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How to Schedule Projects


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1)What is Project Scheduling and what terms it operates?

Every project needs a time map of its tasks and milestones to enable the team members orient in its workflow and follow its time constraints. As the concept of Project Time is one of the fundamental project management matters (along with the Project Budget, Scope and Quality), it is necessary for the project managers to thoroughly estimate, develop, manage and control the project's schedule to mitigate and prevent any possibility of delaying the project Due Date.

The project schedule is used for the following purposes:

  • It tells the team when each project task should be done;
  • It shows what progress has already been made;
  • It explains the sequence in which project tasks are to be accomplished;

The Project Schedule development is about determining start and finish dates of every activity and task included into that project. Basically it operates the following terms:

  • Terminal Elements the lowest level of elements represented on a project schedule, and they are not further decomposed. These items are to be estimated in terms of resources, budget and duration, and are interconnected by dependencies.
  • Project Critical Path a timeline of the most vital tasks, activities or deliverables which form up a backbone of the schedule. Once the sequence of vital tasks lying on this path gets gradually completed, the entire project gets accomplished within the minimal amount of time. Even one task delayed on this path will delay the whole project.
  • Resource Allocation determining the optimal manner to engage available working units and resources into completion of the project activities and jobs, while taking into consideration the capacity and availability of resources and the overall project time frames.

2) What to consider when scheduling a Project:

In order to create a project schedule a project manager needs to have certain elements at his hands:

  • The project work decomposition (WBS);
  • Effort estimation for each activity;
  • Plan of available working resources;

Also a project manager needs to consider and respect the following inputs:

  • Availability of Resources a project manager critically needs to understand the accepted pattern of working shifts and days, individual calendars, and other kinds of resource scheduling.
  • Quality of Resources a project manger needs to completely understand what kind of resources he operates and what capabilities they possess. This refers to competency of HR and capacity of technological units.
  • Project Scope the major assumptions underlying the project plan, and they are necessary to presume what trade-offs can be done if the schedule risks to be procrastinated.
  • Non-negotiable Dates this includes immutable time challenges, such as project's deadlines. If a project manager doesn't see a possibility to accomplish the given work on-time, then he has to encourage project scope change or request for more resources allowing to accomplish work.
  • Project Risks assessing project risks is vital for calculating probability of negative scenarios or conditions hampering or collapsing the work progress, so a pessimistic estimate can be given to tasks (in order of average duration calculation) and extra time can be reserved.

3) Action Plan to schedule a Project:

Step 1: Activity Definition which focuses on identifying and documenting the terminal elements of work to be scheduled. They can be derived from the deliverables listed as the components of WBS, while these deliverables are to be further decomposed into actual tasks necessary to accomplish the work.

Step 2: Activity Sequencing which means identifying and documenting relationships between the activities, includes identifying the Project Critical Path. To cope with this step you may answer such guiding questions:

  • What is the logical order in which the identified tasks will occur?
  • What tasks should be accomplished to let other tasks start?
  • What tasks can be done concurrently (can run in parallel)?

Step 3: Resource Estimating is for identifying people, supply, equipment and materials necessary to accomplish each of activities included into the schedule. This is determination of what resources and in what quantities are required on each of the tasks to complete them appropriately.

Step 4: Duration Estimating is performed to define how long the effort at completion of each task will take. It is about measuring the duration of each activity throughout the project 's life, and it may be guided by these questions:

  • How many work hours, days or weeks each of these tasks is supposed to take to be completed?
  • What is a realistic time frame to accomplish each of the tasks (averagely between the optimistic and pessimistic estimates)?

Step 5: Schedule Development is a process of depicting the information obtained through activity definition, sequencing and estimation on a special timeline (chart), so the project team can see the timeframes of the project and its tasks visually represented on a time-grid. This process may include Schedule Compression which is called to optimize the duration of the project by intensifying or paralleling work at some activities. A project schedule being developed has the following traits:

  • It works as the project's WBS translated to a format of time-grid;
  • It outlines the major project events and milestones;
  • It shows the sequence of tasks being linked up to each other (interrelationships between tasks);
  • It demonstrates task time constraints;
  • It explains resources required to complete each schedule d activity (resource allocation);

Step 6: Schedule control is about handling factors that impact a possibility of the project schedule change. This is carried out by researching things such as project variances, external risks, dynamics of the project progress, etc.

4) Project Scheduling with a help of VIP Task Manager:

VIP Task Manager is a product that stands for collaboration between managers and employees, so it allows managers to schedule work explained in terms of particular tasks for their employees. Let's consider simple step-by-step instruction to manage schedules in this product:

Instruments to be used:

  • Task Tree mode;
  • Calendar mode;

Task Tree mode actions:

  1. Create work breakdown structure by planning layout of task groups;
  2. These groups may represent your project's stages or key deliverables.

  3. Fill each group with appropriate sub-groups and sequenced tasks;
  4. Set timeframes for each task (Start and Finish dates);
  5. Assign tasks and groups to appropriate resources;

Calendar mode actions:

  1. Switch to "Time Grid view" on Calendar;
  2. Set appropriate format in option "Time Grid Scale";
  3. Check "Group by Resources" to see individual Calendars;
  4. Observe the project's tasks durations by scrolling timeline;
  5. Prolong or shift tasks durations by drag & drop method;

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