As your project grows larger, your project management processes need to become more rigorous and structured. (The reverse is also true: Processes should be simpler for smaller projects.)
Normally, the process used to update and manage a project schedule is pretty clear. For example, you might receive updates from your staff every Friday and assign new duties each Monday.
However, such a simple process may not be rigorous enough for a very large project. The project manager on a larger project may need to plan ahead to understand and communicate how he or she will manage the schedule. The document used to define this is a schedule management plan.
A schedule management plan is part of the overall project management plan, which includes all of the documents the project manager needs to manage the project successfully.
Here are some specifics that a schedule management plan can define for a project:
- Roles and responsibilities: Describe different roles, and define their responsibilities for schedule management.
- Schedule owner: This is likely the project manager. It would be rare that a formal project manager would not own the schedule.
- Update responsibilities: Normally the project manager is in charge of updating the plan, but things can be more complex on larger projects. For example, a project administrator might make the initial schedule updates based on the project status reports and then send the draft to the project manager for final updates. Team members can also update the status of their assigned activities, leaving the project manager to perform a final analysis after those updates.
- Access to the plan: Schedules are typically not kept confidential, so anyone can access and read them. However, if you have reasons to keep the schedule more secure, you can specify the access. For example, you might not want contractors to read it.
- Update frequency: Describe the timing of schedule updates. In many projects, users update the schedule on the morning of the first workday. While you should update the schedule at least weekly, you may also want to do so more often.
- Progress feedback: Describe how you want team members to provide schedule feedback. Such feedback often comes in the form of a team member status report, but it may also come during meetings or through e-mail. Use this section to define how you want to receive this feedback to minimize confusion with team members.
- Schedule change review and approval: Define the process required to evaluate and approve proposed schedule changes. You should also describe who has the authority to accept and approve changes to the schedule. Keep in mind that the approval process doesn’t include internal activity deadlines; instead, it applies to changes in the overall project deadline. The project manager may have some discretion to extend the deadline date by some number of days or weeks, but after a certain threshold, some formal body may need to approve the change.
- Tools: Describe any scheduling tools that the team will use on this project, who has access to the tools, and what team members can do with the tools (e.g., read the schedule, update schedule, etc.)
- Reports: Define the types and names of reports you’re using to manage the project, who creates them, who receives them, the frequency of the reports, etc.
- Schedule integration: While projects normally keep independent schedules, the master schedule can also serve as a roll-up of other underlying schedules. You could also integrate the schedule with a higher level program or portfolio schedule.
All of these suggested items are components you should think about and define when beginning a larger project. Once you’ve created the schedule management plan, don’t forget to communicate the information to all interested stakeholders — and make sure you follow the plan throughout the duration of the project.
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