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The Develop Schedule Process in Project Management
By Douglas Ruh, Northwest University

The Develop Schedule process could be viewed as the Estimate Project Duration exercise. The process of developing a schedule is one of the most important parts of the project simply because it will be used by virtually everyone involved with the project. It is a highly visible time management document that intends to keep the project on track concerning attaining start and finish times, and achieving project completion intermediate milestones.

This process is one of the largest of the processes and makes use of 21 combined tools, inputs and outputs.

Developing the schedule usually takes place after the activities have been defined and sequenced and the activity resources and durations have been estimated. The schedule is usually an iterative process allowing for changing resources or activity sequences. This document results in the Schedule Baseline which, when finished and approved is the document that will be used to track the project performance against.

The inputs used in the schedule process are the same as those used in the previous process and include the activity list/attributes, project schedule network diagrams, activity resource requirements, resource calendars, activity duration estimates, the project scope statement enterprise environmental factors and organizational process assets. There is one new input mentioned, the activity duration estimate, which is the output from the last process.

Generally, the tool used for developing the schedule is the Schedule Network Analysis and is actually a group of techniques used in the process.

Critical Path method is one such technique. The critical path defines the path of activities that, if any are delayed, will delay the entire project. There are 3 main purposes to finding the critical path. The first is to determine the project’s finish date. The second is to identify how much float each activity in the paths have. How much can an activity be delayed without upsetting the project deadline? And finally to identify those activities with the highest risk, those that cannot slip without making the entire project late.

The Critical Chain method is nearly identical to the Critical Path method except that with the critical chain method, the activities are analyzed as aggressively as possible and a buffer is set aside for use in managing any slippage anywhere in the chain. Management is usually aware of the buffer, however it is not usually told to the workers.

Resource leveling is used in scheduling after the critical path is determined. Resource leveling is assigning resources to activities to determine what will happen to the project schedule. This tool allows the PM to see what will happen if there are not enough resources to complete the activity as first estimated. The activity and the path will be re-evaluated and the schedule will be leveled to account for resources.

What-if scenario is another tool used and often it is employed using a Monte Carlo analysis. This analysis systematically applies myriad variables to the Activities and processes to obtain the best scenario for scheduling results. Loads and lags must also be applied to the process and activities as part of the scheduling process as they become apparent, usually after the Monte Carlo analysis and are used to tighten up and optimize the schedule. Schedule compression may also be considered at this point in the process and this involves reviewing the schedule and activities to determine if crashing or fast tracking are appropriate.

Crashing is a term used to describe accelerating an activity, shortening its duration, by “crashing the resources, or adding more people. Kind of like when, in high school, to drain a keg faster, accelerating the activity schedule, people would “crash” the party. I am not so sure that this is the correct history behind the term crashing according to PMI but the example seems relevant, familiar and believable.

Fast tracking is simply the process of overlapping activities that may be started at the same time or close in start times that will not adversely affect each other. For instance, when baking a cake, one person may mix the dry ingredients and another the wet ingredients at the same time with no adverse affect on the project. It would create a problem though if you tried to fast track the baking and icing process. The cake must completely bake and completely cool before the icing is applied, this is non-negotiable.

A scheduling tool can be an invaluable tool in schedule building as it facilitates the math and logic processes that are part of the process. There are many different tools on the market that have many different price points and capability levels.

The outputs for this process are the Project schedule. The schedule should include every activity and the start, finish, and durations as well as dependencies. The schedule should also contain the project start and finish dates. Typically the schedule will be in a graphical format such as a Project Network Diagram or a Gantt (bar) chart.

The network diagram is a detail driven tool that arranges activities in their designated paths shoeing dependencies and sequencing. It is useful in determining critical path, and lead and lag times also.

Gantt charts are graphical charts that represent the activities as a bar that stretches over a time period. Each activity in a project has a separate bar. It is easy to see visually, a high level view of activities start and end dates and if there are overlaps in activities. this chart does contain the activity information, however it is best used as an overview or a management and stakeholder reporting tool. Milestone charts may and should be developed at this time as well.

Milestone charts contain the information on significant milestone events or project deliverable in each activity. These are high level charts that are useful in reporting progress against the schedule, to management and stakeholders.

The schedule baseline is created and approved by the stakeholders and the sponsor at this point. The schedule data is compiled, which is data that supports and explains the decision making that went into the schedule process. It is a document that could be useful for upcoming projects. And the project document updates are documented to further document reasons decisions were made and adjustments applied to the schedule during the process.

Northwest University opened to students on October 1, 1934. It is a regionally accredited institution awarding associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degrees.

Note: Implicit permission was given to republish this post, as the article was not copyrighted.

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