Project Scheduling: How to Make a Project Schedule
Effective project management starts from the planning stage of the project management life cycle. Failure to develop an effective project plan can harm your project.
One of the reasons why projects fail is the lack of an effective project schedule. Many projects tend to fall behind schedule or exceed their budgets. Sometimes the reason why may be beyond your control such as changing project requirements.
However, developing a project schedule is essential for keeping your project organized and on track for completion at the due date. Prioritizing the creation of a project schedule before the project commences makes project management easier and faster.
In this article, you will learn everything you need about creating a project schedule that keeps you and your team members aligned on key project details such as tasks, deadlines, costs, and project scope.
Let’s get started.
What is a Project Schedule?
A project schedule is a well-structured timetable that organizes tasks, resources, and deadlines so that the project can be completed on time. This document shows the project manager and project team all the project tasks and the timelines required to complete the project.
The best time to create a project schedule is at the project initiation phase of the project management life cycle. This phase is also referred to as the planning phase for the project.
A project schedule includes:
- A project timeline with start dates, due dates, and milestones of each task
- The task the team needs to work on to finish the project deliverable
- The costs, resources, and requirements associated with each task
- The team members associated with each task
You need a project schedule for the smooth running of the project. An effective project schedule makes the project workflow run smoothly, avoids or mitigates project risks, resolves questions regarding the project, and tackles any uncertainties about the project.
A project schedule lets you define the project tasks. This will include details regarding the project and also the resources you need to complete the project.
The project schedule makes it easy for project managers to follow up with team members and know how far they have gone on a particular task. This will have a positive impact on your project.
How to Make a Project Schedule
Project scheduling starts during the planning stage of a project. When you want to create a schedule for your project, you need to consider these questions because they will be the bedrock of your project.
- What needs to be carried out?
- When will it be carried out?
- Who will carry it out?
- Where will it be carried out?
The answers to these questions will shape how your project schedule would be and assist you to plan your schedule. You set start and end dates, create milestones, set duration, and manage resources with these answers.
1. Schedule Management Plan
A good schedule framework creates the methods, company rules, and guidelines that will control your project.
The schedule management plan lists resources that will be required for the project and any risk that may arise during the project. It also outlines the project stakeholders, those who have access to critical information about the project, the individuals that will approve the schedule, and also the people that can receive a copy of the schedule.
This document also points out who has the authority to make a change in the schedule. The project team must follow through with the change and there must be an effective communication plan for easy communication throughout the project.
Bad communication can slow down the project or otherwise jeopardize the final results of the project. When outlining the task list, you must be careful not to leave out anything. You can organize these tasks by using a work breakdown structure (WBS) and arranging them in order of completion.
Understanding that each task depends on another and the arrangement of tasks is very important for schedule management.
2. Define the Project Activities
This is the outlining of tasks that need to be completed for your project to be successful. If you are working on large projects, you may need to organize your tasks in a chart form that shows all main tasks and their sub-tasks and to organize it in such a way that it is understandable by team members.
Tasks are little jobs that will eventually lead to the final deliverables. It is necessary to organize the sequence of these tasks before arranging them because most times a task may depend on another task. This means a task needs to end before another task can start.
Failure to finish this task will delay the start of the other task and end up delaying the whole project. While some tasks can be done at the same time, you do not want to get to the middle of the project and see that you can not complete your project because there are some tasks still hanging.
You need to know how to divide activities, this will always help out when embarking on large projects. Consider using the 8/80 rule which means that an activity should be given eight and eighty work hours. In task management, any task that requires fewer than 8 hours can be grouped with other tasks, and tasks that are over eighty hours should be broken down because they will be too cumbersome to handle.
3. Find the Critical Path
The critical path method is a procedure for scheduling tasks in a project to know which ones are critical for a successful project. This helps the project manager make a good decision on the task that can be stopped to continue another if costs become constrained.
You can use this method to identify risk under schedule risk analysis. The project manager will be able to identify the tasks that are prone to risk and call on the team members together on how to tackle such risk.
4. Estimate Resources
Each task on your schedule has resources and costs associated with completing it. You need to create a budget for your resources in order not to go above budget. Each task that has been carried out will need resources in form of tools, workers, subcontractor cost, and workspace to get the work done.
