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Deliverable-based Project Schedules: Part 4 (#4 in the series Deliverable-based Project Schedules)
By Thomas Cutting

Whether you select a Product or Phase structure, the steps to building a deliverable-based schedule remain the same.

Enter All Tasks. The next step is to fill in all of the tasks associated with the identified list of deliverables. Those deliverables may be the list from the WBS or, like the Phase structured schedule; it may include the separate building blocks (i.e. Requirements Document, etc.).

Drill down to the task level for each deliverables. You can use the WBS or other tool, but eventually you will need to switch to the scheduling tool. Although we are not ready to assign effort to the tasks, the general rule of thumb for the size of a task is between 4 and 80 hours per resources. Anything less than 4 hours is a pain to track and doesn’t offer much payback for the effort. Anything greater than 80 hours is hard to grasp. We are pretty good at understanding and estimating things that can be done in 2 uninterrupted weeks (= 80 hrs). Anything larger becomes difficult to estimate and should be broken into smaller pieces.

Each deliverable should be reviewed with the group or at least the individual that will approve it so include the task Review Deliverable and the milestone Obtain Approval for each one. (Note: a milestone is a task with zero hours and zero duration used to mark an important event or accomplishment.)

Add another deliverable at the bottom of the schedule for Project Management. The tasks under it should include Project Status Reporting, Individual Status Reporting & Time Keeping, Team Meetings, Client Meetings and Management. Some people track project management time as part of each deliverable but it is easier and cleaner to pull it out as a separate item.

The ultimate goal is to have all of the tasks neatly tucked in as sub-tasks under one of the deliverables. Collectively the deliverables constitute the whole of your project scope and anything not part of a deliverable would then be out of scope. However, as you complete your list of tasks, there will be some that don’t seem to fit. There are several possible reasons for this:

  1. A deliverable has been missed. Something needs to be added to the scope of the project. If the scope has been agreed to you may need a change request to add to it.
  2. The task might have been dumped on you when it should really be out of scope. This might require some push back to define your responsibilities.
  3. It may be a legitimate task but the responsibility of another group. You may want to track the completion of the task but not the effort.
  4. The process or lifecycle may require the task (ex. creating internal assessment documents, updating review committee checklists, etc.). Since the deliverable is a product of the process, these types of tasks can be incorporated into its creation.

You may have to get a little creative with some tasks, but to effectively use the project schedule to track and report progress you don’t want a rambling task list with no structure.

Thomas Cutting, PMP is the owner of Cutting’s Edge ( and is a speaker, writer, trainer and mentor. He offers nearly random Project Management insights from a very diverse background that covers entertainment, retail, insurance, banking, healthcare and automotive verticals. He delivers real world, practical lessons learned with a twist of humor. Thomas has spoken at PMI and PSQT Conferences and is a regular contributor to several Project Management sites. He has a blog at (

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