Create a Cost Management Plan with these 4 tips

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Imagine you are managing a large construction project. You have set a budget, but as the project progresses, unexpected costs start piling up—materials are pricier than expected, labor costs rise, and delays add to the expenses. Before you know it, your budget has ballooned, causing financial strain, unhappy stakeholders, and stress.

This scenario is all too common and often results from a combination of poor estimating, risk management, cost control, and thus overall cost management. Creating a robust cost management plan is essential for any project’s success.

In this guide, we will define cost management plans and offer 4 essential tips for creating an effective plan to keep your project within budget and deliver maximum value.

What is a Project Cost Management Plan?

A cost management plan is a crucial component of project management that outlines the process for managing and controlling the costs associated with a project. It is designed to ensure that the project is completed within the approved budget by providing a framework for estimating, budgeting, and controlling costs. Unlike simple budget documents, a cost management plan encompasses detailed cost planning for the entire project life cycle. It integrates various aspects of cost management to maintain financial control and deliver value.

This document serves as a detailed guide for project managers, enabling accurate cost estimation, efficient resource allocation, and overall spending control. By consolidating all project costs in one place, the cost management plan facilitates continuous financial performance tracking.

A well-developed project cost management plan allows project managers to make informed decisions and take corrective actions as needed to keep the project on track financially. This comprehensive approach supports strategic financial planning and resource management, helping to prevent cost overruns.

Tips for creating a cost management plan

  1. Develop a Work Breakdown Structure

When creating a cost management plan, start by developing a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Engineers translate the project scope into deliverables, such as sketches, diagrams, drawings, equipment lists, and specifications. These deliverables describe the physical asset but are not suitable for resource planning and project control alone. Therefore, translating them into a WBS helps break down the asset’s physical scope into manageable components, facilitating planning and control of work.

  1. Setup a cost estimate classification system

Another crucial step when creating your project cost management plan is to establish a cost estimate classification system. This classification system reduces uncertainty in the estimating process and improves communication of estimate results. It defines the specific input information needed to produce a desired estimating outcome quality at each project phase. By doing so, the classification system helps define the requirements for scope definition and indicates appropriate estimating methodologies.

Integrating cost planning into this system ensures that estimates are aligned with the overall financial goals of the project.

  1. Develop and maintain tools and techniques for resource planning

Resource planning is best facilitated by having a database of historical resource data, including past experiences with resource usage, availability, limitations, and similar information. The collection of historical resource planning data is generally a part of the project performance assessment process, as resource plans and actual usage are integral to cost and schedule control records.

Additionally, the development and maintenance of resource planning tools, such as checklists, standard procedures, and a chart of accounts, are vital steps in this process. A standard chart of accounts, along with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), facilitates resource planning by establishing ways to consistently categorize resource information. These tools are crucial for ongoing cost planning and adjustment throughout the project life cycle.

  1. Plan how you will measure progress

Initial planning for progress measurement starts with planning the project scope and execution strategy. Following this, a suitable WBS and set of control accounts have to be developed. An important requirement for this is that the resources, activities, and deliverables for each work package and control account should be measurable.

Because progress needs to be assessed to judge the performance of the project, assessment and measurement planning should go hand-in-hand. Planning these processes ensures that measurements by different systems during execution are consistent with the control and cost accounts, or that processes are in place to translate them.


A comprehensive cost management plan is vital for financial transparency/predictability and project success. By applying these four essential tips, you can keep your project on track and within budget, avoiding financial strain and ensuring maximum value delivery. Effective cost management not only prevents budget overruns but also optimizes resource allocation and enhances project outcomes.

Additional interesting reading information can be found at the AACE website’s Total Cost Framework. For a more detailed exploration of the cost management process, be sure to check out our blog on this topic.

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