Creating a serviceable project schedule is an indispensable activity for a project’s successful completion. Most of the project managers suffer from poor schedules that lead wrong decisions. Poorly created project schedules involve an inadequate number of activities and resources required to complete the tasks. As a result of this, project performance reporting becomes a serious problem. Project scheduling process involves tools and techniques that help project teams to develop effective work schedules. In this article, we will discuss the importance of project planning and scheduling, and project scheduling steps for successful project management.
Importance of Project Scheduling and Monitoring:
Project Scheduling is a process of determining what tasks need to get done and which resources will be allocated to complete those tasks in a given period. A project schedule is a document that involves all the efforts needed to complete the project on time. Without a fine and complete work schedule, the project manager can not make performance calculations necessary to deliver the project on time. Also, it is not possible to make an effective resource and cost management without a full and accurate work schedule. In order to create an efficient work schedule, some basic project scheduling steps must be followed.
Project Schedule Development Process (Project Scheduling Process & Steps)
There are seven basic steps needed to be taken to improve the efficiency of a work schedule.
1. Analyze the Project Scope and Create the Work Breakdown Structure
The first step of project scheduling involves establishing the policies and creating procedures for creating and managing the project schedule. At the beginning of a scheduling process, a time management plan which includes standards, performance measurement methods, updating period, etc. should be prepared. Then should be fully analyzed. Because the project schedule must reflect the whole project scope in order to analyze the whole projects performance. The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which is a hierarchical structure of the project deliverables should be created at this step.
2. Determine the Project Activities
The goal of the activity determination step is to identify all the activities required to complete the project. In order to identify all the activities, project scope must be analyzed and stakeholder’s requirements must be defined. Activities are listed and grouped under specific Work Breakdown Structure levels. For example, several procurement activities are grouped under procurement WBS and product development activities are grouped under research and development WBS. At this step, activity types such as task dependent, milestone, level of effort should also be determined to represent different types of tasks.
3. Determine the Resources Required to Complete the Activities
Resources of a project consist of labor, materials, equipment, subcontractors, employees, etc. Resource planning and allocation are one of the most critical steps in project scheduling. Poor resource planning results in project delays and cost overruns. Identification of the resources, resource quantities and their availability should be determined at this step. Also, activity resource assignments must be done at this step. It is important to decide the detail level of resources in order to avoid multiple resources to a given task. Resources should represent the nature of the task.
4. Estimate Activity Durations
Activity duration is the quantity of working period required to complete the task. Estimating activity durations within a project can be difficult depending on the crew compositions and project execution plan. There are some basic tools used to determine activity durations which are Expert Judgement, Analogous Estimating, Parametric Estimating, and Three point estimation.
Depending on the project requirements, activity durations can be defined in hours, days or weeks. There are many duration types used in project scheduling tools. Commonly used duration types are Fixed Duration &Units, Fixed Duration and Units/Time, Fixed Units, Fixed Units/Time.
5. Determine the Activity Dependencies (Activity Relationships)
Determine the Activity Dependencies is one of the most critical project scheduling steps. Each activity should have at least one predecessor and one successor. If you do not obey this rule, The Critical Path(CPM) of your schedule may be wrong and your schedule will not be realistic.
Dependencies are the relationships among activities which determine the order in which activities need to be performed. There are four (4) types of dependency relationships which are below:
• FS: Finish to Start
• SS: Start to Start
• SF: Start to Finish
• FF: Finish to Finish
6. Analyze the Project Schedule and Detail if Necessary
In this step, the accuracy of the schedule should be examined and if needed, the schedule can be detailed. The target of this step is to validate the project schedule correctly models the planned work. If needed, a resource leveling process can be performed and resource assignments can be analyzed again.
7. Monitor and Control the Project Schedule
Monitoring and controlling the project schedule is the final step which must be performed throughout the project’s life cycle. Project performance reporting is a part of this step which uses inputs created at previous steps. Monitoring and controlling require the comparison of planned and actual dates, durations, resource quantities, and performance measurement.
Earned Value Management techniques can be used, Schedule Performance Index (SPI), Schedule Variance (SV), Cost Performance Index (CPI) and Cost Variance (CV) can be calculated to demonstrate the performance of each task and the whole project.