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A project managers key responsibility is to create a realistic project schedule. Before the project execution begins, the project manager should identify if the planned end date is achievable. This chapter will be easier for you if you know the techniques of compressing the project schedule. Also, if you are comfortable with manually creating a network diagram, this chapter should not be much of a challenge. There are several project management softwares available in the market. The project managers can use these softwares to assist with scheduling in their real life projects. However, for clearing the PMP exam, you must thoroughly understand the process of scheduling a project. You must also know the process of manually drawing the network diagram to answer questions about network diagrams and scheduling.
The reason why PMP takes into consideration the manual process of drawing network diagrams and performing scheduling, points to the fact that the available scheduling softwares cannot do a project managers job. They can prove to be extremely helpful for doing several project management activities. Each project is unique and these softwares just can't adapt to the uniqueness of the project needs.
Schedule Management Plan:
Schedule Management Plan requires thinking proactively before executing the project. It involves thinking through several points, including:
Individuals involved in the scheduling process
Approach required to plan schedule of the process
Use of organizational processes and procedures
Tools used for scheduling
Method to manage and control the project to schedule baseline and manage any deviations
The schedule management plan is created as a part of Develop Management Plan process in Integration Management. A project manager must create a schedule management plan and it is observed that in real world scenarios most of the project managers miss on this important aspect. A schedule management plan should include the methodology used to create the schedule. The project manager should also describe the use of scheduling software. He should identify the measurement guidelines i.e. should he measure the process progress in hours, days, weeks, months or quarters. The schedule management plan should also include the duration for each activity and the efforts required for those activities. All of this should establish the project baseline. This baseline is to be used to monitor and control the project during various phases. Project manager should also include a plan to mitigate any variances observed in the schedule. Change Control Procedure should be in place to manage schedule changes. Reporting requirements should also be established.
A schedule management plan should include the methodology used to create the schedule. The project manager should also describe the use of scheduling software. He should identify the measurement guidelines i.e. should he measure the process progress in hours, days, weeks, months or quarters. The schedule management plan should also include the duration for each activity and the efforts required for those activities. All of this should establish the project baseline. This baseline is to be used to monitor and control the project during various phases. Project manager should also include a plan to mitigate any variances observed in the schedule.
What are Activities?
In scope management, we learnt about WBS. WBS resulted in Work packages. Work packages are used as inputs in the Define activities process. These work packages are broken down further into activities to ensure that work packages are delivered. Each activity is then estimated, scheduled, monitored and managed. Thus, these activities should be small enough. Sequencing of these activities is the next process for defining activities, a project manager needs two critical things:
Scope baseline (scope statement, WBS and WBS dictionary)
Availability of a project team
Defining the activities involve making the estimates. Involving the team early on in defining activities ensures that the estimates are more accurate. When the project manager is defining the activities, there may be too many components to adequately break-down the components and schedule it. In these situations, project managers use a technique called rolling wave planning. In this method, the project manager need not plan all the details of the project right at the start. He can plan activities to the detail needed to manage the work only when he starts that phase of the project life cycle. There is a likelihood that project managers can use this planning method as an excuse for not planning the project appropriately. This is not advisable.
Activity list and Activity Attributes are two outcomes of Define Activities process. Activity attributes is the documentation of the details of the activities. Milestones are also to be determined in the Define Activities process.
Timeline for each of the defined activities is not considered as a milestone. Milestones are interim deliverables of the project schedule. A summary of milestones is included in the project charter. For controlling the project, a project manager can impose milestones (like a sponsor) during the Sequence Activities or Develop Schedule processes. Deviations from the planned activities are detected when the milestone arrives and the project has not completed the activities required for the milestone. A list of appropriate milestones is created as a part of Define Activities process. This milestone list becomes a part of the project management plan and is added to the project scope statement and WBS dictionary as part of iterations in planning.
The output of Define Activities is a list of activities and milestones. In sequence activities process, these activities and milestones are sequenced in the order of work performance. The output of Sequence Activities is a Network Diagram (also known as project schedule network diagram). Network diagram and PERT charts are different.
Methods to draw Network Diagrams:
There are several network diagram methods including:
Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM)
Arrow Diagramming Method (ADM)
Graphical Evaluation and Review Technique (GERT)
* Project managers generally use PDM these days.
1. Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM) Or Activity-On-Node (AON)
The successor can start only after an activity finishes. This is the most commonly used relationship. Example: You must open the can of soft-drink before you start to drink it.
The successor can start only after an activity starts. Example: You must start creating a presentation and wait for one-week lag in order to have enough slides completed to start the voice-over recording.
The successor can finish only after an activity finishes. Example: You must finish the pilot before you finish gathering the complete feedback.
The successor can finish only after an activity starts. This relationship is rarely used.
2. Graphical Evaluation And Review Technique (GERT)
GERT is a computer simulation technique that allows loops between activities. GERT is a modification to the network diagram drawing method. An example could be designing a program and testing it. After testing, it may or may not need to be redesigned.