A project plan is a methodology to most efficiently complete a series of tasks through scheduling and resources.
There are many parts to planning a project and all of them are important. But the project doesn’t get done if you’ve not efficiently assigned your resources to specific tasks.
Resources can mean many things. The people on your team are resources, but so are the tools they use, equipment and even the site where you’re going to do the work.
All of those pieces of the project have to be scheduled, which can get complicated. That’s why there’s project scheduling software to help you organize when you are scheduling your resources for a project.
This guide is intended to offer a quick step-by-step process to scheduling your resources. Along the way we offer scheduling software tips as they apply.
List the Tasks
Start by collecting all the tasks that will be necessary to complete the project. A task is the smaller parts of a larger job. They’re the steps you have to take to get from the beginning of a project to the finish line. Tasks have a duration, and you have to determine how long it will take those tasks to go from start to finish. That’s call the task duration.
You can create a task list any way you’re comfortable with, from sketching it out with a pen and pad to placing the data in a spreadsheet, if you’re more accustomed to working with one. When you make the list, take this opportunity to prioritize what task is most important and what task is least important.
You’re going to want to migrate those tasks into some project management tool, so think about that, too. Do you want to re-input all that information by hand? Will your spreadsheet import into the tool and keep all your formatting?
What Are the Task Dependencies?
Some tasks are going to be dependent on other tasks. That is, one task will not be able to begin until another has been completed. This is called a task dependency.
Identify what resources are going to be needed to complete each task. That can include the number of team members you’re going to assign or the tools they’ll need to complete the job.
So, attach to those tasks the deadline, set of skills required, location, if any equipment is needed. Now, you should be working in a PM tool to make this work easier. It’s recommended that the tool be cloud-based, so you and your team can access it online.
An online Gantt chart is a great resource management software tool. You can easily import your spreadsheet, keeping all your old formatting, and now you have a visual timeline in the bar chart to the right. There each task is shown in a horizontal line indicating its duration, and you and you can simple link tasks that are dependent on one another to avoid blocking team members.
Calculate the Resource Demand
As you schedule, you’re going to have to develop an idea of how much time and resources are going to be required for each task. That is what’s called a resource demand. This will determine how long you set as the duration for each task.
Another factor to keep in mind is that your team is a resource, and you’re going to need to schedule their time. To do this fairly and accurately, you need timesheets with calendars that are best if color coded, telling you when a team member is out for a holiday or taking personal time off.
Again, an online scheduling software feature is that you can share this timesheet or calendar with your team, which helps with scheduling and organizing meetings. You can add milestones and other important dates here, too, which helps keep everyone on the same page.
What is the amount of resources you’ll need when in production of whatever your project goal is? That’s the resource capacity. With your online Gantt chart and resource scheduling software you are better able to control the future availability of your team, tools, equipment, space, etc. That is another way of saying your resource capacity.
You need to know how much work your team does on a typical day, which is something you can track on the online Gantt chart, as their statuses are updated in real-time giving you not only a clear picture of the project’s progress, but also the data you need to figure out their workload. \
Now you can assign more effectively, not overburdening the over-tasked nor neglecting the under-utilized team member. You can use timesheets that integrate with your PM tools to save you time by allocating tasks to the right team member with a simple keystroke.
Capacity vs. Demand
Capacity and demand can change throughout the project. Your schedule is a living document, which is another reason you want to have it on an online Gantt chart with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop feature to make scheduling changes a snap. You are going to be forever tweaking your scheduling to match the available resource with the task that needs immediate attention.
This is how you avoid bottlenecks in your schedule, by staying flexible and knowing where your resources are allocated at any given moment in the project. There are many ways to stay on top of the project schedule, communications being one of the most crucial. If your project schedule software has chat and collaborative features, such as file attachments, you can stay abreast of issues and help to resolve them before they become problems.
There’s much more you can do, of course. There’s planning to further insure you stay on schedule, and reporting to track the progress of your project accurately and make sure you’re not falling behind. That’s why you’re going to want an online project management software that has tools addressing each of these aspects of the project. They all work together to make your more productive.
From tasks and those tasks that are dependent on other tasks, to demand, capacity and the ability to monitor your resources throughout the life cycle of the project, you want an online tool that gives you these features in real-time, so you’re managing not chasing after resources. ProjectManager.com is cloud-based, user-friendly and helps teams work together more efficiently. Try it for yourself by taking a free 30-day trial.