Timetables, deliverables, resources and even risks—everything
that is involved with a project is wrapped up inside the schedule.
Arguably one of the single most important aspects to any
well-planned project, your schedule dictates which tasks need to be
done when, and which resources will be allocated to complete those
But as they say, even the best-laid plans of mice and men often
go awry. It’s up to an extremely adept project manager to enact
better schedule management for their teams. Let’s take a look at
how that’s done.
What is a Project Schedule?
schedule is a list of a project’s tasks, milestones,
deliverables and resources with pre-determined beginning and end
dates. Project schedules can be conceived from many places, but are
primarily put together from a list of stakeholder requirements.
Project scheduling occurs during the planning phase of a project
and shows how the tasks (and, ultimately, the entire project) will
progress over the project timeline.
How to Make a Good Project Schedule
Just like the 5 W’s of journalism, start creating your project
schedule by asking yourself those same 5 W’s:
- Who (will do it?)
- What (resources do we need to make it happen?; needs to be
- Where (i.e. which teams in which departments need to be
involved to make it happen?)
- When (i.e. what does the timetable look like? 3 months? 6
months? 1 year?)
- Why (i.e. what is the ultimate goal of this project?)
You can even interview other team members and stakeholders by
using these questions as a basis for your interview process. Then,
aggregating their answers and coming to a formal agreement, you can
start mapping out your dates, activities, set the timetables,
milestones and allocate
6 Schedule Management Tips
There are many ways to create a project schedule, but creating
and managing a good project schedule takes calculation, time,
strategy and collaboration. Let’s take a look at some tips on
managing a solid project schedule.
1. Never Manage Your Project Schedule in a Silo
When managing your project schedule, always review the
timeline with your stakeholders and team members at each
milestone, so you can make sure that expectations on project
completion are realistic and team members are confident in meeting
Whether it’s a fully detailed project schedule or a master
schedule with a basic list of tasks, your timeline is the
fundamental piece that will make the project go smoothly. Keeping
an open line of communication on many ends will not only lessen
risk but will ensure a seamless project process.
2. Make a Note of Milestones
Milestones can include the beginning and end of a project, as
well as a method to mark the end of a phase of project work. This
can include design approvals, product implementation, quality
assurance and requirement completion.
Each milestone is also an opportunity to meet with stakeholders
and team members and ask questions, review the success of the
previous project phase, and make sure that everything is headed on
the right track. Managing expectations at each milestone will help
team members and stakeholders rest assured that the project is
going according to plan.
3. Determine and Manage Your Dependencies
If one task can’t be completed without another task also being
completed, that’s called a dependency. Determining these right
off the bat and including them in your project schedule will help
minimize risk and ensure that each task can be performed
effectively with minimal roadblocks and need for management down
Managing them thereafter means ensuring that every dependency
has been marked off the list before another task has started. By
keeping an open-door policy with your team members, you can make
sure that no surprise dependencies have cropped up during the
project process. Even if a dependency has suddenly come into play,
you can ensure that it fits into the project timeline with ease by
better managing an already-streamlined schedule.
Easily create task
dependencies in ProjectManager.com’s Gantt chart.4. Estimate
& Review the Time it Takes to Complete Each Task
In order to properly calculate your schedule, you’ll need to
factor in all dependencies and estimate the time it will take to
complete each task, as well as the project as a whole. It’s also
important to consider non-work time, like company-wide holidays and
paid-time off so that no assumptions about employee’s time are
Of course, surprises will always come into play during any
project, so manage these as early as you can. Is an employee going
on an unexpected bereavement leave? You can embed this into your
project timeline since you already gave yourself some wiggle room
at the outset, and keep things functioning at optimal levels.
Then, once the tasks are complete, review the time it took to
complete each task, note any surprises that came up along the way
and address what steps were taken to manage those risks as they
5. Chart your Critical Path
critical path is, well, critical. Charting it out will tell you
the longest length of time needed to complete project tasks. It’s
typically calculated automatically with project scheduling
software, giving you a framework for understanding the least amount
of time it will take to complete a task with the shortest amount of
slack. This helps minimize risk and will serve to give you a good
average or gauge against the actual realized time it takes to
complete the given task.
To determine your critical path, you must complete the
- List all the tasks needed to complete the project
- Mark the duration of those tasks
- Collect your task dependencies and milestones, and list them
Once these steps are complete, you can determine both the
earliest project completion date as well as the latest project
completion date so your stakeholders and team members can manage
Additionally, you can use this as a great tool to review the
time it took to complete each task against critical path data, and
see how your team members’ performances measure up.
6. Identify Scheduling Assumptions and Constraints
This part is easy to do and is also extremely important. In
order to identify your assumptions, start by looking at your
constraints. Your constraints are often identified by the time,
budget and scope of any project, so your assumptions are usually in
one of those three categories. Knowing what your assumptions are
ahead of time will help you to better understand and mitigate
project risk and deal with the potential impact of a risk coming to
Assumptions can include things like…
- Assuming your team will be completed with the project in a
- Assuming none of your team members will be taking vacation
- Assuming the team members will only cost a certain portion of
Identify these and you’ll be able to do a better job at
mitigating risk and getting a grip on your schedule.
How ProjectManager.com Helps with Schedule Management
Getting control over your schedules is no easy feat, but it does
help if you already have a highly-organized schedule in place at
With ProjectManager.com, you can
say goodbye to stiff MS Project and hello to our cloud-based,
interactive Gantt charts. This planning tool will help you build
out schedules along with their dependencies, track project progress
and better collaborate with others across the board. You can import
MS Project plans, too.
Turn your schedules
into visual timelines in ProjectManager.com
Sometimes, all it takes is having a little extra assurance that
your project is functioning at optimal levels. With
ProjectManager.com, you’ll get real-time
dashboard tools that help you monitor tasks, teams, costs,
scope and more so you can instantly see how your project is
dashboards track your schedule in real time.
Meeting with stakeholders and need to show them how everything
is progressing? Our reports
are fully customizable to get you the data you need. Plus, you can
calculate planned versus actual progress across individuals, tasks
and projects so your critical path is completely measurable.
Make custom reports
and turn data into actionable insights.
Risks and surprises can make for a sub-optimal project progress
and throw your whole team off course. With ProjectManager.com, give your
stakeholders and team members the software they need to collaborate
effectively, report project issues and updates and make sure all
dependencies are taken care of no matter what. Sign up for our free
30-day trial today.
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Tips for Better Schedule Management appeared first on ProjectManager.com.