Many Project Management Professional (PMP)® students have trouble understanding the difference between a planning package and a work package. Let’s turn first to A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) to clear up any confusion:
Planning Package = A work breakdown structure component below the control account with known work content but without detailed schedule activities (see also control account; control account [Tool] = A management control point where scope, budget (resource plans), actual cost, and schedule are integrated and compared to earned value for performance measurement)
Work Package = A deliverable or project work component at the lowest level of each branch of the work breakdown structure.
All clear? I thought so. Let’s try this…a planning package is created to describe or “hold” work that will be completed in the future. It is larger and more general than a work package in terms of time, scope, and budget. Although it lacks the detail of a work package, a planning package is still associated with specific project work scope. A planning package includes work that will be completed; it just hasn’t been scheduled or put on anyone’s plate yet.
A planning package may be converted to a work package when the lowest-level details of the work are defined, budgeted, and scheduled. Individual work packages are the building blocks of all project deliverables and form the basis by which the project is monitored, measured, and assessed. In sum, a planning package stores future work until the work can be broken down into specific tasks and assigned to actual resources, when it becomes part of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) in the form of work breakdown packages.