Project schedule is a key to effectively manage your project. Using a project schedule helps you answers critical questions: Who will do what by when ? Which activities cannot be delayed if project is to be completed on time (critical path) ? Which are the critical resources (critical chain) ? This article is about some concepts that many project managers often confuse in developing a project schedule.
How often a project schedule is created
The most common approach: a project team do interviews and brainstorming sessions with project stakeholders to define requirements and project scope. Then the WBS in created, each element of the WBS is a deliverable. A project team can choose to divide each element of the WBS into smaller work packages in order to manage them effectively. The next process is to determine the resources for each work package and resource calendar, i.e. when each resource is available. Combining all gathered information, one can easily generate a project schedule using project management software, e.g. Microsoft Project.
Nothing is wrong until now. But, it is a huge mistake if you baseline your project schedule at this point. The misconception here is that until now a project schedule includes only activities required to produce project deliverables. There are many more activities that should be included into a project schedule. If you forget to include them, your project schedule will not be realistic.
Project status meetings
Project status meetings should be scheduled in every project. Each meeting may not be long. However, imagine if your project last for a long time. In this case you should estimate time for those meetings, because the amount of time for all status meetings may be significant.
Buffer for each activity
You should consider the risk that each activity will not be completed as planned and make a buffer to protect activities on critical path from “slipping”. Putting a buffer for each activity may create a Student syndrome. You can overcome this syndrome by summing all buffers and put the overall buffer at the end of your project schedule.
Project management activities
There are many project management activities you should perform during a project:
- Risk management. Time for risk management include: identifying and analyzing risks, risks audit, implementation of risk responses etc.
- Quality management. Time for quality control, quality assurance, quality audit, process improvement and various quality-related tasks should be integrated into a project schedule
- Scope verification. By scope verification I mean the process when a project team meet with stakeholders to formalize the acceptance of the project deliverables. In many projects, obtaining a formal acceptance of the product is as long as t creating the product itself !
- Change management. Changes always occur during project. It may be impractical to incorporate change management into an initial project schedule, because you cannot know which changes will arise. However, plan in advance the time for managing the changes, not producing the changes themselves. i.e. time for analyzing, documenting and verifying change requests.
Before baselining a project schedule, you should integrate into a deliverable-based project schedule all non-product-related activities, including risks, communication, verification and other project management activities.