Achieving a goal is difficult if you have not prepared for it from the very beginning. No matter how small or big a project is, having a clear view is important.
For industrial projects, people plan out the schedule as a part of the process itself. It gives them clarity, focus, and times to adjust their priorities to deliver their best works.
An adequately scheduled project is much more likely to need the results as people can have time to arrange all the resources and utilize all the workers with limited time and budget. But if we do not follow the protocols or complete this step hastily, the project can end up in a disaster, let alone the loss of cost, time, and even the reputation of the company.
What is a Project Schedule?
The project schedule is a document that specified everything that the team needs to do to produce the deliverables maintaining the desired quality.
From the project schedule definition, we need to figure out the following points for complete and successful scheduling:
• The tasks and activities the team need to do,
• The resources a project will need and their arrangement and allocation,
• The complete timetable with time divided for each of the tasks,
• The milestones of the project,
• Task allocation of the team members,
• And an estimated end date.
The scheduling is not a one-time-only task. We do not iterate the whole process throughout the project, but the team must update the document frequently. It helps the team to visualize how much work is left and find out if there is any delay in the work.
The WBS or Work Breakdown Structure is used simultaneously with the scheduling. In this way, the company can divide the big tasks and activities into smaller ones and can evenly distribute the workload among the team members.
A project schedule needs to clarify the following queries:
1. What are the tasks to do?
2. When the project and the individual tasks are to complete?
3. Who will do the work?
4. Where and to whom they will notify and report the activities?
A schedule answers all these queries and also serves as a future reference.
Though one can do a project schedule with a list or chart, industries use project schedule software to keep it accessible to everyone and make necessary changes with ease. With the use of several tools, the project schedule is helpful and guides the workforce at every step of the project. Simply put, this document is a one-stop guide for all the related members to execute and monitor a project.
What is project scheduling software?
And, what does this project scheduling software do?
This software organizes the schedule and marks all the tasks, activities, and milestones with due dates, members associated with them along with a timeline.
A project scheduling app is to help the team with the followings:
• Automate the process of the project,
• Check the availability of resources,
• Calculate the task duration with precision,
• Helps in the communication among the members and conveying information to the high-ups and managers,
• Track progress and notify if there is any delay occurring,
• Revise the structure and make an update if the situation or any parameter of the project changes.
The software can be both offline and online. Offline software requires each of the members to have a registered version on their device. If people are not working at the same office or take some time to work from home, it becomes difficult for them to follow up. The company too needs to bear a large amount of fee for the software. Also, transferring or copying a chart and updating it regularly become difficult.
So most companies now use online service-based software. This SAAS (software as a service) makes the charts and documents sync automatically with all the tasks at hand of all the associated members. A group subscription fee also increases the overall cost for the company.
Here is a project scheduling software list so you can find the most suitable one for you.
What is the difference between project scheduling and project planning?
Though the term project planning and project scheduling seem alike, they are not. While both fundamentally serve the same purpose, on a higher level, project planning is a more general approach to project scheduling.
The project planning definition states that it is a master blueprint of the project. The company determines the fundamental issues like project policies, methodologies, and procedures to follow.
It plans out the date of each of the activities and the milestones and gives an estimation of them. The planning focuses on the project as a whole.
The project schedule is more about the details of the tasks. It converts the plans, scopes, and cost of the project planning to a detailed operational timeline. This is an extensive approach that focuses on detailed activities. From the PMBOK guide, the project schedule is more about a formally approved document that serves as the baseline of each section of the project. It guides the team throughout the execution and control of the project till the end.
From the project scheduler vs project planner, we can know the team has to do the project planning before the project schedule.
How to build a project schedule?
Now that you know that project schedule requires a different approach and methodology than project planning, let us check out what the project schedule process steps are:
1. Defining scopes:
The first step of the project scheduling process is to define scopes. What are the actual outcomes and deliverables you are expecting, how will they improve from the present version of the deliverable (if there is any), what the features that are to implement are, etc. Scopes are the fundamental reason to perform and execute the project, so defining the scope is necessary. The clients or stakeholders have to agree with the deliverables, and the team members also agree that they can bring out the results of these within a speculated time.
The next step is project planning. As we discussed earlier, project planning involves the basic guideline to guide the total project. Here the team determines:
• Determines the company policy,
• Establish the procedure to follow,
• Establish the document guideline,
• Outline the resources required,
• Lists the final stakeholders,
• List the individual the team should go for approval for anything related to the project,
• Determine who has the ultimate authority over the project,
• Finalize the method or channel used for communication among the team members.
This step outlines the administrative section of the project.
3. Defining activities:
Next comes the technical part of the project scheduling process. The team discusses and makes a list of activities to perform to get the results. It can be as simple as a list of activities for a simple, and not-so-large project. But for a complex big scale project, it ends up in a chart with tasks of various lengths to complete.
If the tasks are long, they divide them into small parts to make them manageable. The general rule is known as the 8/80 rule. The activity should take up to 8 to 80 hours to complete. If a task requires more than 80 hours, the team divides it into some subparts.
The team also has to make sure each of these activities has to be measurable, easily estimated, and related to the deliverables and suits the budget. It is to make sure the team only gets to do the important parts of the project and no time and resources are used in unnecessary stuff.
4. Finding dependencies:
The tasks have some dependencies among them. Some of them are to complete so the other one can start. If a team does not pay attention to the dependencies, they have to pause some tasks in the midway and wait for other tasks to complete. This can take up extra time with no value, and also disrupt the planning and flow of the entire project.
