First of all, note the title of this step: Develop Project Schedule; not Develop Project Plan. A project-scheduling tool such as Microsoft Project creates a Project Schedule. A Project Schedule is a tool to manage time and resources to accomplish work.
To create the Project Schedule:
- Assemble your planning project team and give each team member a sticky pad.
- Cover a wall of your conference room with white paper or use white boards.
- On the white paper or white boards, write the highest-level categories from the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
- Following the Delivery Process, our high level categories would be Requirements, Design, Build, Test, Deploy, and Closeout. Following project management process, the categories would be Initiating, Planning/Designing, Implementing/Testing, Deploying, and Closing.
A Work Breakdown Structure groups project elements to organize and define the total scope of the project. If it isn’t in the WBS it is outside the scope of the project. The WBS is used with the scope statement in the Project Management Plan to develop or confirm a common understanding of project scope. Each descending level of the WBS represents an increasingly detailed description of the project elements. A WBS from a previous project can often be used as a template for a new project.
- Have the planning project team decompose the WBS into tasks (1 day of effort or less) and write the tasks on the sticky pad sheets.
- Be sure to define the tasks so the project objectives will be met. Any historical information should be considered from previous projects. Place the sticky sheets under the category of the WBS. Identify major tasks and detailed tasks needed to complete the major tasks.
- Next, sequence the activities into chronological order. Identify any dependencies.
- For each task, estimate the hours of work needed and duration if different. The duration estimates can be generated from historical information of similar projects or by performing estimation calculations to provide the most likely duration for the task.
- Assign the resource ROLE such as developer, architect, or network specialist needed for the task.
- The PM will replace generic resources with specific resources when they are assigned by the resource or functional manager
- Be sure to document any assumptions and dependencies made in the schedule
- Other Key Points
- Include Business Owners in estimates
- Estimate future support and maintenance needs
Another WBS example:
NOTE: Initially, you want the team to brainstorm all project tasks without stopping. They can post the sticky pad sheets anywhere under the main WBS phase. As the phase is built out, the activities can be sequenced to show relationship to predecessors.
- At the completion of this exercise, the project manager will be able to complete the Project Schedule using the layout on the white boards or white paper and transfer it to a project scheduling application such as Microsoft Project, Microsoft Excel, or your project management solution.
- This exercise is not only a great way to create a project schedule utilizing the specialized training from your project team, but it is also a great team-building activity allowing team buy-in for the project; the effort needed for proper project completion, and increased communication to the project team. A collaborative workspace will help the project manager to a great extent when the project schedule is complete. The tasks can be imported directly into the collaborative workspace and assigned to project team members allowing them to see their assignments and provide real-time feedback to all project stakeholders.
There are a number of ways to display your project schedule on the white board or white paper. The figure below illustrates the Project Network Diagram with duration in the boxes. You can also list start and end dates as you sequence your project tasks. The Project Network Diagram is a type of Precedence diagramming method (PDM), sometimes called activity-on-node (AON) using boxes or rectangles (nodes) to represent the activities and connecting them with arrows that show the dependencies.
Gantt charts show activity start and end dates and expected durations on bars. The Gantt chart does not show dependencies nor slack, but is relatively easy to read and commonly used for project presentations.
For any type of project schedule, there are four types of dependencies or precedence relationships:
- Finish-to-start—the “from” activity must finish before the “to” activity can start
- Finish-to-finish—the “from” activity must be finished before the “to” activity can finish
- Start-to-start—the “from” activity must start before the “to” activity can start
- Start-to-finish—the “from” activity must start before the “to” activity can finish.
Every project schedule task should have at minimum:
- ID and WBS number for task identification during discussion and assignment
- Task name
- Task duration
- Planned Start and Finish dates (can also have actual start and finish dates)
- Prerequisites to show precedence relationships
- Percent complete
- Resources assigned
- You might also want costing information by assigning hourly rate to each resource and adding a Cost column to the schedule. The hourly rate will be multiplied by the duration of the task to assign cost information.
Ensure the project is leveled using the project-scheduling tool and you have documented any dependencies (mandatory or discretionary). It is recommended the project manager receive training for any project-scheduling tool to be able to use all the features of the tool.
- Identify major tasks and milestones to complete the project
- Identify detail tasks, in chronological order, that are required to achieve each major task
- Work collaboratively with the planning project team to estimate each task’s duration and start & end dates
- Identify tasks that are dependent on the completion of other tasks
- Assign resources to each task
- Document any assumptions in the schedule
- Transfer the schedule to a scheduling tool
- Estimate overall project budget
- Facilitate the approval of the schedule by the sponsor & other key stakeholders
- Remember when distributing a schedule in Microsoft Project, not everyone has the software, so converting it to Excel or printing with Adobe Acrobat may be necessary
Owner of This Step
- Project Manager with Project Team
John F. Filicetti, PMP, MBA
John Filicetti is a Sr. Sales Engineer/PM-PMO-PPM Consultant with a great depth of experience and expertise in enterprise project management, project management methodologies, Project Portfolio Management (PPM), Project Management Offices (PMOs), Governance, process consulting, and business management. John has directed and managed project management teams, created and implemented methodologies and practices, provided project management consulting, created and directed PMOs, and created consulting and professional services in such areas as project portfolio management, Governance, business process re-engineering, network systems integration, application development, infrastructure, and complex environments. John has enjoyed many years as PMO Director for large corpoations in the Seattle area and leads the PMO Roundtable discussion group and forum.
John has attained a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Education/Technology from Washington State University and an MBA from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA.