How to Plan Creation and Management of Project Schedule

plan schedule managementMany people confuse project schedule with project plan. This is a common perception because many people look at a Gantt chart and think that they are looking at the project plan.

Right off the bat let me tell you that this is NOT about creating project management plan. You can learn how to create a project management plan, here.

Project schedule is in fact part of project management plan.

So far we have seen how we collect requirements, and from those requirements we define project scope. Then we break down this scope into high level logical chunks of features called Work Breakdown Structure.

Now is the time to estimate how long the project takes and in what sequence we shall execute various project requirements. The project Schedule is all about How and When of the project work.

This process, Plan Schedule Management is about outlining processes, procedures, and policies to come up with a project schedule and manage changes to it. The focus of this is to sensitize project managers to the right way of approaching schedule creation.

Schedule management plan is a subsidiary plan and an integral part of the project management plan.

What’s needed for me to plan for creating project schedule?

Project management plan, in particular, the scope baseline is used as the first input for this process. This is intuitive because in order to come up with a schedule we need to come up with activities (or tasks that the team will work on), and this will come from the Scope baseline.

We also need to understand the specific development approach that the project is going to take. For approaches based in Agile practice we may have a different tools, techniques, and approaches to come up with schedule management plan in comparison with traditional waterfall based development approach.

Project charter contains useful information such as high-level description of the project, expected milestones, restrictions and assumptions that are to be considered while coming up with schedule. Schedule has milestones, which is one of the things that project charter gives us.

Then the big two helpful resources for the project manager –

First one is the enterprise environmental factors, such as availability of human resources in the organization, scheduling tools recommended by the project management office, commercial information from internal knowledge database and work authorization system from the organization.

Second one is the organizational process assets, such as lessons learned from other projects, existing policies and procedures, change control procedures and risk control procedures.

Also Read: Click to read an in-depth exam notes on development of schedule

Now, how do we create a schedule management plan?

The simplest way is to tap into existing knowledge or expertise. That is to involve experts in the organization, or outside of it, that are knowledgeable about schedule management and can help you right away. Hence,

Expert judgment – by far the important tool in (m)any process is about applying knowledge and experience to unearth pitfalls of schedule creation and management activities. Such knowledge is useful in choosing the right tools, software, and techniques for various schedule management processes – ones that work well in the current organizational environment.

They also suggest ways and means of schedule compression such as fast tracking (working on multiple tasks in parallel) or crashing (adding more resources to critical activities).

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Also Read: Hands-on, detailed review of one of the best PMP study resource you can use to pass the exam

Data analysis – especially Alternative Analysis helps us look at different approaches to take based on development approach, how often the rolling wave planning is to be used. We also decide to what level of detailing is needed, again based on factors such as development approach.

Meetings – project manager, few members from project team, other stakeholders and people from project management office (PMO) meet regularly to discuss project schedule management approaches, tools, and processes.

Of course, the outcome would be..

The Schedule management plan – this is the only output of this project management activity as you may expect. This plan will be a guideline for project manager to carry out all schedule related activities throughout the project. This may be a formal or informal plan and project manage team decides the level of detailing necessary for this plan based on size and complexity of the project.

The mind map below shows the important components of schedule management plan. Click on the image to view in new window.

Schedule Management PlanFigure: Project schedule management plan

Some of the components of project schedule management plan are –

  • Scheduling process description
  • Which schedule model to be used
  • Unit of measure of each type of resource and duration (hrs/days/weeks)
  • Level of accuracy – should all tasks be defined in terms of hours?, for instance.
  • What kind of maintenance is needed for schedule model
  • Control thresholds – those limits beyond which corrective measures are to be taken
  • Reporting formats, and frequency

That’s what it takes to plan for managing project schedule. Let us now see how to create the most important document that a project manager works on every day – project schedule – and how to do it the right way!.

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