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In project management, project scheduling encompasses listing activities, defining milestones and scheduling deliverables for delivery. This indicates that every project schedule must include a planned start date and planned finish date, estimated resources assigned to each activity and estimated duration of each activity. An effective project schedule is a very critical component of a successful project.
The main purpose of project schedule is to deliver the project scope over a fixed period of time (fixed start and fixed end).
Project scheduling is fundamental for planning and control in project management. All the work that is necessary to complete the deliverables is all accounted for in the project schedule. A project schedule indicates what activities are needed to be performed on each activity, in what sequence, which resources would be performing these activities, estimated duration to complete these activities, the estimated cost of each activity, etc. It also defines the human resources and physical resources needed to complete the activities. The schedule also includes all associated costs as outlined in the project budget.
The project schedule is often used along with a work breakdown structure (WBS) as it defines the scope of the project. The WBS must be created first as it helps to create the project schedule. Hence if there is any change to be carried out in the project schedule, first make changes in the WBS and then make corresponding changes in the project schedule. The project schedule should be updated regularly to gain a better understanding of the project's status.
Clearly, the project schedule is an essential tool to deliver a project on time and within budget.
Project schedules are created and tracked with project scheduling software, which has key features that allow project managers to monitor the progress of tasks, resources and costs in real time. They can also assign work, link dependent tasks, view dashboards, allocate resources and more. We offer a professional course in project management that explains more concepts like this.
This is how a work breakdown structure can be represented.
Work defined at the lowest level of the WBS for which cost and duration are estimated and managed is called a Work Package. It must describe a deliverable that can be adequately scheduled, budgeted and assigned to an individual person or group. An important distinction to be made here is that the ‘work’ referred to in a WBS is actually the product or deliverable resulting from an individual work package and not necessarily always the work itself.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines WBS as
Level of decomposition is based on specific project needs and the level of granularity that is needed to manage the project effectively.
Here's an example of work breakdown structure.
Each work package is further decomposed into the activities or tasks that are required to complete a work package. Activity names are usually stated as a verb and noun, such as “Make Lunch.”
The difference between an activity and a work package is that a work package has a specific product or outcome - or in project management terms - a deliverable - that contributes to the project, whereas an activity on its own does not produce a finished item or outcome that helps to fulfil the objective of the project.
The entire WBS has to be transferred to the Project Schedule.
During Planning: Project calendar, Project start date, Project end date, Activity list, Activity start date, Activity finish date, Activity dependencies, Work Packages, Activity duration, Estimated cost of each activity, Resources assigned to each activity.
During Execution: Actual duration that is actual completion percentages will be updated by the project manager. Reports such as Earned Value Management, Resource Availability, and many other reports can be used for project tracking and control.
Many professionals, while creating a project schedule, use a project schedule template from organizational repositories. A project schedule is not just a standard timetable that works for every project. There are different project scheduling techniques and project management tools involved in the scheduling process. Also, every project has different resources, timetables, scope considerations and other unique variables that must be considered in the schedule management plan.
Follow these steps to create a project schedule of your own.
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Estimating the duration of project activities as realistically as possible is a key to creating a realistic schedule. There are various project estimating techniques known which are very widely used by project managers.
tE = (tO + tM + tP) / 3
Another technique which is very widely used uses the same three-point estimates of each activity, and is called Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). It uses Beta Distribution.
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Project managers can make use of project scheduling techniques to increase the accuracy of their time estimates to minimize scheduling risks. Some of the commonly used project scheduling techniques are:
Critical Path Method (CPM): The critical path method (CPM) is a technique that calculates the Critical Path which is the sequence of activities that represents the longest path through a project, and determines the shortest possible project duration (how quickly?). The longest path has the least total float, usually zero.
Other commonly used project scheduling techniques, schedule compression such as schedule crashing and fast tracking, can reduce the schedule duration without impacting the project scope. But also note there would be risks and costs involved in schedule compression techniques which need to be carefully managed.
Simulation, resource-leveling and resource-smoothing are other tools that can help with project scheduling.
Once you’ve got every piece of your schedule together, the last thing you want to do is manually create a document to keep a track of activities and update the status of the project completion.
Project scheduling tools are used to help managers organize and execute their project’s tasks and resources within a given budget. Software offerings range from rudimentary to sophisticated and provide users with a wide spectrum of features that facilitate the scheduling of their project.
There are many project scheduling tools available in the market such as MS Project, Primavera, Open Project, Project Server, etc. which can be useful for simple as well as complex or large projects.
Every project manager must use a project scheduling tool to track projects, estimate realistically, consider 6:30 hours per day for creating a schedule, involve project team members in estimation after they come on board etc.
A Project schedule is a Timeline. It tells you when each activity should start and when it should end, which resources are working on the activities, duration of each activity, dependencies of each activity, estimated cost of each activity, etc. It is not a plan.
A Project Plan is an approach which tells how you are going to manage your project, how you are going to re-plan, how you are going to execute, how you are going to monitor and control and how you are going to close the project.
Project scheduling is fundamental for planning and control in project management.
The main purpose of project schedule is to deliver the project scope over a period of fixed time (fixed start and fixed end). It is an essential tool to deliver a project on time and within budget.
The project schedule is often used along with a work breakdown structure (WBS) as it defines the scope of the project. WBS must be created first as it helps to create project schedule.
Follow these steps to create a project schedule of your own:
Various project scheduling tools can be used to create and track project schedules such as MS Project, Primavera, Open Project, Project Server, etc.
These tools are full of features and functionality that a project manager can use to make effective schedules and lead projects to success.