Project Schedule & Time Management Processes - 6 Steps to Meet the Toughest Project Deadlines on Time
What is the time management or project schedule? The project schedule looks like a simple term but can quickly get complicated. We may quickly make a high-level schedule and later when we dig into the details, we realize that those high-level dates are not feasible. So how deep I should dig? Is there a rule? OR Maybe some tools? Is time management that critical? Are there any time management skills? OR Maybe time management tips? How does a project manager determine all this and what are the benefits? We shall find out all this shortly in this article.
What is Project Schedule & Project Time Management?
Project Schedule Management is also referred to as Project Time Management. It is one of the major pillars in the framework of project management. Each project has a certain timeframe in which it needs to be completed. It has a specific start and end date. Hence, the Project Manager needs to optimize every bit of the available time. In this article on Project Time Management, I will be walking you through the various processes involved. I will also get into the details on how to schedule a project.
In the Project Management framework, Project time management is one of the 10 Knowledge Areas. Its name was changed to project schedule management in PMBOK®Guide – Edition Sixth, released in September 2017. As per the PMBOK®Guide,
In simple words, Time management deals with managing time you will be spending on project tasks and activities. Good planning, monitoring, scheduling, and controlling of all project activities is required for excellent project time management. Project time management also refers to the tools and techniques used for managing time.
Scheduling in project management is the listing of tasks, deliverables, activities, and milestones within a project. The project schedule should also include duration, planned start and finish date, and resources assigned to each activity. Successful time management requires efficient project scheduling.
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Why Time Management is important?
As per the definition of a project, it should have an end date. Project scheduling is required to meet this date. Also, the project manager needs to manage the team’s time and their own time to ensure that the schedule is met. Imagine you decide to renovate the kitchen of your house. You may think you would want to do it in your spare time. So, you do not create a project schedule or give it an end date. You will not keep aside some timeslot too for renovation work. What happens? If you are like other people, years go by and your renovation never gets finished. Basically, your project never gets completed..!!
- With constant delays, you may run into some issues like:
- You were too busy and kept pushing it to the end of your to-do list
- You did not order the new Chimney in time and must wait for two weeks (Procurement management helps here)
- You were not able to find any painter based on when you want (Human resource management and resource allocation help here)
- You forgot that you need an extra inlet for your Dishwasher (Identification of requirements &tasks helps here)
- You found later that you had to take approval from your society to start any renovation work. It would take a week for approval.
- And the list goes on….
So now you know why time management is critical!! Without it, projects will not get done on time. Some projects may not get done at all or there may be a severe cost increase.
How will this Benefit Project Managers?
The knowledge area of Project time management is a great help for the project manager, in overall project management. It helps in getting a well-analyzed& optimized timeline. This guides the entire project team delivery of the project output within the timelines. This is closely associated with the other two knowledge areas: Project Cost Management, and Project Scope Management. Different teams having their own time management provide input to this. All these inputs are taken and integrated together. The interlinked but interdependent components help create the final deliverable. A schedule or time management plan is the output of this integration effort. So, the schedule management plan is a subset of the overall project management plan. Told you, it looks simple but can get complicated soon..!! Will make it simple again in a few mins.
Time Management Benefits
Let us go through various benefits of having a systematic project schedule management:
1. Better Organization: Projects generally consist of multiple stakeholders. These include various departments, vendors, teams, resources, locations, etc. An efficient time management plan helps the project manager to organize all aspects of the project efficiently. This in turn helps to complete the project within the triple constraints - Scope, Time & Cost.Eg. In your kitchen renovation, you know when to call a plumber, painter, chimney person, etc.
2. Better Estimation: With schedule management, the project manager will know all the tasks and their schedule. He will know the interdependencies. If there is a risk or issue, it can be raised with relevant stakeholders proactively and resolved. The team will know what inputs they will get and what outputs need to be sent. All this will help in better estimation. Eg. In your kitchen renovation, the plumber knows he needs to fix the inlet and outlet for the dishwasher. He will be able to estimate the time taken for this.
