Every project consists of several tasks, with each given a time start and end for its completion. Similar to individuals having various schedules, both availability and activities need documentation to plan those tasks successfully. Project Scheduling offers these mechanisms to interconnect what tasks need completing and which organizational resources need allocating to complete identified tasks within a timeframe. Project schedule also involves all document collection required to deliver any project within a time frame.
In the past, individuals may have a shared wall with printed calendars or shared spreadsheets through email, but today, most make use project scheduling tools. Typically, project scheduling is amongst the features within more prominent project management, and there are many different places schedule finds relevance.
1. How to Perform Project Scheduling
The fundamentals of How to Perform Project Scheduling are essential if you desire to enhance your understanding of the concept. Project scheduling finds more relevance during the planning phase of any project. Three critical questions to ask when you plan to get started include:
- What does the project need to do?
- When will the project be done?
- Who will carry out the plan?
Once you have established concrete answers to these questions, the next step is to start planning dates, WBS, Decomposition, Define Activities, Sequence Activities, Estimate Activity Durations, Develop Schedule, milestones, and resources.
The steps below are needed to Perform Project Scheduling on any project:
a) Define Activities
Defining all activities required to complete a project is an all-important step that must not be missed. With the use of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), you can start noting these activities, organizing and mapping out tasks essential to completing the project. This step defines and delivers a structure to implementing best practices for the project schedule. A simple step-by-step tactic includes:
- Developing the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
- Defining work packages, activities, logic, resources and work timeframe.
- Analyzing the Schedule
b) Estimate Activity Durations
With all activities defined and segmented into smaller tasks, the next step is the estimation of activity duration. This step involves the determination of effort and time required to complete them. Estimating Activity Durations remains an essential piece of the equation, especially in determining an accurate schedule.
c) Develop Schedule and Determine Dependencies
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No task is an island on its own, and often one cannot be started until the other is complete. This process is called task dependency, and your developed schedules are going to connect related tasks. A known approach is by adding a bit of slack within your Schedule to accommodate all associated tasks.
d) Assigning Resources
This step help finalize your planned Schedule and resolves what resources would be employed to solve those tasks and completed on time too. You may be required to assemble a team with their time scheduled to meet the demands of the project.
2. Project Scheduling Techniques
Project management teams make use of various Project Scheduling techniques and tools to create work schedules and performance measurements for projects. Project Scheduling Techniques is amongst the most vital process in maximizing costs, resources, tasks, and time combination for projects. Project Scheduling Techniques are created by outlining activities, determining durations, and passing on activity dealings. CPM, Gantt Charts, and PERT Diagrams are amongst the popular scheduling techniques used to create project schedules. One or more of these techniques can be applied based on the complexity and necessities in a project.
Below is are descriptions for Common Project Scheduling Techniques
a) Mathematical Analysis
For Mathematical Analysis, project managers regularly make use of two techniques. These techniques help calculate the assumed start and finish dates, based on the identified project scopes. The first two techniques that come to mind are:
- Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) and
- Critical Path Method (CPM).
i) Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)
PERT applies a visualization tasks’ flow to project and estimate completion timeline using an assumed duration. PERT technique also exemplifies dependencies amongst functions. Using PERT to schedule a project, you would be required to outline every job based on milestones and their order first. To apply a network framework involving these tasks, you can estimate various project timelines dependent on your level of confidence:
- Most-likely timing
- Optimistic timing
- Pessimistic timing
PERT make use of weighted average duration in calculating possible timeframes. A drawback of this approach is it also requires you to know the tasks and dependencies amongst them to ultimately benefit from this technique.
ii) Critical Path Method (CPM)
Similar to PERT, think of the CPM as a project’s tree diagram. The Critical Path Method aids in uncovering the longest or shortest timeline obtainable for the project. With the Critical Path Method, you will also have the ability to mark critical tasks and others that may float. Delivery Changes in the latter would not affect your Project Scheduling Plans. To make use of CPM, you need to:
- Recognize and identify the project’s scope and tasks essential for its completion.
- Estimate the duration of each task.
- Note every dependency amongst tasks. (doing this would let you know which can perform separately and which one depends on the completion of other tasks)
- Add deliverables and milestones to your project.
Critical Path Method (CPM) aids in visualizing project flow. Estimation of its duration when all deliverables and dependencies are recognized. CPM make use of estimates in calculating possible timeframes. It is important to note that the CPM technique may not turn out useful if the project comes with many uncertainties.
b) Duration compression
Duration compression provides a method to reduce the schedule. It becomes useful when projects are running late, and you are expected to adjust schedules without altering the project scope. Duration compression can be achieved using two techniques:
i) Fast Tracking
Fast Tracking offers another way to use the critical path method. Fast-tracking aids in finding tasks that can be achieved simultaneously or be partly overlapped to accelerate the project’s delivery. To make fast Tracking, an in-depth look at the task under critical path would help resolve which activities could be covered using Fast Tracking. If you have already started new projects and have assembled all necessities, but need fast Tracking of processes at a particular stage, you can begin by fast-tracking the design and development stage first. While fast Tracking may seem attractive, always consider the risks too. Managing several key activities at once can easily lead to making costly blunders or sacrificing quality.
