While handling multiple projects, how would you know if a project is considered on time or not? You cannot do that without making a schedule. Most people confuse project scheduling with project planning or project management. But as a matter of fact, project scheduling is just a part of the plan and is significant to deliver your project on time. It’s the starting point that should not be ignored as a well-thought-out schedule acts as a guide through the complete project lifecycle and helps you stay on track. So, first, let’s see why project scheduling is so important.
The Importance of Project Scheduling
Making a schedule is like creating a timetable for your project. A project schedule includes all tasks, activities, and key milestones mentioned in a sequence along with an established deadline for each of them. When you have a project plan, you will know what you need to deliver in what order. In project management, you also do resource allocation to find and assign the most suitable people to the right projects. Then comes the project schedule, which helps you to know when each activity should happen. By using the right project scheduling techniques, you can make amendments to some tasks if your project is delayed or there are some changes to the scope.
Why do You Need to Create a Project Schedule?
If you want your project to succeed, then you definitely need to create a project schedule. Here are some of the main benefits of proper project scheduling.
Creating a detailed project schedule:
- Ensures a smooth run for your project.
- Provides you with a clear picture of what you need before you start the project.
- Helps in spotting any challenges and pitfalls early and alert the stakeholders if a timeline is not feasible.
- Is advantageous not only for a project manager but also for the team.
- Helps all team members and stakeholders to know what to expect and at what stage.
- Ensures that the right people are held accountable for the timelines.
- Enables other managers to allocate resources for your project, and accurately anticipate when people are going to be free for other projects.
Steps for Project Scheduling
The best way to do project scheduling is by using a good resource management tool that integrates your schedule into other tools. For example, dashboards, Gantt charts, and reports to track status and progress, and Kanban boards for managing the workflows. But whatever route you choose, here are the steps for creating a project schedule.
1. Define your project scope
Creating the project scope outlines help in putting down the intended result of the project. It also defines what all you need to complete. The scope includes what type of resources? How many of them would you need? What’s the required cost and time constraints? With the help of the project scope, you can further develop a work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS outlines all the tasks and sub-tasks and puts them as specific deliverables which help inefficient project management.
2. List all the Project Activities
This is a simple yet detailed task. You need to create a detailed list of all the tasks that you should complete for delivering your project on time. If you are planning for a complex project, organize all the tasks as a chart so that all the tasks and subtasks can be visualized. However, you may face a challenge while doing project scheduling, which is not knowing how to divide all the activities. Use the 8/80 rule – which says that one activity usually takes anywhere between 8 to 80 work hours. So, you can group all the tasks that require less than 8 hours with others and the tasks that are over 80 hours should be divided further. You should also ensure that all tasks are measurable, can be easily estimated, and are linked to a project deliverable and budgeted cost.
3. Group all the Tasks into Phases or Milestones
After defining the project scope and the WBS, you can extract the list of tasks that need to be completed. The WBS outlines what should be done – not the process or when. After you list the tasks, you can arrange them in sequential order as they are expected to be delivered. The next step is to estimate the time each task and effort each task will take, and which phase does it fit in. For example, does a task belong to the planning, design and development, quality check, or delivery phase?
4. Estimate the Resources Needed
The next step in project scheduling is calculating the resources you need. Each task and sub-task in your project needs a certain type and number of resources. For instance, employees, contractors, facilities, and equipment or tools – could be physical or digital ones such as software programs. Ensure that the resources you hire are suited to your industry and project and have the necessary competencies. This includes calculating the exact number of resources you require for each activity. It’s important to consider that resource allocation will have an impact on your schedule. So, balance and distribute the tasks between all resources. If one person is responsible for several tasks and is over-allocated, then the tasks could be delayed.
5. Define the Milestones of your Project
Project milestones are checkpoints on the entire lifecycle that highlight key activities. It helps the project manager to check if the project is on track or not. Project milestones are basically progress points that display completion and delivery. Mostly, there are two kinds of milestones in a project: internal and external. Internal milestones are used to enable the team to follow the project’s status and schedule. However, external milestones are the ones that you communicate to your client or stakeholders and marketing teams.
6. Identify the Dependencies
After listing all the project activities, milestones and calculating the effort and time, you need to think through every task carefully. Wondering why? You now need to find which tasks depend on others so that they are completed. For example, when the automobile is being constructed, you first need to build a frame on which the body rests. Then, all the subsequent assembly components will come into the picture. Likewise, it’s important to first accurately define all the dependencies so that you can do project scheduling correctly and avoid any delays.
7. Monitor and Control
This step in the project scheduling process is also an ongoing activity like other steps. A project manager needs to monitor and control his project schedule constantly for the entire project lifecycle. To do this, you need to run reports and evaluate the progress your project has made against the schedule. You also need to manage performance and communicate the same with the team. If there are any schedule changes that cannot be avoided, then you must make sure that they are performed and communicated as per the plan laid out in the initial steps. So, you need to ensure that every activity is on its schedule throughout the project. Only then can you determine if any corrective actions are required in case any delays occur.
Benefits of Online Project Scheduling Tools
Using online project scheduling tools enables the project managers to do data-driven resource and time management decisions. Imagine if you could spot a challenge much in advance which could have prevented the project from moving forward. If you know about it ahead of time, you can reallocate resources, make the necessary changes, and take action to ensure that the project stays on track. Such a tool also helps the teams to collaborate and communicate smoothly, manage resources, and stick to the established budget. You can also create detailed project plans, view all the resources and projects in a list, work as per the task lists and your project calendars, and send status updates to your stakeholders. That’s not all. You can also handle the start and end dates for your activities, manage workload, allocate and reallocate work, track the performance of your resources in real-time, and edit easily with drag-and-drop scheduling.
Choosing the Right Project Scheduling Software
If you want your projects to benefit from a project scheduling tool, then pick the right one. Look for project scheduling software that enables your stakeholders to see the project scheduling process. Which tool you go for depends on the project scheduling methods you are using. However, make sure that the software can create Gantt charts efficiently. Enbraun’s eResource Scheduler completely transforms the way a business operates. By using this effective project scheduling tool, you can plan projects, resources, and monitor the utilization and performance of your team. This Cloud-based tool offers brilliant features like high configurability and an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. If you use the right project scheduling techniques while doing project management, you can focus on individual tasks, and view the bigger picture to see which project milestones need to be met. So, take a free trial of eResource Scheduler and check out its benefits yourself.