15 Best Practices for Project Schedule Management

Success through Proper Project Schedule Management

project schedule management

A few years ago I used to work with a Project Manager. He was very particular about the weekly schedule tracking meetings. He would nag everyone and ask all sorts of questions. He would pester each of his team members for minutest of the details. He would closely monitor each and everything lest something goes amiss. Sometimes we just wanted to avoid these meetings.

I wanted to write a small eulogy for our man, but after reading the above para, you might think otherwise. But don’t get me wrong. It is an eulogy. Let me explain.

After all these years I have realized the importance of regular & periodic schedule tracking. I have very high regard for this person. I have learned a lot from him. I think his persistence to remain on top of the things made him a successful project manager. Somehow, he had a knack for delivering successful projects.

I am sure you would have met some people like him. We may not like them because of their excessive inquisitiveness. But we know that close and regular monitoring is required to deliver successful projects. At the same time, I must urge you to be polite and respectful while monitoring and tracking. We should use good interpersonal skills while interacting with project team members and other project stakeholders.

In my previous article, I talked about 9 benefits of tracking project schedule. I hope that post has inspired you to track the projects regularly. If not, you should read that article. You should also read the previous paras of this article again. My only sincere suggestion is that you should properly manage the project schedule.

What is proper project schedule management? Let us understand it in detail.

The Best Practices

There are 15 critical tasks that you must do while managing & tracking the schedule. By doing these tasks, you will greatly improve the chances of project success.

1. Track Project Regularly & Periodically

You must track the schedule regularly at a defined frequency. The tracking period could be a day or a week or a month, or anything in between but it should be well defined. The tracking period will hugely depend on the size & complexity of the project and stakeholder preferences. A formal evaluation report should be prepared after tracking the schedule and circulated to all relevant stakeholders.

2. Compare Against the Baseline

One of the common ways of tracking a project is to just document the actual dates and forget about the schedule. This does not serve any purpose. You must compare the actual data (dates, expenditure, effort, etc.) against the baseline. A detailed comparative analysis will lead to better project schedule management.

3. Involve Others

You might be the PM but there are other team members who can contribute while you are tracking the schedule. You must involve others. It will not only reduce your burden, but also make others feel responsible & committed. Read the rest of this entry »

RationalPlan – Retina Ready Project Management Software for Mac OS X

Retina readyStarting with version 4.12 RationalPlan offers support for Retina displays on Mac OS X platform. The interface is now sharper and uses high definition icons as per the specifications required by Apple. No more blurry fonts or images.

RationalPlan is a project management software developed to assist project managers in handling their projects and to keep resources and costs under control. The product can be used not only on Mac OS X devices but also on other operating systems like Windows and Linux.

For those users that are working with products like Microsoft Project on Windows or with Merlin Project on Mac OS X, RationalPlan might be a simpler and easier to use solution but with a similar set of features. It was developed primarily to assist novice or accidental project managers but to also offer powerful functions for the more advanced ones.

RationalPlan suite includes:

RationalPlan Single Project – an alternative to Microsoft Project and the perfect solution for novice or accidental project managers
RationalPlan Multi Project – project management software for multiple projects, projects that are interconnected through dependencies and share common resource
RationalPlan Project Viewer – free project management software viewer, the solution for anyone (from project stakeholders to team workers) to view projects details
RationalPlan Project Server – a centralized place to manage the company’s projects while offering concurrent access to different users – solution offered either as a Cloud service or as On-Premise

RationalPlan is designed as an affordable alternative to Microsoft Project with some extra-features like multiproject management and it is covering project management area from WBS construction, project planning and scheduling to critical path management, over allocated resources detection, progress tracking, cost estimation, etc. Gantt chart support as well as various time line reports are also provided. Read the rest of this entry »

9 Benefits of Tracking Project Schedule

Are you Tracking Project Schedule Regularly?

tracking project schedule

There can be only 2 answers to the above question. Yes and No.

I am appalled when I hear PMs say No to the above question. I hear all sorts of myriad funny reasons for not tracking Project Schedule. Here are some of them:

  • Why should I track Project Schedule? The project is going on just fine.
  • Oh! The customer demanded to prepare a Schedule and we prepared it. Now, there is no reason to waste more time on it.
  • There was a project audit some time ago. We prepared a Schedule to keep Auditors happy. Otherwise developing or tracking it is not at all required.
  • Tracking Project Schedule is just a waste of time. It does not provide any tangible benefit.
  • I never track Project Schedule and I have been managing projects for donkey years.
  • Tracking Project Schedule is not a priority at this time.

But many other PMs say Yes to the above question.

It is true that many PMs do track Project Schedule regularly. But some of them do not understand how to do it properly. They would just enter actual dates and/or duration and be done with it. They do not analyse the Actual Project data to see the variances, modify Project Network as necessary, do forecasting etc.

