How Can Project Scheduling Make Your Project a Success?
Even the best project teams can get confused without a schedule.
Project scheduling is an often overlooked art. There’s more to it than simply setting deadlines and calling it a day.
In this article, we’re going to help you create a project schedule that’s going to lead you and your team to success.
Let’s take a look!
What Is Project Scheduling?
Project scheduling is a method of organizing tasks that need to be completed when working on a project.
It typically includes the following elements:
- Timeframes / deadlines
- Responsibilities and assignments
Consequently, a project schedule is a document that aggregates all of these moving parts and turns them into a coherent tool for answering the question: Who needs to do what, and when?
A project schedule also tracks task dependencies and progress, so the best examples often contain interactive elements and real-time updates with the help of the relevant tools.
The Benefits of Project Scheduling
Project scheduling is one of the best ways to ensure that your project runs smoothly.
If you’ve created an accurate, realistic schedule, you and your project team will be able to complete the project without a hitch.
When you adhere to a schedule, you can easily see if there are any risks or obstacles. For example, if you notice that the project may need some changes, you can communicate with the client and review your change policy.
Without a schedule, you wouldn’t have noticed it until the last minute. But with a schedule, your vision is 20/20 and you’ll notice problems even before they occur.
Accurate scheduling is also a great way of securing stakeholder approval, and improving the stakeholders’ perception of the project.
When you have a document you can point stakeholders to (top management and your clients included), they can easily see that the project is progressing as planned.
And if it isn’t progressing as planned, you can easily show them how changes and setbacks will (or will not) affect the project as a whole.
Project scheduling improves communication, as well, especially if you are using project scheduling tools. You won’t have to update clients constantly if they can review your progress with a tool like Office 365.
Finally, if you create a schedule, you’ll see the big picture.
You’ll be able to strategize and control every aspect of the project, instead of letting the project control you.
Ultimately, project scheduling will increase your productivity and reduce your costs.
What’s there not to love about schedules?
Types of Project Management Schedules
Depending on the type of project, you can choose one of the many project scheduling methods.
However, first you need to plan your project right.
Laying the Groundwork: Planning Your Project
When you’re getting ready to create a project schedule, you first have to establish:
- Individual tasks
- A length of time
For example, if your project is building a house, your project plan would look something like this:
- Pour the foundation by September
- Build the house by December
- Build the roof by January
At this point, you should establish the order in which the tasks have to be performed, and task dependencies.
In order to determine timeframes, you can use your past experience or consult your project team.
When you’ve planned out the tasks, it’s time to create the schedule with one of the following methods:
1. Critical Path Method (CPM)
The CPM is actually one of the most straightforward project scheduling methods.
It operates on the principle of predecessor and successor tasks.
For example, in order to build the roof, the house must first be built.
So if you use CPM, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of task dependencies and what the project schedule has to look like in order to successfully complete the project.
Image source: Arch Toolbox
When you’re creating a CPM schedule, you’re actually sequencing tasks in a way that gets the project completed in the shortest time possible by establishing the most important tasks.
You can also include less important tasks and prioritize work accordingly.
Image source: Workamajig
Next to every task, you can also define how much time it’ll take to complete it. Again, you can use your historical data or estimates from your project team.
CPM is incredibly beneficial to smaller teams handling multiple projects at once, or working on complex projects.
However, it’s an asset to any project manager that wants to create a viable project schedule.
Create a CPM Schedule:
- Break down the project into tasks
- Identify the most important tasks, timeframes and dependencies
- Draw the diagram and add the tasks to it as a sequences according to dependencies defined in step 2
- Estimate completion time for each activity
- Identify the critical path to be taken to complete the project in the shortest possible time
- Update the critical path as you work on the project
2. Create a Project Schedule with Gantt Charts
Gantt charts are possibly one of the most popular ways to create a project schedule. They’re incredibly effective, after all.
In a nutshell, Gantt charts are horizontal charts based on timeframes.
Each bar represents an activity, and its length depends on the time it’ll take to complete it.
Some bars are sequences (if the tasks are dependent on one another), while others can be parallel (the tasks are not dependent).
The bars define the length of each task, allowing you to understand how much time you’ll need to complete the project.
Depending on your project scheduling software, the Gantt chart may update automatically as soon as there are changes to any sequential tasks.
Create a Gantt Chart:
- List your tasks in your project management software
- Add start and finish dates of each task
- Create links to define task dependencies
- Set constraints
- Optional: assign resources
3. Resource-Oriented Scheduling
In some cases, your main concern will be the lack of resources other than time. Now, normally you’d use CPM or Gantt charts to create project schedules.
However, in this case, you can also use resource-oriented project scheduling that emphasizes resource constraints.
In order to create it, you should set up a diagram that shows:
- The amount of resources
- Required tasks
This project schedule example has an HR constraint; they don’t have enough crew members to work on dedicated projects.
In order to create a project schedule, they’ve planned out how the crews’ work should be performed, keeping optimal time and the amount of activities in mind.
However, one thing to be careful with resource-oriented scheduling method are task dependencies.
The main goal of this method is to efficiently utilize all the resources available. Your diagram has to include dependencies in the activities themselves.
So if you’re working on a project with many moving parts, it may be better to opt out of this method.
How Project Scheduling Software Helps
Normally, you’d construct all of your critical paths and schedules in Excel. That takes a lot of time; time you could spend on more important things.
Fortunately, you can also create your project schedule with Office 365 and Project Central.
This way, you’ll be benefiting from the visual approach to project management from the get-go. All you’ll have to do is enter the tasks and other project-related information.
The best part is: as soon as you log in, you’ll see how your project is going.
And with a great project schedule, you won’t just stay on track.
You’ll succeed before you know it!