Project Management Handbook

A project management handbook, as we understand the term here, is a handbook describing a specific project. It is a living document we create early in definition phase and update it regularly throughout the life cycle of the whole project, until closing it when official project conclusion takes place.

The basic idea of such a handbook is to have a virtually complete compendium that contains literally everything that corresponds to that project.

Structure of a Project Management Handbook

We propose the following structure:

Overview page with basic Project information
Table of revisions or updates of this project management handbook
(1) Definition Phase
(1.1) Project Vision
(1.2) Main Stakeholders
(1.3) Project Goal
(1.4) Project Charter
(1.5) Requirements and Specifications
(1.6) Minutes of Meetings
(1.7) Milestone M1
(2) Planning Phase
(2.1) Project Scope
(2.1.1) Product Breakdown Structure
(2.1.2) Work Breakdown Structure
(2.1.3) Effort Estimation and First Risk Analysis
(2.2) Project Schedule
(2.2.1) Milestone Plan
(2.2.2) Network Diagram
(2.2.3) Gantt Chart
(2.2.4) Resources
(2.3) Project Budget
(2.3.1) Accumulated Cost Plan
(2.3.2) Payment Plan [or Sales Plan]
(2.4) Risk Management Plan
(2.5) Contract Management Plan
(2.6) Controlling Tools
(2.7) Project Communication Plan
(2.8) Acceptance Procedures
(2.9) Minutes of Meetings
(2.10) Negotiation of a Contract
(3) Implementation Phase
(3.1) Kick-off Meeting
(3.2) Project Status Meetings
(3.3) Risk Management and Problem Solving
(3.4) Review Meetings
(3.5) Event Log and Records
(3.6) Changes and Claims
(3.7) Preliminary Acceptance
(4) Closure Phase
(4.1) Project Status Meetings
(4.2) Risk Management and Problem Solving
(4.3) Review Meetings
(4.4) Event Log and Records
(4.5) Changes and Claims
(4.6) Final Acceptance
(4.7) Project Closure

From this structure, we see that we have to fill the project management handbook step by step, as we move on in our project. Some parts we will re-visit, maybe even several times. For example, in chapter Planning Phase, we also document the optimization cycles of planning documents, as they evolve.

Return to Definition Phase

Return from Project Management Handbook to Home Page


Content Details of a Project Management Handbook

Overview page with basic project information
  • Project
  • Customer
  • Project Manager
  • Control Board
  • Project Revenue
  • Project Cost
  • Project Profit
  • Major Milestones
    • M0 - Project Start
    • M1 - End of Definition Phase
    • M2 - End of Planning Phase
    • M3 - End of Implementation Phase
    • M4 - End of Closure Phase
  • Project Selection Support
  • Net Present Value
  • Internal Rate of Return
  • Benefit Cost Ratio
  • Opportunity Cost
  • Payback Period
  • Project Prioritization Support
  • Signatures of project manager and control board
Table of revisions or updates of this project management handbook
  • Date
  • Signature of initiator(s) of the revision or update
  • Signature of the project manager

(1) Definition Phase

(1.1) Project Vision

[Description of the underlying problem or reason why we undertake this project]
[Description of the idea how to solve that problem]
[Description of the main deliverables or services the project shall create]

(1.2) Main Stakeholders

[Who are the project's stakeholders?]
[What are their main interests?]
[What are possible conflicts of interests, and how are we resolving those conflicts?]
[What is our further action plan in terms of stakeholder management?]

(1.3) Project Goal

[Make sure that the project goal(s) are SMART.]
[What has the project to create?]

(1.4) Project Charter

[Here, we integrate the project charter or project manager agreement.]
[Assigned team members]

(1.5) Requirements and Specifications

[What are the requirements and / or specifications of the desired project results?]
[What are the results of our analysis of the requirements and / or specifications?]

(1.6) Minutes of Meetings

[Here, we collect all the minutes of meetings and workshops taking place in definition phase.]

(1.7) Milestone M1

[Milestone M1 – End of Definition Phase]

(2) Planning Phase

(2.1) Project Scope

(2.1.1) Product Breakdown Structure

[What are our proposed solutions and options in terms of systems engineering and design?]
[What is our proposed Product Breakdown Structure (PBS), including deliverables and services?]
[If necessary we create different options.]
[If possible design description on system level, such as drawings, block diagrams, service descriptions, etc.]
[For customer-contractor relationships, are there deliverables / services to be provided by the customer?]

(2.1.2) Work Breakdown Structure

[Based on that PBS, what is the resulting Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)?]
[If necessary we create different options corresponding to those different options of PBS.]
[For customer-contractor relationships, are there work packages to be provided by the customer?]
[What work packages need customer support?]

(2.1.3) Effort Estimation and First Risk Analysis

[We conduct combined workshops in order to estimate effort, duration, etc. and conduct a first risk analysis on work package level of the WBS.]

(2.2) Project Schedule

(2.2.1) Milestone Plan

[What additional milestones do we integrate into the basic milestone framework?

