help you manage costs on this project – be flexible, even if you use a template.
Other things that may be useful include roles and responsibilities of those involved in cost management, a note referring back to any criteria set out in the business case, a link to any corporate policies that you will be following or any critical dates such as end of year reporting timelines or reforecasting milestones.
Your cost management plan should give you a working document to help manage spending on your project, so make it work for you and adapt any template (and this list) so it is a practical, comprehensive guide for everyone on the team.