How to Plan the Time & Sequence of Project Tasks?
Imagine that a person is going on a long car trip to an unfamiliar destination without a navigation system or map? Person will pretty sure he have to make some turns here and there, but he have no idea when or where, or how long it will take to reach on the desired destination. He may arrive at destination eventually, but he will have the risk of getting lost, and feeling disappointed, along the way.
Basically, driving without any idea of how you will reach on the destination is the same like working on a business project without a schedule. No matter what is the size or scope of business project, the schedule is a very vital role in project management. The schedule tells the management of the company or project manager that when each task should be done, what task already has been achieved, and what is the sequence in which activities need to be finished.
Fortunately, vehicle drivers have some accurate tools they can use but project scheduling, on the other hand, is not an exact process. Project Schedule Development involves partly estimation, partly future prediction, and partly educated or experienced guessing.
Because of the uncertainty involved, the project schedule is reviewed and revised (updated) regularly while the project is in progress. This cycle will continue as the project moves forward, different changes arise in environment, risks come and go, and new risks are identified. We can say that the project schedule actually transforms the project from a vision to a time-based plan.
Schedules also help the project manager to do the following:
- Schedules provide a basis for project manager to monitor and control project tasks.
- Schedules help project manager to determine how best to allocate resources (Human & Financial) so company can achieve the project goal.
- Project schedules help manager to assess how time delays will impact the overall project.
- Project manager can figure out where excess resources are available to allocate to other company projects.
- Project schedules provide a basis to help management or project manager to track project progress, monitor and control it.
With above detailed discussion in mind, what’s the best way of building an accurate and effective schedule for your next business project?
A company management or Project managers have a variety of project tools to develop a project schedule. These tools are available for the relatively simple process of action planning for small projects to mega business projects, for example use of Gantt Charts to and Network Analysis.
Here, I would outline the key tools which a company or project manger need for schedule development of a business project.
A project manger needs several types of inputs to create a project schedule:
Personal & Project Calendars
It is vital for project manager and team to mutually decide and understanding working days, working shifts, and resource availability. This is critical to completing a project schedule.
Description of Project Scope
Company management & project manger should clearly set the description of project scope. From this they determine starting and ending (deliveries) dates or project, major assumptions behind the plan, and key constraints and restrictions that may affect the project delivery or accomplishment. Scope may include stakeholder expectations from the project, which will often determine project milestones.
Company or project manager need to understand project risks to make sure there’s enough extra time to deal with identified or expected risks. Risk of a particular project can be identified thorough risk analysis.
Resources requirements & Vacations Structure
Understanding the resource capabilities and experience of your human staff is vital to achieve any project. Company should also make a plan about holidays and staff vacations and should analyze what these will leave impacts on whole project schedule. A project manager must be aware of delivery deadlines and resource (Human & Financial) availability issues that may make the schedule less flexible.
Here are some well known tools and procedures for combining these inputs to develop the schedule:
Schedule Network Analysis
This is a graphic representation of the project tasks, time required to complete them, and the sequence of project activities in which they must be done. Gantt chart & PERT Chart are common formats used for project analysis.
Critical Path Analysis
This is the process of looking at all of the activities of a particular that must be completed, and calculating the critical path to take so that project team may complete the project in the minimum amount of time. Critical Path Analysis calculates the earliest and latest possible start and finish times for project activities, and it also estimates the dependencies among project task to create a schedule of critical activities and dates.
This project tool helps to shorten the total required duration of a project by decreasing the time allotted for certain tasks. It’s done so that company or project manager can meet time constraints, and even then keep the original scope of the project. Company can use two methods for schedule comparison:
- Crashing. This refers to assign more resources to a particular activity, thus decreasing the time it takes to complete that activity. This is actually based on the assumption that the time company save will offset the added resource costs.
- Fast-Tracking. This involves rearranging certain activities to allow more parallel work. This means those activities company would normally do in sequence are now done at the same time. However, be sure that this approach increases the risk of missing things, or fail to address environmental changes.
By summarizing all above discussion, Scheduling aims to predict the future of the project, and it has to consider many assumptions and uncertainties. As a result, many business experts believe it’s more of an art than a science.
But whether a company or project manager is planning about a team retreat, or leading a mega multimillion-dollar business project, the project schedule development is a critical part of your all efforts. It organizes and identifies project activities into a sequence of events that create the project management plan and hence company can achieve desired result from the project.