You need to consider the resources allocated for a particular project. Poor allocation of resources to specific tasks in a project can lead to the failure of the entire project. A well-arranged allocation of resources to each task will help in effective planning and also keep your team member’s workload balanced.
5. Estimate Durations
Estimating durations is very crucial in planning a project schedule. You need to know how long a project is going to take. It is also necessary to organize and estimate how long different tasks will take and give a final delivery date to your customer.
Failure to estimate durations for tasks accurately will frustrate your customer. You can use data from similar projects as a reference for your new project. If there is no data from previous work, you can estimate based on the project team input.
For example, you might need to know how much time it takes to complete piling in building construction. You need to know what piling entails and the time required to complete each activity under piling. Outline the set of tasks required for piling and estimate the duration of each of the tasks.
6. Determine Milestones
Milestones are tools used in project management that show an important achievement or the completion of an activity or group of activities. This is the completion of a particular stage in the project. They mark specific points along a project timeline.
You can break a project into smaller tasks and group them into stages. Each stage of the project is given a measurable milestone for the easy workflow.
7. Develop the Project Schedule
Gather all the information you need to complete your project schedules such as all the duration and resources needed for each activity in the project, and the tasks that are dependent on each other. At this stage, you can assign start and due dates to each task.
8. Monitor and Control
This is an ongoing stage that runs until the project is completed. You have to monitor and control the project schedule you created throughout the project. This has to do with running project management reports and keeping track of the progress of the project, communicating with the team, and managing their performance.
You need to ensure the schedule is followed as planned and any changes to the schedule are effectively carried out and communicated among team members.
While monitoring and controlling the project, ensure your project is on schedule as your customer already has a delivery date. You should ensure that there must always be corrective action in case there is a delay in the project. A good schedule plan and an effective monitoring and control process will lead to a successful project.
Project Scheduling Tools and Techniques
Make your project schedule available to the members of the project that need to have a copy of it. You can create your project schedule in a document such as Google Sheets and Excel Spreadsheets.
However, using documents means you spend more time creating the schedule and can easily make mistakes or run into complications when trying to schedule large projects.
Project scheduling software tools assist project managers to organize and execute their tasks and resources within a specific budget. There are several project scheduling software tools such as Monday.com, ClickUp, Wrike, Teamwork, and Smartsheet that help you to effectively create a project schedule.
You can also use these software tools to manage costs, allocate resources, budget, communication, risk analysis, and reporting.
Different scheduling techniques can help you organize and divide your project into small tasks effectively.
1. Task Lists
This is a simple scheduling technique that is very efficient for small projects without plenty of interdependencies. A task list might not be suitable for the larger project because it will be very difficult to track the progress of the large project. The task list outlines the tasks and subtasks as well as the team members that are assigned to the task.
2. Gantt Charts
A Gantt chart is a project scheduling tool that assists you in organizing and scheduling different projects of all sizes. Gantt charts are used for complex projects and make the work simpler to handle.
With Gantt charts, project management tasks are converted into charts showing start dates and end dates as well as the tasks that are dependent on one another. They also assign deadlines to tasks including the progress of the task and who is assigned to each task. Gantt charts are very useful for large projects with a large team and a lot of stakeholders.
Some of the best Gantt chart software for project management include Monday.com, ClickUp, Wrike, Teamwork, Scoro, Smartsheet, and ProofHub.
A calendar is a good scheduling tool that has a nice approach to viewing tasks and watching out for overlaps between activities. It is good for small projects. Note that the function of the calendar limits the ability to assign tasks and view a task that is dependent on one another.
Project Scheduling FAQ
These two terms are often used interchangeably but they perform different roles to complete a successful project. A project plan is the main blueprint while the project schedule explains the specific task.
Project planning has to do with getting the appropriate policies and project procedures that you need to get the project done on time. On the other hand, project scheduling is the process that makes the plans, cost, resources, and scope operational.
Project scheduling is very necessary because it performs an effective role for a successful project. There are some benefits you get when you create a good project schedule.
Using a project schedule from the beginning of your project will make you see a clear picture of what the project is all about and the challenges you are going to face while carrying out the project. Scheduling will make it easy to efficiently allocate resources for your project.
A project schedule helps you assign start and end dates to tasks. Everyone will know what to expect and they can be held accountable if tasks are not completed. Overall, a project schedule makes the project run smoothly and enables you and your project team to complete the project on time.