A proper schedule management plan helps you deliver a project on time. The project scheduling process starts before the schedule is made and continues throughout the project life cycle. An ideal plan includes setting expectations and includes information on how to develop, manage, execute and control the project schedule.
While not an essential part of every project, complex projects should have a schedule management plan to keep your team on track. Regardless of whether you use it throughout the project, it’s an important foundation to know in your project management practice.
What Is a Schedule Management Plan?
A schedule management plan is a document that explains how a project schedule will be created, tracked and managed. Schedule management plans vary depending on the project, but they generally define the scheduling methodology, performance measurements, tools and procedures that will be employed.
Related: Project Scheduling Templates
Creating a schedule management plan is the first step in the project scheduling process as it sets the rules that’ll be followed to create and manage your project schedule.
Once a schedule management plan is created, project managers use project management software to create project schedules by using tools such as Gantt charts, task lists and project calendars. ProjectManager is a robust project management software that has all the project scheduling features you need to create a project schedule.
Roles & Responsibilities
The first thing to do is map out who will do what. You’ll need to assign someone who owns the schedule, 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 itself will update the schedule as they file their status when working on a task. It is typically the project manager who gives 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 may update the schedule on another day or opt for bi-weekly updates. Weekly updates are considered the norm and are highly recommended, but the frequency with which you update your schedule is determined by the project, stakeholders, organization and more.
Feedback is an integral process in any schedule management plan. Schedules are flexible and the status reports you get from the project’s front-line team members are crucial in order to meet the changing needs of the project. To ensure this channel stays open and nothing falls through the cracks, you need to determine how feedback is delivered. This could be through status reports, team meetings or other communications.
As schedules change, the changes need to be reviewed and approved. A team member, again, usually the project manager, must be appointed as an approver to deadline changes. If, however, the change is beyond the accepted float in a schedule, it likely requires approval by upper management and/or project stakeholders.
List the tools that you’ll use to build and manage your schedule. It’s also important to note who will be using these tools and to what extent. Determine the roles such as read-only, edit and update, etc.
Reports allow you to communicate progress to stakeholders, obtain data to make better decisions and keep your project on track. This part of your schedule management plan outlines the types of reports you need, who’ll be generating and receiving them throughout the project and their frequency.
This last component is for those who are managing a schedule that’s 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 is part of the larger project management plan and is a means to make sure you meet project deliverables. It also outlines the processes that allow you to meet your due dates.
A schedule management plan is composed of four sections: schedule development, schedule control, schedule changes and the project schedule. Let’s delve deeper into each of these topics.
Once someone from the project team receives this task, they collect input from the team and write up procedures to help better estimate the duration of each task, the associated costs and the 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 the authority to make changes and so forth.
At this point, you need to determine 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 determine how you’ll measure the schedule such as percentage complete, 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. The team is usually too busy to take this role, too. Make this decision based on your project, your team and the regularity by which these measurements will be taken.
As we mentioned, changes will undoubtedly happen in a project such as added time or costs, and it’s important that you have someone who approves of these changes. This person is usually the project sponsor, someone who isn’t 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
The schedule is often part of the project plan and is included as one of the documents or as an appendix. When the project is larger and the schedule is longer and more complicated, it’s usually incorporated into the project management software tool.
ProjectManager is project management software that helps you manage your project plan and schedule. See how by watching this short video.
Schedule Management Checklist
To make sure your schedule includes all necessary parts and to avoid scope creep, be sure to have answers to the following questions.
- How Will You Develop the Schedule?
Choose software that offers tools to help you create and manage your schedule, such as a Gantt chart, which collects and organizes tasks on a timeline. You should also know the techniques you’ll use to better estimate the time your project will take.
- Who Is in the Loop?
Identify stakeholders who need to stay updated on progress and find out how often and by what means they want to get updates.
- How and When Is Performance Measured?
There are many ways to monitor and track project progress and performance. From dashboards that give high-level snapshots to reports that go deeper into the data, make sure you have the right tools in place before executing your schedule.
- How Will You Stay on Track?
As noted, projects change and you may 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 commonly used techniques are crashing (adding more resources), fast-tracking (executing several tasks at once), changing the scope or revising the schedule.
- How Will Resources Be Managed?
Know the resources you’ll need to complete each task and how they fit into your schedule. You’ll want to have all of the necessary materials on hand when your team is ready to execute that task.
Schedule Management Templates
We offer dozens of free project management templates to help you manage your projects. Here are three templates that are ideal for creating a project schedule and gathering the necessary information for your schedule management plan.
Gantt charts are a versatile tool that allows project managers to create, track and manage project schedules. You can use our free Gantt chart template as an Excel file or import it to ProjectManager to create a project schedule that you and your team can access online.
Creating a work breakdown structure lets you visualize your project tasks and prioritize them accordingly. This is a fundamental step when creating a project schedule. You can download our work breakdown structure template or use our online Gantt chart which has a built-in work breakdown structure feature that automates the process for you.
Before you create a schedule management plan, you’ll need to define your project scope that outlines all of the project work that needs to be done. It’s important that you also determine what won’t be done so you can create an accurate project schedule.
How ProjectManager 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 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 your project tasks and adds start and end dates that populate over a project timeline. You can then tag tasks 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. 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, simply drag and drop the task to the new date and 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 your workflow so managers can see who’s working on what. There are also resource management features that ensure 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 filtered to show solely 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 controls your schedule and gives you the transparency you need to stay on track.
ProjectManager 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-shop 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.