The ability to create a project schedule that is realistic is one of the greatest challenges you will face as a project manager, on any project that you undertake. Whilst there might be some common issues with scheduling that you can anticipate and, therefore prevent, there are others that can prove more complicated.
What is project scheduling?
Before you begin work on any project is it important to create a schedule. This is the route that you will follow in order to complete the work that is required for the project and to, hopefully, produce a successful outcome.
There are three important things that you should consider before you start scheduling; these are:
- When does the project need to be completed by?
- What needs to be done?
- Who will do the work?
These answers are vital in allowing you to create the best schedule possible for your project, and will allow you to follow the steps needed to do this:
- Create a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure)
- Work out the relationship between tasks
- Assign each task to a person
- Assign the relevant resources to each task
- Work out, approximately, how long each task will take
- Identify where you have made assumptions and there are other variables and unknowns
- Identify the critical path – this is those tasks which are the least flexible, and which delaying may result in issues for the rest of the project
- Check, and check everything again to ensure you haven’t missed anything
Even the most impressive and detailed project schedule can only do so much. Whilst everything might look perfect on paper with the right contacts set up for the consumables you need for your project, the perfect project team assigned to the most appropriate tasks and plenty of time to complete the project, the slightest thing can often send your project off track. Whilst using good project software will certainly help you to keep track on your projects progress there are always unexpected things that can go wrong meaning that you will need to revisit your original schedule in order to make the necessary alterations to compensate.
You may suddenly find your team short of a member through no fault of your own. They may move onto another company, be required by another team within the company or suddenly find themselves on long term sick, leaving you with a gap in your team that needs to be filled urgently to cope with the workload.
If the price of one, or more, of the components that you need for your project increase in price, or if there is an issue with the supplier you are using then you will need to find a way to work with this obstacle as well. It may mean that you need an increase in budget or that you need to find a new supplier. This can cost you time as well as money. Using your existing project management skills (and developing new ones) will help you to overcome the obstacles that you encounter on your project.