Scheduling Hints and Tips

If a solid, realistic schedule is built at the beginning of the project with the information known at the time, Project Managers can use it as a tool to control costs, resource shortages, and excessive change requests throughout the project. 

Building a strong schedule

  • do the appropriate preliminary work
    • understand and appropriately plan for resource availability and other commitments that could pull resources away (vacation time, production support, other projects/initiatives, modified working hours, care for an ill or young dependent, et cetera)
    • spend the time to build an appropriate WBS before to simplify schedule creation
    • always include the people doing the work in building the schedule to ensure it is accurate, realistic, and that they buy into the schedule
    • do not underestimate the value of previous experiences of project team members when building the schedule
  • build it to ensure
    • the detail of the schedule increases with size and complexity 
    • it focuses on deliverables, not tasks to enable understanding of proposed scope changes
    • every task on the schedule (except for the start and end tasks) have at least one predecessor and at least one successor
    • a task takes no longer than 40 hours of effort, otherwise break it down further
    • it includes time for project health checks
    • it takes advantage of appropriate iterations, increments, et cetera according to the chosen delivery approach (agile, waterfall, incremental, iterative, or hybrid)
    • the risky more complex deliverables are early in the project
    • it includes decision points and gateways (e.g. a go/no go decision on proceeding with the new deliverable or executing a contingency plan)
    • it accounts for uncertainties based on identified risks
    • project management deliverables and time are included
    • it accounts for quality throughout, not at the end
  • choose and leverage the functionality of scheduling tools appropriate to the size and complexity of the project and schedule
  • be willing to negotiate for the appropriate resources (money and people) needed when the schedule identifies gaps in skills, availability, or ability to meet constraints and success criteria
  • create a baseline of the initial approved project

Using the schedule to its full potential

  • use the schedule as the foundational tool for project managers to manage a project
  • establish milestones throughout the schedule and monitor actual delivery dates according to milestones to flag when the project is falling behind
  • ensure there is a process for managing change with the project and expect the schedule to change accordingly
  • keep the schedule up to date throughout the project based on project changes, additional information, and status updates
  • use the issue and risk management process for impacts of schedule changes
  • record updates as actual start and end dates so they can be compared to the original expected dates in the baseline
  • understand where slack exists in the schedule so that impacts of delays are well understood using tools such as critical path
  • understand flexibility with the triple constraints of the project (time/schedule, budget, and scope) so that decisions with regards to schedule can be made appropriately (e.g. expand timelines or compress timelines)