The Five Secrets of Project Scheduling

Michelle Colodzin, PMP, MCTS, MS Project Black Belt MetaVista Consulting Group

‡ What is a good project schedule?
± A good project schedule is one that accurately models the work of the project and which maintains a consistent and appropriate level of detail

‡ Common pitfalls of project scheduling
± ± ± ± ± Creating activities-based schedules Creating schedules without sufficient logic Creating schedules which are difficult to maintain Inconsistent schedule update cycles Abandoning a schedule during project execution
‡ Most schedules are abandoned at some point during a project ‡ Abandoning a project schedule results in an increased likelihood of project failure

‡ Applying these secrets consistently will increase the likelihood of project success

Create and follow project scheduling standards . Determine the appropriate level of detail 3. Create deliverables-based project schedules 2. Review and adjust the schedule regularly 5. Implement a regular status update and reporting process 4.The Five Secrets of Project Scheduling 1.

physical computer hardware. ± Activities are performed by team members in order to create a deliverable ‡ Activities consist of one or more tasks: gather system requirements. install hardware. test system access and features . etc.Secret # 1: Create Deliverables-based Project Schedules Deliverables vs. install software. application accessible by users. Activities ± Deliverables are products produced by a project ± all projects have deliverables ‡ Deliverables are tangible: documentation.

How to Create A Deliverables-Based WBS ‡ WBS = Work Breakdown Structure ± See PMBOK for further definition and purpose of WBS ‡ There are two steps to creating a deliverables-based project schedule: 1. their inputs and outputs .Necessary to determine what is in and out of scope .Owner can be individual or role (e.Must have single primary owner ± even when many people will be working together to complete a deliverable 2.Scheduler uses network diagram to create WBS ..Scheduler facilitates session w/leads to build a network diagram listing all deliverables. Build a deliverables-based work breakdown structure (WBS) . Identify all deliverables and their ³owners´ . ³Infrastructure Manager´) .g.

Deliverables-based Network Diagram Example Simple example of system implementation project deliverables. owners and dependencies .

Business Processes ‡ ‡ List each group with its associated deliverables Tasks and activities necessary to create each deliverable are listed under each deliverable .Creating a Deliverables-based WBS ‡ Group the deliverables listed in the network diagram into logical areas ± ± ± ± Often grouped by functional area Frequently determined by project organizational structure Optimally it will determine project organizational structure Groups from example network diagram 1. Application 3. Infrastructure 2.

1 Task B 1.X .2 Install S/W 1.1 Task A 2.0 Install H/W 1.0 Infrastructure 1.3 2.1 Task B Establish NW Connectivity 1.1 Task A 1.x Document Process Update Plan X.3 Establish Monitoring 1.1.1.SIMPLE WBS EXAMPLE Basic Software Implementation Project Software Implementation Project 0.2 Task X 2.X 1.X X.2 Conduct Training 2./Code Changes 2.0 Document Req¶d Changes X.1.4 Make Config.1 Task A X.0 Install Apps 2.1 Task B X.x Applications 2.2 Document App Maintenance Plan X.1.3 Task X X.1.1.x Business Process X.1.2 Task X 1.

21 Terri Trainer Terri Trainer PMO Manager Applications Mgr 8 11 12 13.1 1.2 3.1 2. Manager Predecessors Resource Names 2 Applications 3 Business Process .Sample High-Level Schedule Built from Sample WBS ID 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 WBS Task Name 1 Infrastructure 1.3 2.1.1 3.1 1.1 2.2 1.20.2 3.2.4 3.21 14 Joe Jones Joe Jones Joe Jones Terri Trainer 3 2 5 6.2 2.1 2.3 1. Maintenance Plan Business Process Documentation Complete Duration 14 days 6 days 2 days 4 days 2 days 1 day 5 days 0 days 24 days 4 days 2 days 2 days 10 days 10 days 0 days 4 days 2 days 1 day 1 day 2 days 2 days 0 days Work 112 hrs 48 hrs 16 hrs 32 hrs 16 hrs 8 hrs 40 hrs 0 hrs 192 hrs 32 hrs 16 hrs 16 hrs 80 hrs 80 hrs 0 hrs 48 hrs 16 hrs 8 hrs 8 hrs 16 hrs 16 hrs 0 hrs 8 18 19 19 17.5 2.3 3.1. Monitoring Infrastructure Established Install Apps Task C Task D Perform Config/Code Chgs Conduct Training Applications Ready Document Bus Process Chgs Task E Task F Document Process Update Plan Document Appl.5 7 John Doe John Doe Hardware Mgr Mary Smith Infras.4 1.4 Install Hardware Task A Task B Install OS / System SW Establish Network Connectivity Establish Infrs.

