Proper schedule management helps you deliver a project on time. The process starts before the schedule is even made, and continues throughout the project. An ideal plan includes setting expectations, including how to develop, manage, execute and control the project schedule.
While not an essential part of every project, any complex one should have a schedule management plan to keep you on track. Whether you use it or not, it’s an important plank to know in your project management practice.
Key Elements of a Project Schedule Management Plan
Later, we will go over making a schedule management plan; but first, let’s look at the main components that make up a good one. An important thing to note is that the schedule is usually shared among the entire project team, which is important for transparency and ownership.
Roles & Responsibilities
The first thing to do is map out who will do what. You need to assign someone to own the schedule, which is usually the project manager. Then, decide who has the authority to update the schedule in your scheduling software. This will likely also be the project manager; however, larger projects might have a project administrator who handles this task. In some cases, the team themselves will update the schedule as they file their status working on a task. However, the project manager is usually the one who will have oversight and final approval.
Updating the Schedule
Part of the plan is deciding how often you’ll update the schedule. Sometimes, it’s a Monday morning activity to start the week. Other times, you update the schedule on another day—or not weekly at all, but bi-weekly. Weekly is the norm and recommended, but the frequency with which you update your schedule is determined by the project, stakeholders, organization, etc.
Feedback is an important process in any schedule management plan. Schedules are flexible, and the status reports you get from the team on the front lines of the project are crucial to adjusting the schedule to meet the changing needs of the project. To make sure this channel stays open and nothing falls through the cracks, you need to determine how feedback will be delivered, whether through status reports, team meetings or other communications.
As schedules change, they need to be reviewed, and those changes approved. Someone, (again, usually the project manager) must be appointed as approver to any changes in deadlines. If, however, the change is beyond the accepted float in a schedule, it would likely have to be approved by upper management and/or stakeholders in the project.
List the tools that you’ll be using to build and manage your schedule. Also, note who will be using these tools and to what extent. Choose user’s roles such as read only, edit and update, etc.
Reports let communicate progress to stakeholders, get data to make better decisions and keep your project on track. This part of your schedule management plan will outline the types of reports you need, who’ll be generating them throughout the project, their frequency and who will be receiving them.
This last component is more for those who are managing a schedule that is part of a larger schedule, or one project’s schedule in a program or portfolio of projects. If this is the case, you need to keep track of the other schedules and make sure yours aligns with the overall timeline and strategy of the others.
How to Make a Schedule Management Plan
The schedule management plan, which is part of the larger project management plan, is a means to make sure you meet the demands of your project and get its deliverables complete on deadline. It sets out the processes that will allow you to meet your due dates.
A schedule management plan is basically composed of four sections, schedule development, schedule control, schedule changes and the project schedule. Let’s go deeper into each of these topics.
Once a person from the project team is given this task, they get input from the full team and write up procedures to help better estimate the duration of each task, the associated costs for the budget and resources necessary to complete the task.
This includes a thorough audit of everything necessary to the project schedule (including project management software), who is responsible for developing and managing the schedule, who has authority to make changes and so forth.
Now you want to figure out how to measure and control your schedule. This means having a way to compare your planned schedule and costs against your actual schedule and cost. You must now determine how you’ll measure the schedule, such as percentage complete or hours, cost, etc.
Someone from the team will have ownership of the responsibility to measure progress. Sometimes it’s the project manager, but they are not always the right person for the job. However, the team is usually too busy to take this role, too. You have to make this decision based on your project and team and then the regularity by which these measurements will be taken.
As we mentioned, changes will happen in a project, therefore, you need someone who approves these changes. This includes the added time and costs that might be associated with the change. This person is usually the project sponsor, someone not involved in the day-to-day activities.
Some things to keep in mind as changes occur are: is this a reason to change the schedule? Is there paperwork involved? What’s the timeframe to implement the change realistically? And, of course, who is authorized to approve the change?
The Project Schedule
Often the schedule is part of the project plan and is included as one of the documents or an appendix. But when the project is larger and more complex, and the schedule is longer and more complicated, it is usually incorporated into the project management software tool.
Schedule Management Checklist
To make sure your schedule includes everything it should, and to avoid scope creep and other negative impacts, be sure to have answers for the following questions.
How Will You Develop the Schedule?
Know the software that will help you create and manage your schedule, such as a Gantt chart, which collects and organizes tasks on a timeline. Also, know what techniques you will use to better estimate the time your project will take.
Who Is in the Loop?
Identify those stakeholders that need to stay updated on progress. Then find out how often and by what means they want to get updates.
How and When Will Performance Be Measured?
There are many ways to monitor and track progress and performance on your project. From dashboards that give a high-level view to reports that go deeper into the data. Make sure you have these tools in place before executing your schedule.
How Will You Stay on Track?
As noted, things change. You will find yourself behind schedule at some point. It’s not the end of the world, but it requires having a response in place to get back on schedule. Some techniques that are commonly used are crashing or adding more resources, fast tracking, which means executing several tasks at once, changing scope or revising the schedule.
How Will Resources Be Managed?
Know the resources you’ll need to complete each task and then how they fit into your schedule. You don’t want to need some material for a task and not have it on hand when your team is ready to execute that task.
How ProjectManager.com Helps Schedule Management Plans
Managing your schedule is like a smaller project embedded in the larger one. Regardless of the size of the project, there are timelines to meet, resources to manage and teams to assign. You need to keep everyone working to capacity and monitoring their progress and workload. That’s a lot to do, which is where ProjectManager.com comes in. Our award-winning software keeps you organized and productive.
To build your schedule and then management takes a robust tool. Our online Gantt chart collects all your project tasks, adds start and end dates, which populates them over a project timeline. Then you can tag them for priority, so your team knows what’s most important to complete and when. To easily track progress, the whole schedule can be broken down into distinct phases with our milestone feature.
Costs for labor and resources can also be collected on the Gantt. Once you have your schedule complete, you can filter to see the critical path and even set a baseline, which allows you to measure project variance when the project is being executed. You’ll always know if you’re on track or need to make adjustments to get back on schedule. If you need to change something in your schedule, just drag and drop the task to the new date. Everything is automatically updated.
Teams have the option to organize their own work with one of our multiple project views, such as a dynamic task list or calendar. The kanban board view visualizes workflow, so managers can see who’s working on what and not get in the way. There’s also resource management features that make sure teams have what they need without overburdening them. Our workload page keeps your team’s tasks balanced for greater productivity.
Finally, communicating project performance to your stakeholders keeps them happy and allows you to maintain your schedule. Our one-click reports can be generated and filtered to show just the data you and your stakeholders want to see. It’s simple to share, too, either as a PDF or even printed out when you’re presenting to stakeholders. ProjectManager.com controls your schedule and gives you the transparency you need to stay on track.
ProjectManager.com is an award-winning cloud-based tool that builds and manages project schedules, executes plans, monitors progress and reports on performance. It’s your one-stop stop for all your project management needs. See why we’ve helped tens of thousands of teams manage hundreds of thousands of projects and take this 30-day trial today.