Every successful project, regardless of size or scope, starts with proper project schedule management. A project schedule is a roadmap of how the project will be executed from start to end. It details the activity’s start and end dates and the sequence to follow for a successful end. A schedule should be able to tell where the project is and what is remaining to be done.

However, for the schedule to serve its purpose, project schedule management is paramount. This is the procedure that establishes the documentation and policies for developing, monitoring, controlling, and managing the schedule for resources and time allocated for timely and successful completion.  

In this article, we discuss the role of project schedule management in project completion, the challenges that are likely to occur as well as the tools for effective schedule management.

What is the role of project schedule management?

Ideally, project schedule management can be defined as the important process necessary to ensure that a project is completed within the constraints of time and resources. Simply put, it is the activities required to help project and resource managers be on top of the project schedule for the entire duration of the project. The following is the role of schedule management in project management.

1.  Schedule development

Schedule management starts with developing the schedule of the project. Activities that are important in this function include:

2.  Schedule approval

The buy-in from the project stakeholders is necessary in implementing the schedule. The role of schedule management in this step is to negotiate with the stakeholders for their approval. The stakeholders have to approve the schedule for them to make available the required resources and people to carry out the tasks. Once the approval is obtained, the project lead creates a baseline and communicates the schedule with the team.

3.  Monitoring the schedule

The other role of schedule management is monitoring the schedule as it progresses. (and that’s the reason you should know how to choose time tracking software). This role involves focusing on the progress of the project to determine the status at any given time. The project manager identifies how the schedule is changing from the influence of other internal and external factors and the impact it has on the project schedule. This is also important in determining the cause of action necessary to bring the project back on schedule to avoid delays or to accommodate the changes into the schedule.

4.  Updating the project schedule

Schedule management also involves updating the schedule regularly, taking into account the changes that have happened since the start of the project. This calls for project managers to determine the process to use in updating the schedule such as analyzing the impact that making the changes will have on the budget, project scope and quality and identifying the people who have authority to make the changes. Additionally, the project manager seeks for stakeholders’ approval and communicates the changes to the team.

Potential challenges in project schedule management

Schedule management isn’t a mean feat. The process of schedule management from schedule development, monitoring and updating is without project management challenges. Here are common challenges to look out for.

Getting the activities duration right is very important in effective completion of the project. Yet, it is one of the hardest things to get right. Additionally, during the approval stage, the stakeholders are highly likely to underestimate the time it can take to complete some tasks. This is because they are not actively involved in doing the work, or they want to save on resources. Unfortunately, underestimating the time can lead to project overrun in terms of time and resources. Pushing the team too hard reduces the effectiveness, which impedes their productivity.

Communication is critical in schedule management in ensuring that every person involved works on the same page. Inadequate communication leads to time wastage as employees leave their work to ask for clarifications or find information themselves. On the other hand, over communicating can lead to message overload and confusion. Project managers need to keep the team and stakeholders updated about the schedule, the changing priorities and more. Keeping in mind the importance of effective communication in project completion can go a long way in overcoming this challenge.

It is not always that the schedule will go according to plan. Project managers need to anticipate risk and estimate the impact it can have on the schedule if it occurs. Failure to do this can result in an unrealistic schedule. Unfortunately, determining potential risks can be challenging.

Managing workflows, especially when the scope is big, can be quite a challenge for so many people. Unfortunately, not being able to manage workflows properly makes it harder to manage changes as they deviate the project from the original schedule.

Investing in project management software can help mitigate some of these challenges. However, effective project management is very crucial even with technology in place. It takes the expertise of a project manager with knowledge in these different areas to ensure effective schedule management. Engaging project managers who have PMP certification training is paramount. This training equips project managers with the skills required to oversee a project from start to finish, schedule management included.  

Tools for effective project schedule management

Project schedule management tools help streamline the processes and operations to save time and enhance accuracy. They make it easier to develop, monitor, update and communicate the project schedule while keeping the team highly engaged. Thankfully, most project management software comes integrated with valuable tools for schedule management. Here are some of schedule management tools to look out for:

1.  Gantt charts

This tool shows the project timeline and the dependency between tasks. It can be helpful in tracking schedule progress, identifying delays and keeping an eye for any deviations from the schedule. Additionally, it comes in handy in identifying tasks necessary to ensure timely completion of the project.

2.  Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

This tool helps in breaking down the project goal into small actionable steps – tasks and sub-tasks. With WBS in place, it is easier to see the clarity of the schedule timeline.

3.  Project baseline

This tool helps in real time tracking of the project progress. It helps compare the project schedule to the actual performance.

4.  Communication and collaboration tools

These are critical in ensuring effective communication and team collaboration to ensure that everyone works on the same page.

5.  Time management and scheduling tools

Time management tools help track the time that team members spend on a particular task. Scheduling tools give a view of which tasks team members are working on and if they are in a position to take on more work.

Conclusion

Project schedule management is an important aspect of project management. Its roles include schedule development, schedule approval, schedule monitoring and schedule updating. However, schedule management is without challenges. They range from time estimation inaccuracies to poor communication among others. The good thing is that there are available tools to mitigate these challenges and ensure effective project schedule management and a successful and timely completion of the project.

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