3. Improved Decision Making: With proper time management, you will have time to think proactively and will have most of the facts. This will help you make decisions after proper research and thinking.E.g. In your kitchen renovation, you can spend some time thinking that you may need tiles near the dishwasher and washbasin. This will ensure the walls around these remain good for a longer period.
4. Reduces Stress: As a project manager, you will be able to know if you are ahead of schedule or behind. If you are behind schedule, you will take appropriate measures to come back on schedule. Also, you can keep sharing the progress with all relevant stakeholders. This removes any element of surprise and hence reduces stress for everyone. E.g.If you know the schedule, you will tell the plumber, carpenter, and painter when to come. If you had to plan a vacation after renovation, you know the end date and can proactively plan other things after the project completion.
5. Keeps Project on Track: The project schedule is like a roadmap. It helps you track what was the original plan? How much you have deviated from it? As told earlier you can avoid any failure or loss by bringing your project back on track.
6. Improves Communication: Once a project schedule prepared, it is shared with the entire team. This informs them about their timelines. With this, your team members and other teams will know which activity is to be done. It will also tell them by whom and by when each activity must be done. So, there is no space for ambiguity or confusion.
7. Reduces Cost & Delivery Time: Project schedule management helps in fixings dates and durations of tasks. This will bring in a sense of urgency. This way the project will complete within time without an increase in budget or requiring extra time.
8. Enhances Productivity: Project schedule management give you a birds-eye view of the entire project. This will help you analyze any underutilized resources. The project manager can prioritize the tasks accordingly. This will ensure every resource is optimally used.
Time Management Process and Skills
Project Time Management Processes
Project Schedule or Time Management is made up of six processes:
Six Processes of Project Schedule Management
1. Plan Schedule Management
The initial process of this knowledge area is Plan schedule management. In these various procedures and policies are established. Documentation with the complete details of the project schedule is curated. These details include information about how the project schedule will be planned, managed, developed, controlled, and executed. This becomes a guide for the project manager. He uses this to understand how to manage the project from start to final delivery.
The below diagram has various inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs that are involved in the plan schedule management process:
2. Define Activities
Define Activities is the next process of project time management. Here as the name suggests, various activities or actions that are necessary to develop the final deliverable are identified and documented. This process also helps in breaking down the work packages into smaller and scheduled tasks. These smaller tasks act as baselines for estimating, executing, scheduling, monitoring, and controlling the entire project work.
The process of Define Activities involves the below-mentioned inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs:
3. Sequence Activities
The relationship among various project activities is identified and documented in the process of Sequence Activities. It considers all the constraints. Here we establish a logical sequence of work. This step helps in gaining maximum efficiency.
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All the inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs that are involved in this process of project time management are seen below.
4. Estimate Activity Durations
This is a process where estimation is done at a logical level decided by the project manager. Here we identify the number of work periods required to finish every single activity. It takes into consideration the resources available and the skills required. This process helps in calculating the estimated time required to complete individual activities.
Various inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs involved in the Estimate Activity Duration process are depicted in the below table:
5. Develop Schedule
In this process, we create the final schedule. This schedule will help in actual execution, monitoring, and controlling of the project throughout the project lifecycle. During this, the project activities like its resource requirement, sequence, duration, and constraints are analyzed. The final outcome is a model schedule. This includes all project activities and their start and end dates.
Develop a schedule involves the following inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs:
6. Control Schedule
Control Schedule is the final process of project time management. It is performed throughout the project lifecycle. The project schedule is updated based on the actual status of the project during this process. Based on this the changes are made to the schedule baseline. Throughout the project development, it helps to maintain the schedule baseline
This process involves various inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs as seen below:
Here is a sample project schedule template for your reference:
There are enormous benefits of Project Time Management. It has a profound effect on project efficiency. This can have a huge positive impact on triple constraint – Scope, Time, Cost, and hence quality too. It simplifies communication, coordination, and reduced stress for all stakeholders. Eventually, these benefits will be seen once the project completes on time and within budget. Ensure you do a thorough Project Schedule Management on your projects!!