Projects seldom progress as scheduled. Unforeseen changes love to impact timelines and tasks. But it doesn't have to be this way. The four tips below show how your team can improve their project scheduling skills.
1. Stay laser-focused on how scope changes impact timelines
Project requirements drive all milestones and tasks, making it essential for project managers to keep end goals in sight. Since business requirements and project goals often change throughout a project's lifecycle, tasks and schedules must be carefully adjusted to avoid missed objectives and unintended consequences. This may seem obvious, but too often even the most minor change in scope results in a scheduling nightmare.
Make sure to trace any scope changes back to the timeline, and determine how it impacts the timeline and the ability to deliver goals. Avoid rushing this process since it is easy to miss something that may throw a task off schedule and negatively impact dependent tasks.
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2. Create a detailed WBS
A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a vital document that breaks a project down into individual tasks to make project schedules more manageable. It details all the work required to meet project goals and successfully deliver the customer's product or service.
Without the WBS, requirements may be missed, and deliverables—or possibly the entire project—will miss the mark.
Three key WBS benefits:
- It maintains clarity around team roles and responsibilities.
- It ensures tasks are completed on time.
- It allows teams to track all activities.
Consider the WBS a turn-by-turn roadmap for keeping a project on schedule.
3. Use task and resource scheduling tools suited for your industry
Don't create project bottlenecks. Consider using task and resource scheduling tools, which automate the once manual task of identifying and tracking available resources and progress around current tasks. Many tools are available that make it easier for companies to not only gauge the task's progress, but also identify over and underutilized resources and re-allocate tasks as needed with a simple drag-and-drop action. By doing so, resources are immediately notified about changes.
These tools give organizations the ability to become more agile. However, keep in mind not all tools work well for every company or industry, making it necessary for companies to research and identify the best options for their projects.
SEE: Project prioritization tool: An automated workbook (Tech Pro Research)
4. Develop strategies and multiple backup plans
Projects seldom progress as scheduled. When examining risks, always link back to the impact on the schedule. You and your team should assess all potential risks by looking at each task from multiple angles. By doing so, it allows the project manager and their team to identify risk strategies and additional backup plans to avoid bottlenecks and missed deadlines.
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Moira Alexander is the author of "LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership" and Founder & President of Lead-Her-Ship Group. She's also a project management and IT freelance columnist for various publications, and a contributor and co-host of the "technically speaking" segment on the Price of Business Talk Radio. She has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada. To find out more about Moira, go to www.leadhershipgroup.com.