Secret # 2: Determine the Appropriate Level of Detail ‡ The best project schedules are those which contain all of the required information and nothing more ± ± There must be sufficient detail to accurately track and manage the project¶s activities There must not be so much detail that the schedule becomes unmanageable ‡ Since each project is unique there is no single level of detail that is appropriate for all projects or project schedules The level of detail required for a particular project must be defined prior to the start of scheduling and followed consistently throughout the life of the project ‡ .

people management. etc. status reporting.? ‡ If no.? ‡ If yes. how will the time be accounted for? ± Reduce available work hours by x% ± Assume resources are fully loaded at x% ± Will you include activities performed by those outside of the project team? ‡ If yes ± who will be the task owner? ‡ If no ± how will out-of-project dependencies be managed? . how will they be represented? ± A single task representing all administrative activities? ± Tasks for each type of admin activity. resource leveling. etc. meetings.What Type of Details Should be Included? The type of acceptable tasks must also be defined up front ± Will you include administrative activities such as meetings. status reporting.

10%´ Rule* which states that the duration of any detail task should be between 1% and 10% of the total project duration ‡ For example. . Referenced with permission of the author. if the project duration is expected to be 100 days. then all detail tasks should have a duration between 1 and 10 days ± This rule can also be applied to the total work hours instead of total duration * ³1% -10% Rule´ developed by Eric Uyttewaal. PMP in his book µDynamic Scheduling with Microsoft® Office Project 2003¶.How Much Detail is Too Much? ‡ The level of detail required may be defined as a range of acceptable task durations and/or work effort ± A good rule of thumb is the a ³1% .

the scheduler should ask the following four questions: 1. Is the task at an appropriate level of detail? 3. Does this task have at least one predecessor and/or one successor? ‡ If the answer to any of these questions is ³No´ it should not be included in the schedule .How Do I Know Whether to Include a Task? ‡ To determine whether a task should be included in a project schedule. Does this task have at least one named or generic resource assigned? 4. Does this task directly contribute to the completion of one or more specific deliverables? 2.

how often the information will be collected and the method for collecting and validating the information The first step in developing a regular update and reporting process is to work with the project manager and key stakeholders to determine the reporting requirements and expectations ‡ ‡ .Secret # 3: Implement a Regular Schedule Status Update and Reporting Process ‡ A project schedule must be updated regularly to ensure ongoing integrity and to enable monitoring of project progress The project scheduler is responsible for determining how to gather task status information.

) Resource Utilization ± the number of hours each resource is scheduled to work during the next period (week. etc.General Reporting Guidelines For most projects. etc.) This is often used in conjunction with the ³Look-ahead´ report to ensure assigned resources are available to complete the work assigned in a given time period while maintaining a realistic workload Schedule Issues/Risks ± a listing/description and status of issues or risks related to the project schedule. month. ‡ ‡ ‡ . months. weeks. ³Look-ahead´ ± a listing of deliverables and associated tasks either currently active or becoming active in a specific ³look-ahead´ window (number of days. The level of detail of this report will often be dictated by the audience receiving it. quarter. These should be linked to the specific task(s) associated with the issue/risk. This report frequently shows the actual status of key deliverables compared against the baseline schedule Duration and/or Work Variance ± specific tasks. activities and/or deliverables that are taking significantly more (or less) time than expected and/or are requiring significantly more (or less) work than anticipated. the following is a list of minimal reporting requirements: ‡ ‡ Executive Overview ± overview of project status at a high level.