A good PM must use a Project Scheduling tool like RationalPlan to develop and track Project Schedule. The tracking can be done without a tool also but a tool helps in saving time and improving productivity.

In the next article I will throw some more light on what is meant by tracking and how one should track the Schedule. But for now let us understand why Project Schedule tracking is important. Let us take a look at some of its benefits. Read the rest of this entry »

Gantt Charts, Timesheets, Working Calendars – Project Planning in Just Minutes with RationalPlan 4.12

RationalPlan Project Management SoftwareThe latest version 4.12 for RationalPlan comes with a significant improvement for online project planning. Users can now manage their projects directly from a web-browser. In just a few minutes everything is set including project details, working calendars, task planning and scheduling, resource definition and work allocation and the final step: time and cost tracking.

RationalPlan started as an easy to use and straightforward project management software but it evolved into an embedded and powerful system that is now available even as a project management cloud service both for individuals and for companies that need a distributed solution with concurrent access from multiple users.

Important changes for this version

For the online and server side segment the users will get:

  • Improved web-based project management module
  • Timesheets with work and cost distribution
  • Calendars to define the working time
  • Possibility to add links and attach documents on tasks
  • Possibility to import projects

Changes for the stand alone products:

  • HDPI images for Windows
  • Support for Retina display on Mac
  • Faster speed for computing the project critical path
  • Added baseline columns
  • Work with multiple rates per resource
  • Improved integration with MS© Project 2013 files

Doing project management online has the advantage of making things easier with a web-based interface. There is no need to install and configure anything and users have access to the system from any browser as long as they have an Internet connection. All it requires is to create an account.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Portrait of a Project Manager

You study to become a project manager, accrue experience as you lead project after project, update your management skills by attending workshops, exercise leadership each day, and learn from your mentors. But have you wondered what personality traits you need to become an effective project manager or, ideally, a leader? Find out which personality traits are especially useful for a project manager.

Generally, an effective project manager is:

  • Honest
  • Open
  • Diplomatic
  • Assertive
  • Persuasive
  • Able to see the “big picture”
  • Able to handle uncertainty

Probably the most appreciated quality of a leader is honesty. Always keep your promises if you want the team to trust you as their leader. Being open with your intentions and open to suggestions is also something you want to be known for as a project manager if you want to gain your team’s trust and maintain it. Being diplomatic is essential when managing people, as you’ll be managing a palette of personalities, some contrasting with yours or with each other, and you’ll have to make sure the team functions harmoniously as one entity. You’ll have to resolve conflicts, motivate the team to do what they don’t feel like doing, communicate bad news to the key stakeholders, negotiate budget and schedule extensions, and more—all tasks requiring diplomacy. Along with diplomacy, you’ll need to exercise assertiveness and persuasiveness to convince others to support your decisions.

A project manager who cannot see the forest for the trees will be far from an effective manager, and likely lean towards micromanaging. The project manager has to be able to see the big picture at all times, not get lost in details and letting the project’s budget slip while focusing too closely on the tasks being done perfectly according to schedule, for example. Of course, as a project manager, you cannot know everything about every aspect of the project at any time, and this is why you should learn to delegate tasks. This allows you to focus on the big picture of the project at any point along its lifecycle so that you are able to make swift and good decisions should a crisis arise. Read the rest of this entry »

Project Management Risks – Questions and Answers (Part 2)

Risk managementIn my previous post, I’ve addressed the first three questions on risk management and here I address the other two and, at the end, provide a list of take-home messages.

4. How many risks should be on your risk log and for how long?

It depends on the project size, type, complexity, and any other factor that could influence your project. However, in order to be on your risk log, a risk needs to be identified, analyzed (its probability and impact quantified), and mitigation measures applied. Assign a risk owner to each risk. This person is responsible and accountable for monitoring that risk and for defining and implementing mitigation measures.

As you can imagine, not all identified risks will be worth of listing in the risk log, as some risks are just too minor to be worth the cost, or time, of mitigating them. In general, the cost of mitigating a risk should be lower than the cost of the risk consequences if the risk does occur. Importantly, you should never delete risks from the risk log. Even a risk that has occurred can occur again, if not in this project, then in future projects of the organization. In this second case, the risk log becomes a lessons learned piece of documentation.

5. How do you manage project risks?

Risk management is something that needs to be done continuously, throughout the project, not only at the beginning. A project’s success depends on commitment to risk management. Make sure everyone is aware of risk management and appoint risk owners for each risk in the risk log. Regularly review risks, as any change to the project can add new risks or modify the impact and probability of the risks you previously identified.

