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How to Project Schedule in Project Management

19th Feb, 2024
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    How to Project Schedule in Project Management

    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). 

    What is Project Schedule in Project Management?

    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 sequencewhich 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 schedulefirst 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.

    Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) 

    This is how a work breakdown structure can be represented.

    Work Breakdown Structure
    In project management, WBS is a technique used for completing a complex or a larger project by making it more manageable. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a hierarchical decomposition of the required scope of work needed to achieve project objectives and create the required deliverablesIt defines the total scope of work required to complete the projectThe deliverables and their component sub-deliverables are represented on the WBS in levels of descending order. 

    Work defined at the lowest level of the WBS for which cost and duration are estimated and managed is called a Work PackageIt must describe a deliverable that can be adequately scheduled, budgeted and assigned to an individual person or groupAn 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  

    • A deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables 
    • Each WBS level represents a new and increasingly detailed definition of work needed to complete the project.  
    • A WBS structure must be constructed in a way that each new level in the hierarchy includes all the work needed, to complete its parent task. This means that every parent task element must have more than one child task within it to consider the parent task element complete. 

    How to create a work breakdown structure?

    1. Before you create a work breakdown structure, it's essential to first assess the project scope by talking to all stakeholders and key team members involved. 
    2. The final product to be delivered is defined at the top level (level 0). 
    3. Level 0 is then decomposed to identify all the major deliverables that are required to produce the final product. 
    4. Each level of the WBS decomposes the work further into more and more layers until the work package is at a level that can be assigned, estimated for cost and duration and tracked individually. 
    5. The goal is to eventually roll up each work package into the level above within the WBS hierarchy to gain overall time and budget requirements. 
    6. The work package is the smallest segment and includes the to-do activities, so you can apply duration and estimated cost. 

    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. 

    work breakdown structure

    Each work package is further decomposed into the activities or tasks that are required to complete 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.

    What’s Included in a Project Schedule? 

    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 durationEstimated 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. 

    How to Make a Project Schedule? 

    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. 

    • Project management software can be integrateinto other project management tools, such as Gantt charts, dashboards and reports to monitor the progress of your project. 
    • Project scheduling occurs during the planning phase of the project life cycle.  
    • After creating the project schedule plan for your project, set the project start and project end dates of your project. 

    Follow these steps to create a project schedule of your own. 

    1. Define activities from the WBS after decomposition of work packages: Scope statement should be made available during the initial planning. It contains project description, deliverables, acceptance criteria of each deliverablein-scope and out-of-scope, and any assumptions and constraints of your project. WBS is created from this scope statement. Be thorough when putting an activity list together, you should not, and you don’t want to leave anything out. By using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) you can organize these activities and lay them out in order of completion.  
    2. Figure out task dependencies and then sequence activities: Activities are the small jobs that lead to the final deliverable and it’s crucial to map out the sequence of those tasks before diving into them. Most of the times an activity will be dependent on another activity to start or finish. You don’t want to get halfway through an activity before you realize you can’t complete it due to unclear objectives.  
    3. Estimate the realistic resources for each activity using each resource availability. 
    4. Estimate the realistic duration of each activity. 
    5. Build project schedule: The critical path is a method for scheduling activities in a project to find those which are critical to completion of the project on time. This will allow you to make choices about activities that can be ignored if time and costs become constraints 
    6. Monitor and control project schedules throughout the project life cycle.

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    Which Are the Project Estimating Techniques?

    Estimating the duration of project activities as realistically as possible is key to creating a realistic schedule. There are various project estimating techniques known which are very widely used by project managers. 

    1. Analogous Estimating: In this technique, project managers interview their team and other stakeholders to get their perspective on how long certain tasks can take. This technique relies on actual duration of previous, similar projects as the basis for estimating the duration of the current projectdone in early phases of the project when cost of estimation is lowE.g. duration, budget, size, weight and complexity as the basis for estimating the same parameter or measure for a future project. 
    2. Parametric Estimating: This technique uses an algorithm or a mathematical modelto calculate cost or duration based on historical data and project parametersdone in later phases of the project when cost of estimation is highE.g. duration on a design project is estimated by the number of drawings multiplied by the number of labor hours per drawing. 
    3. Three-Point Estimating (Triangular Distribution)In this technique most likely (tM) –based on the duration of the activity, given the resources likely to be assigned their productivity, realistic expectations of availability for the activity, dependencies on other participants and interruptions, optimistic (tO) – based on analysis of the best-case scenario for the activity and pessimistic (tP) – based on analysis of the worst-case scenario for the activity are determined. Depending on the assumed distribution of values within the range of the three estimates, the expected duration, tE, can be calculated as : 

    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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    Which Are the Project Scheduling Techniques?

    Project managers can make use of project scheduling techniques to increase the accuracy of their time estimates to minimize scheduling risksSome 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 floatusually 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. 

    How to Manage and Maintain Your Project Schedule During Execution 

    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.

    What Are Project Scheduling Tools?

    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. 

    Best Practices for the Project Scheduling Process

    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. 

    Project Schedule vs Project Plan

    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. 

    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: 

    1. Define activities from the WBS after decomposition of work packages  
    2. Figure out task dependencies and then sequence activities  
    3. Estimate realistic resources for each activity using each resource availability 
    4. Estimate realistic duration of each activity 
    5. Build project schedule and note the critical path(s) 
    6. Monitor and control project schedule throughout the project life cycle. 

    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. 


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