5. Sequencing activities:
Then the team has to arrange the tasks with the respective dependencies in mind. The activities may have some relationships where a particular task cannot start or end before its predecessor starts or ends. The members are to follow the pattern so they can complete the project swiftly. If there is any point missed while sequencing, the project deadline may not match, even the budget may exceed in some cases.
6. Estimating resources:
As the team has a clear idea of the tasks they are to do overtime timelines, they can estimate the resources that they will require along with it. The resources will include-
• The personnel,
• Subcontractor costs,
• Tools and workspace.
Then they have to arrange the resources and make contracts, so there is an interruption of supply during the project.
7. Estimating duration:
Now the team needs to estimate the duration. Though the company may give the team a rough date of completion, the team now has to decide and determine which activities can require what time. They also have to consider the vacations, public holidays, and if a member has any specific deadline criteria.
It is hard to estimate perfectly for a task as so many factors and parameters can affect the workflow. In the best scenario, if the team completes a task before the timeline, the whole project may experience a delay as it is hard to shaft activities in the midway. Again in the worst scenario, if a task becomes stagnant unnecessarily, that can frustrate the stakeholders as it impacts the overall timeline. Generally, they calculate the duration as the average of a best, worst, and most likely scenario.
8. Developing schedule:
Finally, the team dives into more specific details of project schedule techniques like the models and formulae they will follow along the way, like the critical path, critical chain, and resource-levelling.
They consider all of them and fine-tunes when the tasks will complete and who will be responsible for that.
9. Monitoring and control:
Even though the project schedule completes with the development part, this part remains ongoing throughout the session. This section determines how the team will monitor the task and who they will go to if certain changes are to take place in the project scheduling in the midway.
The main factors the phase determines are-
• Report and assessment of tasks,
• Manage employee performances,
• Mode of communication.
Now you know how to create a project schedule. But what determines whether a project schedule is scalable? Check out the next part for that.
What makes a good project schedule?
A successful project schedule always covers the milestones, deliverables, tasks, covers, dependencies, resources, deadlines, and the overall time frame.
But for a schedule to be ideal scheduling it has to meet the following criteria:
1. Effective communication:
All the employees should have proper communication methods so they can collaborate easily. Effective communication strategy is one of the most effective project schedule benefits as this can uplift the productivity and even the work culture of the organization.
2. Track progress:
The members should track the progress of the project regularly. So they can check whether they are up to date or not. This way member can also be concerned if one of them is facing an issue, and it becomes easy to monitor the progress.
The team management should be supportive and innovative. So the people can explain their points to the authority, and the management can take prompt action to all.
The accountability of the work also increases as the team sorts out the chronology and dependencies properly, and all the members can know the final goals and scopes and detect if something needs to be changed or improved.
5. Coordination and focus:
It is one of the top benefits of project scheduling in project management. Knowing what to do and by when helps the employees to prepare mentally, and helps to focus on their work. As their problems are estimated earlier or solved quickly, they can have a better grip on the situation.
6. Financial performance:
The project involves enough user interest and bases on enough market research. And even the marketing plans are also scheduled thoroughly sometimes. So the ultimate profit increases for the company.
7. Quality control:
There is no chance of degrading quality as the resources are checked and allocated beforehand, and they give each task the proper time to execute. So the quality is assured.
8. Detect problems early:
As the tasks and activities are examined and estimated at the very beginning, there is hardly any chance of skipping a large gap or detecting any other issues.
The clarity and estimations boost productivity manifolds. As the employees know what exactly to do and when, and also have all the supplies they need, they can give their undivided attention to the task at hand.
As the company estimates the budget and costs carefully, the company and clients have a rough idea about the costs from the very beginning. Good estimation helps to determine the ROI and importance of the project.
11. Duration and time:
The duration of the tasks is fixed and well thought. So the team can manage their time wisely.
12. Reminder going off track:
Managing a project schedule allows us to check continuously for time, a resource of quality-related issues. People can easily detect if some part of the project goes off track and solve it accordingly.
13. Provide the goal:
The company decides the scope and goal at the very beginning. And at each point, the members know what the objectives of their immediate actions are. So they have the greatest vision to think broadly and take the best course of action at any point in the long term.
14. Detailed thinking:
One of the most prominent importances of project scheduling is that it motivates and forces the team to plan out every detail before starting the work. The members visualize all the nooks and corners and take care of all the parameters so the project can smoothly complete.
Project Schedule Example
You can find a project schedule example literally in every aspect of your working or even social life. From organizing an event to construction, they all need to follow a project schedule template.
Let us consider a technical example like designing a website.
If the company gets a request for that, even the top experts of the industry cannot start working for it immediately. They have to sketch a plan and brainstorm a perfect schedule. They might use a project schedule excel sheet for that. They need to study the requirement, the branding of the clients and prepare a rough template of the site with all the sections they want to need, and all the graphic works. They might need to decide which tools they are going to use and sort out the legal issues. After planning all the nitty-gritty details with proper attention, they can begin the work.
If a company does not know the structure of a bridge they are going to make or the elements of the poles, or the companies they are to buy from, it is nearly impossible to build the bridge for them.
As you can see, the project schedule is not a random phase, but it serves as an integral part of planning out all the activities with the boundaries like timeline, cost, resources, and quality. And thanks to the leads of project schedule software available in the market, the task is easier and handier than ever. So the company and team members must focus and dedicate enough time and energy to schedule a project whenever they are to start a new one.