By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics, American Public University
In the last seven months, many companies have learned the art of the pivot during this pandemic, and they have integrated ecommerce into their daily business operations. Key project management concepts like costing, budgeting and closing are becoming more widespread, and one particularly noteworthy aspect of remaining relevant in today’s business world is scheduling.
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What Is Scheduling in Project Management?
Effective scheduling has helped companies successfully execute projects for over 50 years. For instance, it is important for on-time delivery, seasonal projections and resources management.
Another important aspect of scheduling and delivery is allocating adequate time for each task. This work is known as the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
According to John Quigley of Assembly, “The WBS connects specific work to the scope of the project, ensuring that only the work required to accomplish the scope is included. The WBS should be developed with the help of multiple team members, ensuring that all skills needed to deliver the project scope are included, as well as identifying who needs to communicate what to whom and when.”
Quigley adds, “The results of the work discovery will provide a foundation upon which we can estimate costs, set schedules and identify resources, risks and talent requirements for the project. Knowing the expected deliverables and who is responsible for them connects the work to estimating activities for duration and costs. In the long run, some of this breakdown will give us clues as to how project items will be put together in the form of schedule.”
Scheduling should also determine the overall duration of the project and the amount of flexibility needed for the project. Scheduling includes developing work packages to determine what work will be performed. Those people who are responsible for executing a work package should be included on the decision making to develop an accurate forecast for the completion of that work.
Utilizing Subject Matter Experts in Scheduling
It’s important to have subject matter experts (SMEs) lend their expertise to a project. In most large projects, SMEs are needed for a specific period of time, as opposed to the entire project.
Accurate estimation is vital to determine the exact period of time needed for each SME. In addition, determining the SME’s needs over the project’s duration will help decision makers to figure out who is best suited to work on the project.
Activities, milestones, deliverables and start/end dates will be used to measure the time needed to schedule the project. In some cases, staffing can be shifted if needed, which means applying human and physical resources to complete a project.
Developing the Critical Path in Project Management
Bill Siwicki of Healthcare IT News makes the point that a schedule is often developed using collaborative software, so multiple team players can view, comment, and even make adjustments to the schedule in some cases. Also, a single value is needed for each work package to determine the critical path; these are mandatory steps needed to complete a project on time.
Any adjustment to the critical path affects the overall duration of the project. Inputs and outputs are also essential elements in the development of the critical path.
In other words, a work package is dependent on previous processes. The project manager (PM) should monitor critical path activities closely and if needed, identify those tasks that have slack to make adjustments accordingly.
A task without slack can become a part of the critical path. A previous output is needed for the next input to determine the earliest possible time a work package can start. In some cases, work packages can be executed at the same time.
A well-developed schedule can help determine not only the overall budget for a project, but at what point resources will be needed to execute specific work packages and tasks. The accumulation of resources is important to ensure that overall project goals and funding are meeting organizational expectations.
Developing Effective Scheduling Techniques Is Critical for Good Project Management
Overall, a competent project manager can achieve the successful execution and delivery of a project using effective scheduling techniques. Effective scheduling helps assign resources and human capital chronologically over time, and it is an important aspect for delivering a project on time and within budget.
About the Author
Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has 20 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.
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