Crashing is another compression technique which involves the addition of extra resources to aid project completion on time. Crashing is still a tricky one, as it requires having additional funds for such use. Besides, not all tasks can be done faster, even with the addition of more team members. Following the general law of diminishing returns, some additions can further delay the process. A key reason would be the additional communication it requires to introduce new team members and limited tasks divisibility for the project. Another approach to using the crashing technique is to make an addition to completion time (e.g., paid overtime), but it has to be limited to fall within the set deadline. The notable drawback of the crashing approach is in its raising of the project cost.
c) GANTT Chart
Gantt Chart is easily the most commonly used scheduling technique due to its simplicity. Gantt Charts, also known as bar charts, represents various activities using bars with its length representing the activity duration. The starting of each bar indicates the start date, and the ending of it shows the end date for the task. Dependent on the project schedule plan and resources available, these bars may run in parallel or be sequential. It is a simple tool most stakeholders and project management teams can easily comprehend and apply in managing project schedules. Nevertheless, without the use of suitable software, it tends to offer difficulty with updating activities, activity connections, and managing changes as the project progresses. You can easily create a Gantt Chart and add various activities even with the assistance of a spreadsheet.
3. Project Scheduling Best Practices
With an appropriately crafted Project Schedule, there is always a significant number of diverse aspects to a schedule. Several experts and organizations all have their views on what establishes a well-built project schedule. Irrespective of these various viewpoints, the large part of the questions “Is the schedule executable?” should fall in line with the primary focus of the project. The initial construction of a project schedule rotates around the use of a proper tactic for its development. The use of Best Practices and approach ought to have a good structure in a manner that is simple to comprehend and yet make available enough detail for the experienced to pick up the laid-out requirements.
For Project Scheduling, the Best Practices are approaches which have been developed, tried, and trusted through years of studying and refining processes for schedule expansion. Project schedules are often affected by unpredicted changes. Projects do not often progress as planned as unexpected changes love to influence tasks and timelines. But it does not have to go that way. Applying best practices helps you turn out to be more effective at Project Scheduling.
These four Best Practices below identifies how you can enhance your project scheduling skills.
a) Maintain Focus on Project Scope and How New Changes Affect Your Timelines
Every requirement set for a project is intended to drive the milestones and tasks, making them vital for your project to maintain the finish line in sight. With frequent changes in business needs and goals throughout a project’s lifespan, schedules and tasks must be sensibly adjusted to avert missing the purpose or yield unplanned consequences. It may appear apparent, but too often even the most minimal alteration in scope could lead to a scheduling nightmare. So, ensure to track any changes in range down to the timeline, and decide how it impacts your timeline ability to deliver as proposed. Also, do not rush this process as it is easy to miss details that may offset the balance of your planned schedule and negatively affect the tasks.
b) Make use of a detailed Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
A WBS remains an essential document in breaking a project down into different functions that makes your project schedules more practicable. A detailed breakdown of all tasks necessary to match project goals and effectively delivered to match the project goals. The use of the WBS ensures no deliverables, and requirements are found missing. It is possible to meet the demands for an entire project. The main benefits of using Work Breakdown Structure:
- WBS sustains clarity regarding responsibilities and roles for every project.
- WBS guarantees tasks completion are as scheduled.
- WBS permits the Tracking of all connected activities.
c) Make use of task and resource scheduling tools suitable for your project
Try as much as possible to avoid creating project blockages. The use of task and resource scheduling tools ideal to the plans are highly helpful and sticks to best practices. These tools would help automate the once manual task of classifying and tracking accessible resources and progress about present assignments. Today, several tools are obtainable that ensures the process becomes more comfortable in gauging the development of every task, recognize over and underutilized resources, and re-allocate functions as desired. These tools provide the ability to develop more agile and research to identify the best possibilities for the projects.
d) Create Project strategies and Other Backup Strategies
Projects activities are essential to its progress and schedule. Whatever you plan to cover risks, always connect them back to its impact on your schedule. It is also necessary to assess all potential threats by viewing them from multiple viewpoints. Doing this process would allow you to identify the risk strategies, and other back up plans can be put in place to help improve your best practices.
The process of Project Scheduling is fundamental to handle a project successfully. It is vital to understand How Project Scheduling works, the techniques involved, and the Best Practices to implement. There are some standard project scheduling techniques used for making schedules. The importance of project completion on time become better with these tools. Path determination and identification gives the longest stretch of reliant on activities using a work schedule. Project Scheduling would always make your analysis easier and creates a more comfortable and faster work schedule.