this must be formal and occur regularly ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ .it must reflect actual changes occurring on the project All projects experience unexpected events ± successful projects have a process for incorporating these events into the project schedule All projects should establish and follow a schedule change control process For smaller projects.Secret # 4: Review and Adjust the Schedule Regularly ‡ A good project schedule must not be static . this may be informal and occur on an as-needed basis For larger projects.

usually minor.Schedule Change Control ‡ There are two types of schedule changes: Major and Minor ± ± Minor schedule change control should consist of a clearly defined set of. changes that may be made without going through the change control process (e. adding or modifying resource assignments) Major changes (those which do not meet the criteria defined for minor changes) must follow a formal change control process ‡ A good schedule change control process consists of: ± A formal schedule change request process which includes: ‡ ‡ ‡ a summary of the change request (including the business reason) an analysis of the impact of the change on the schedule and/or budget the implications of rejecting the change ± ± ± ± A finite set of people who are authorized to approve changes to the project schedule All approved major changes must well documented as to the reason(s) and the expected outcome of the change A lessons-learned capture process and/or repository An archive of earlier versions of the project schedule to show the evolution of the schedule and to retain historical information ..g.

Secret # 5: Create and Follow Scheduling Standards ‡ The use of scheduling standards can significantly reduce the time required and eliminate some of the complexity involved in developing a realistic and maintainable project schedule. Scheduling standards help ensure consistency when schedules are created by multiple schedulers and/or project managers. Scheduling standards are particularly important in a PMO environment ‡ ‡ .

‡ It is a good practice to base specific scheduling standards on an industry-accepted document such as the PMICOS standard and/or industry-accepted best practices. . supports and monitors their use within the project schedules developed for projects under their sphere of influence or control.Scheduling Standards ‡ Scheduling standards are specific guidelines for creating and maintaining project schedules within a single or multiple related organizations ‡ Scheduling standards are created or adopted by an organization which then champions.

Why Follow Scheduling Standards? ‡ They contribute to the development of realistic and manageable project schedules ‡ They help ensure consistency in the structure and level of detail across project schedules ‡ They help ensure information reported from schedules built using consistent standards can be more easily compared and leveraged ‡ They help ensure consistency in schedulerelated processes (such as reporting and change control) .

project schedulers and other stakeholders receive consistent.How Scheduling Standards Improve the Project Success Rate ‡ ‡ ‡ They can reduce the time required to create and maintain project schedules by defining up front the schedule¶s structure and level of detail Standard processes help facilitate the ongoing capture and application of lessons learned The processes defined to ensure adherence to standards contribute greatly to an environment where project managers. trusted information which can be used to continually improve the process of project scheduling and overall project management across the organization They help ensure project success by making it easier to identify potential problems in advance ‡ .

tools and templates ± Capture lessons learned and build a repository where schedulers and project managers can: ‡ document and share their experiences and knowledge ‡ Store and retrieve schedules which worked well in similar situations ‡ build and share new processes tools and templates .Using the Five Secrets for the First Time ‡ When implementing these secrets for the first time: ± start small and focus on the strengths of the organization ± Develop a small set of scheduling standards and simple processes.

Using the Five Secrets in a Mature PMO Environment ‡ Create a Centralized Scheduling Practice ± Train project managers how to build and use a good project schedule ± Take on responsibility for scheduling all projects or providing project schedulers to other parts of the organization ‡ Benefits of Centralizing Scheduling in the PMO ± Centralizing schedulers and scheduling helps ensure that standards and processes are followed consistently ± It offers better visibility into what is working well and where improvements are needed ± Increased overall project success rates due to better schedules that are followed and managed consistently throughout the organization .

many organizations overlook or downplay their importance ‡ Using the five secrets requires discipline and consistency ‡ Following the five secrets results in: ± Schedules which are easier to manage and update ± Reporting consistency and faster identification of potential schedule and/or budget slippage ± Schedules which are more likely to be used throughout the life of a project ± Increased likelihood of project success .Conclusion ‡ These secrets are not new concepts ± however.

Contact Information Michelle . PMP MetaVista Consulting Group Direct: 530-798-1656 Main Office: 916-932-7186 Email: mcolodzin@metavista.

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