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Integrated master plans in high-level project management 7 min read
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A single document may be able to provide the overarching insight you need for effective project management. The integrated master plan (IMP) is a tool that can capture the events, accomplishments, and criteria that will guide management activities as you see a project from planning through completion. Start with a strong statement of work, and use this guide to learn more about IMP.

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What is an integrated master plan?

Created at the outset of a project, an integrated master plan documents the goals of the project by outlining its key milestones (events), intended accomplishments or deliverables, and established criteria for success.

When writing an IMP, you link each deliverable with an assessment event and the point when you’ll review whether that goal meets the benchmarks established in the criteria section.

“Integrated master plan” is a part of our Project Management Glossary — check out the full list of terms and definitions!

Integrated master plans vs. integrated master schedules

An integrated master schedule (IMS) includes calendar dates for each event as well as details about how your team will execute the project steps. Conversely, the IMP’s events simply mark intervals at which you’ll assess progress. They aren’t yet associated with a schedule. To look at it through another lens, the IMP is an event-based system while the IMS is driven by actions and deadlines.

While the IMP supports the planning phases of your project, the integrated master schedule facilitates execution. You align with stakeholders such as contractors and subcontractors to flesh out the calendar dates and assign owners to discrete tasks and subtasks within each event.

Developing and tracking a project with an integrated master plan

If you’re interested in adding this strategy to your suite of project management tools, follow these steps to build your first IMP:

Create your template

You can use your favorite spreadsheet tool to create the structure of your IMP. While you can customize the sections according to your specific project, most IMPs include:

  • A project summary, commonly called the technical approach. In this section, you establish the scope of the project, list the necessary resources, and note critical elements such as regulatory or licensing needs.
  • The work breakdown structure (WBS), or “meat” of your integrated project plan. In this section, you create a hierarchy of the key events of your project from the top down. Each event includes its associated deliverables (accomplishments) and the criteria for successfully fulfilling those deliverables.
  • The project budget. In this section, document the resources you need for each event to ensure sufficient cash flow throughout the initiative.
  • A risk management assessment. Here, you alert the team to potential issues that may arise with the project events. Including risk mitigation strategies allows you to take immediate action if risks threaten successful project completion.

Determine your events

Each event should be a simple action statement that describes a critical project milestone. If you’re writing an IMP for a marketing campaign, for example, some of your events might be “Finalize product copy” and “Schedule social media launch.” Each of these events can be divided into subtasks, such as “Review writer draft” and “Confirm legal disclaimer language” under the “Finalize product copy” line.

Some project managers use a numeric structure to keep the IMP organized. You can assign a letter or number to each event, then add letters and numbers for associated accomplishments and criteria. For example, designate the first event of the project as A, each of its accomplishments as A1, A2, etc., and then each of the criteria as A1a, A1b, and so on.

Viewed together, the events should create the critical path for your project. This term refers to the longest possible duration of the project based on how the tasks and subtasks interrelate to one another.

Set standards for success

Next, flesh out each event by indicating the accomplishments you want to achieve. Let’s try it with the “Review writer draft” event in the example above. In this case, the associated accomplishment could be something like “Compelling, error-free copy delivered to digital for all planned channels.” Under the accomplishment, bullet out the criteria that show you’ve succeeded. The bullets in this example could read:

  • Content approved by copy editor
  • Content approved by legal
  • A/B headline testing completed

The criteria section effectively serves as a checklist as your team works through the IMP.

Summarize the steps

Instead of starting with your IMP introduction, write this summary section last. You can draw from the plan you’ve created to give team members an overview of the project and its associated steps, deliverables, resources, and goals.

How an integrated master plan can ensure a project moves smoothly

By using an IMP to manage your projects, you’ll be able to effectively:

  • Anticipate and alleviate potential risks that could threaten the success of an endeavor
  • Determine whether the project has progressed according to plan and decide whether to pivot to a new strategy
  • See how far you’ve progressed toward project goals and visualize the remaining tasks to complete
  • Evaluate the success of a particular initiative against established performance measures
  • Plan follow-up activities and additional project phases where applicable

An IMP could serve you well if you’re looking for a new method of planning, executing, and tracking your organization’s strategic initiatives. It also provides a basis to integrate schedule and cost information as you develop the IMS for the project.

Examples of what may be included in an integrated master plan

Integrated master plans are commonly used by the Department of Defense to develop government contracts. With these IMPs, each event is typically a meeting where the project stakeholders will make key decisions. These documents are also a frequent project planning tool in the public works sector, including municipal, state, and federal initiatives.

You can also incorporate other project management tools within an IMP to extend its utility. For example, the criteria section should indicate the measurement tool you’ll use for assessment, such as the earned value management system.

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Creating an integrated master plan on offers the tools you need to build an integrated master plan in minutes. Personalize our customizable project management templates to align with the IMP approach, so you can fill in the appropriate events, accomplishments, and criteria. You can also leverage our resources for seasoned advice on related topics, like how to write the perfect work breakdown structure for your project plan.

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Frequently asked questions

These are the answers to common IMP questions you might have as a project or program manager.

What is an integrated master plan?

An integrated master plan is a project document that organizes the tasks of the project as events. Each event has accomplishments to be completed and established criteria for success.

How do you make an integrated master plan?

To create an integrated master plan, write down all the tasks you need to complete during the course of the project. These are the events in your IMP. Next, add deliverables for each event, which are the accomplishments you’re aiming to achieve. Finally, detail the criteria that show you’ve succeeded with each accomplishment.

Amplify your project management efforts with an integrated master plan

The simple structure of an integrated master plan makes it an easy yet effective way to organize at the beginning of a new initiative. Give it a try by following the advice above with your next assigned project.

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