Good project planning is usually the key to its success, so many tools exist to carry out, improve and simplify this process. Today we will talk about the schedule, a widely used resource when developing projects or activities in a company. In addition to reviewing the most basic concepts of this tool, we will give you the keys to create your own and tips to improve it.
What is a schedule?
What is included in a schedule? Simply a list of tasks with their start and end dates. This list can be more or less complete, more or less extensive, general or specific, and more or less visual.
Ideally, in addition to the list of tasks, the schedule should also include a calendar in which we can see, at a glance, the days we have to perform each of the planned tasks.
What is it for?
Okay, we use it better to organize activities within a company or a work team. But what are the benefits of the schedule as a tool?
- Optimize project planning processes.
- Simplify the organization of activities by dividing projects into small tasks with specific deadlines.
- Motivate the team to be more productive, providing achievable and more particular objectives.
- Be able to anticipate possible delays in tasks, which cause a domino effect with the others and end up delaying the end of the project.
- Provide an overview of the status of all tasks being performed within the project, the speed of execution, and the evolution of these.
- Establish an order of tasks within a larger project and with several collaborators.
- Improve communication between colleagues and work teams since everyone is aware of the phase of the project in which each one is.
Do you think there is only one way to create a schedule? You’re wrong! Project organization is art about which numerous open articles and free essays have been produced. And that’s why there are different techniques, strategies, and theories that you can use, ending up with the one that best suits your needs, your company, or your teams.
The most commonly used ones are:
- The Gantt schedule. In this case, the tasks are distributed with a time bar, and the longer the task is in time, the longer the time bar will be. It is the most visual solution and easily shows the overlap between tasks.
- The Pert schedule. Here we will prioritize the relationship between the tasks in the schedule and not their start and end dates. The tasks will be represented by boxes related to each other by arrows, and the processes are included in the box. The order of the boxes depends on the priority of the projects.
- The milestone schedule. This type of schedule includes only those most important tasks for the project and will group them according to delivery dates, meetings, or any other key moment for the process.
How to make a schedule with an Excel template?
If you want to make your schedule, the execution of it should go through different phases:
- Task breakdown. It can be either a list of necessary tasks defined by the superiors of each team or simply the division of a large project into all those tasks required to execute it. Definition of relationships between tasks. Tasks can be grouped into: 1) If one is dependent, the end of one, and the beginning of another. 2) At the beginning of both, if they can be performed simultaneously. 3) At the end of both, if they have to finish at the same time.
- Establish the start and end dates of the tasks. This stage is key, and it is better to define it by taking into account the final deadline for the whole project and to decide the dates starting with the furthest one and ending with the closest one in time. However, it is also important to know how long each activity will or can take, so the schedule is realistic.
- Creating the schedule itself. When you want to create the schedule, you must consider the project’s size and define a responsible person, providing them with the necessary resources to do it and giving a deadline to have it ready.
- Readjust the schedule whenever necessary. Most likely, changes will occur that will make it necessary to update the schedule, modify dates or add information, and eliminate and define more tasks. In this section, we will review in depth the fourth phase, that is, the physical creation of the schedule.
Rows and columns will be used to establish details such as the tasks to be performed, their start and end dates, the resources that will be required or allotted to each one, and the people accountable for each activity, project, or task when the schedule is generated using the Excel application. It is also advisable to leave enough space to add notes and additional information during the process (remember that we said the chronogram must be readjusted).
What if you want to make a second schedule later?
Once you have experienced how your teams work with the created schedule, you will be able to more easily identify risks, errors, and points where something had to be corrected (budget, time, or similar aspects).
In this way, you will not only find the solution that best suits your needs, but you will also be able to optimize this process until it is as perfect as possible.
Timeline template in Word or PowerPoint
If you want to make the schedule with another program that does not have columns and rows directly, you can opt for something more accessible, such as Pert schedules, which represent the tasks with boxes related to each other with arrows.
The result of such a schedule would be more visual, but the deadline and important milestones at different project stages may not be so clear.