  • M0 – Project Start
  • M0.1
  • M0.2
  • ...
  • M1 – End of Definition Phase
  • ...
  • M2 – End of Planning Phase
  • ...
  • M3 – End of Implementation Phase
  • ...
  • M4 – End of Closure Phase]

(2.2.2) Network Diagram

[Planning the logical sequence of all the work packages]

(2.2.3) Gantt Chart

[Planning the time schedule of the whole project]

(2.2.4) Resources

[We assign all resources: internal and external human resources, suppliers and sub-suppliers, tools and machines, material.]
[Revise Network Diagram and Gantt Chart based on actual and / or negotiated and committed availability of resources]

(2.3) Project Budget

(2.3.1) Accumulated Cost Plan

[After assigning hourly or daily rates to all resources and cost of material, we can represent the cost of sub-projects or the whole project.]

(2.3.2) Payment Plan [or Sales Plan]

[In case we are supplier based on a customer-contractor relationship, we will propose a payment plan.]
[In case we are developing a product or family of products and services, we draft a sales plan.]
[Here, we integrate project financing plans, such as loans.]

(2.4) Risk Management Plan

[What time intervals do we propose for periodical risk analysis workshops?]
[How do we collect and file actual data regarding earlier identified risks?]
[How do we create or resolve contingencies?]

(2.5) Contract Management Plan

[How are we going to collect and keep or file records?]
[In case of disturbing events and deviations from our plans, what are our proposed notification procedures?]
[What is our proposed change process?]
[What is our proposed claim settlement process?]

(2.6) Controlling Tools

[What are our planned controlling tools for all the work packages?]
[What are the time intervals for all regular project status meetings?]

(2.7) Project Communication Plan

[Who has to communicate with whom about what, when do we have to escalate, and how?]

(2.8) Acceptance Procedures

[What acceptance procedures do we propose for project results or interim results?]
[Do we need engineering or design approvals?]
[Do we need quality inspection for manufacturing?]

(2.9) Minutes of Meetings

[Here, we collect all the minutes of meetings and workshops taking place in planning phase.]

(2.10) Negotiation of a Contract

[What major negotiation steps do we have to follow?]
[During negotiation, we file all proposed or agreed changes and update the plans accordingly.]
[After negotiating the whole proposed project planning with the customer, we fix a contract.]
[It is possible to include a copy of the agreed contract into this project management handbook.]
[Milestone M2 – End of Planning Phase]

(3) Implementation Phase

(3.1) Kick-off Meeting

[Minutes of the kick-off meeting]

(3.2) Project Status Meetings

[Minutes of project status meetings]
[Record and file the work progress, especially achieved interim and / or end results, and mutual approvals of those results by contractual parties.]
[Update milestone trend analysis, earned value analysis, and all other controlling tools, in terms of scope, schedule, and budget.]

(3.3) Risk Management and Problem Solving

[Minutes of risk analysis and problem solving workshops]

(3.4) Review Meetings

[Minutes of review meetings with the control board]

(3.5) Event Log and Records

[If applicable, integrate here the site diary, at least an event log, all available records, and all reports.]

(3.6) Changes and Claims

[Who proposed and / or ordered what changes?]
[Which events / deviations lead to possible or factual claims?]
[What claim settlement are we pursuing?]
[How are we negotiating and resolving open claims?]

(3.7) Preliminary Acceptance

[Record and file all actual procedures and results of preliminary acceptance.]
[Integrate here the list of open points.]
[Milestone M3 – End of Implementation Phase]

(4) Closure Phase

(4.1) Project Status Meetings

[Minutes of project status meetings]
[Record and file the work progress, especially achieved interim and / or end results, and mutual approvals of those results by contractual parties.]
[Update milestone trend analysis, earned value analysis, and all other controlling tools, in terms of scope, schedule, and budget.]

(4.2) Risk Management and Problem Solving

[Minutes of risk analysis and problem solving workshops]

(4.3) Review Meetings

[Minutes of review meetings with the control board]

(4.4) Event Log and Records

[If applicable, integrate here the site diary, at least an event log, all available records, and all reports into the project management handbook.]

(4.5) Changes and Claims

[Who proposed and / or ordered what changes?]
[Which events / deviations lead to possible or factual claims?]
[What claim settlement are we pursuing?]
[How are we negotiating and resolving open claims?]
[What is the settlement of all open claims?]

(4.6) Final Acceptance

[Record and file all actual procedures and results of final acceptance.]

(4.7) Project Closure

[What is the final project calculation in terms of revenue, cost, and profit?]
[What are the actual figures in terms of Net Present Value, Internal Rate of Return, Benefit Cost Ratio, Opportunity Cost, and Payback Period?]
[Minutes of the final lessons learned workshop]
[Transfer all lessons learned into our organization's project management information system. We emphasize the comparison of estimated effort, duration, etc. and actual effort, duration, etc. of all work packages.]
[Milestone M4 – End of Closure Phase]


In sub-section Free Project Management Tools you find a template of a project management handbook.

Return to Definition Phase

Return from Project Management Handbook to Home Page







Your Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.






Our latest e-book

e-book: Project Planning Guide

Project Planning Guide

(PDF-format)


Our latest set of templates


templates and checklists - all phases

Templates and checklists, for all PM phases





Any question about project management?

Please, enter it here.