Manage risks systematically using risk management techniques:

  • Avoid risks. If the project is too risky, the sponsor might decide to cancel the project altogether or modify it to remove the major risks. For this, make sure the sponsor is aware of the risks to the project. Take into account that some sponsors might decide to accept the consequences of some risks.
  • Soften the negative risks’ impact and maximize the positive risks’ consequences to the project.
  • Transfer the risk to a third party (by insurances, guarantees etc.). The risk will still be present, but you’ll have mitigated its consequences by transferring it to another party, usually for a cost.
  • Accept minor risks (those with low probability and low impact) and their consequences if the cost of mitigating them is too high.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why is it Important to Become a PM Credential Holder?

Project Management CertificationThe Project Management Certification has achieved huge recognition in the past few years. The projects which are maintained by certified project managers are more successful than non-certified project mangers. Project management has some specific strategies and principles which will help in making the project successful. These certifications are generally provided by PMI i.e, Project Management Institute located in USA.

PMI is the world’s largest charitable/not-for-profit member ship association for project management profession. It’s main aim is to increase the success rate of organizations by providing certifications on project management. PMI provides eight certifications which are mentioned below:

PMP® : Project Management professional

A PMP Certification course is perfect for the candidates who are interested in leading and directing the projects. PMP® is one of the most prominent certifications provided by PMI.

PMI-ACP : PMI agile certified Practitioner

This course is meant for the project managers who want to implement agile principles to make the project successful in an organization.

CAPM® : Certified Associate in Project Management

This is the entry level of certification for project practitioners. This is meant for those who have less project experience and want to improve their skills further.

PGMP: Project Management Profession

This course is specially meant for those who manages multiple projects simultaneously to accomplish successful projects in a firm.

PFMP : Portfolio Management Professional

This certification recognizes the skill of portfolio managers and provides the ability to manage multiple portfolios to reach the objectives of a firm.

PMI-PBA : Professional in Business Analysis

This course highlights you to gain experience in business field. It will also improve your ability to yield a successful business outcomes. Read the rest of this entry »

How Does RationalPlan Position Against its Competitors?

While publishing our products over a specialized reviews directory we were asked: “How do you position yourself against your competitors?“. To summarize it the answer would be: “RationalPlan puts the accent on productivity and tries to be as easy to use as possible: straightforward and intuitive“.

The Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule)

Compared to other products it has the same power but it is more affordable to the users. If you compare for example RationalPlan Single product with Microsoft Project standard version you get 80% of the functionality at 20% of the price. There was a customer – whose name I can not mention without his approval – that after buying RationalPlan he wanted a refund because he was not finding certain features available in MS Project. After explaining him where he can find that functionality we also recommended to keep the product. A few days later we received this answer: “Now that I get to know RationalPlan better, I wouldn’t want to miss it anymore. You helped me save a lot of money by “preventing” me from buying MS-Project :-)

Embedded project guide

Project management applications tend to be a little bit more complicated and require some training for users to understand how to use them. There are special terms and notions that need additional explanations to understand them. RationalPlan offers an embedded project guide that takes users step by step through the whole process of initiating, planning and controling a project. It is great for a novice or accidental project manager but has the power and the tools to assist an experienced one. Once users get used to the software they can hide the project guide, increase the workspace area and create their own pattern in using the product.

Works everywhere

RationalPlan was developed to work on any operating system: Windows, Mac OS X, different Linux flavors. Even more with the cloud service module it can run directly within the browser no matter what the underlying operating system is.

Great support

One of the main aspects that RationalPlan believes in is the client satisfaction. That is why customer support is a priority. RationalPlan is not a big brand and people do not know it that much but anyone that gets to work with it prefers it over the competitors. Here are just a few testimonials to confirm the customer satisfaction.

However the final verdict is what the users say about RationalPlan products!

Project Management Risks – Questions and Answers (Part 1)

Project Management RiskTo save all we must risk all”, Friedrich Schiller once said. If he were a project manager today, he might say, “To save all we must manage all risks”. Books, journals, corporate websites, YouTube, and discussion forums burst of information on risk management, because risk is inherent to every project just like uncertainty is inherent to any risk. Risk management is essential if you want your project to succeed. This article answers five questions on project risk management:

  1. What is the best definition of project risk?
  2. What’s the difference between a risk and an issue?
  3. How do you identify risks?
  4. How many risks should be on your risk log and for how long?
  5. How do you manage project risks?

1. What is the best definition of project risk?

One of Oxford Dictionary’s 1000 most frequently used words, risk refers to the possibility of something unpleasant, dangerous, or harmful occurring. This negative connotation of risk is so deeply rooted in many people’s minds that it takes some effort to get used to the project management definition of risk: “an uncertain event or condition that, if occurs, has an effect on at least one project objective,” according to the PMBOK.

Risk can be any uncertain event that, if it happens, will be good or bad for the project. Negative risks become threats to the project, while positive risks become opportunities. Risk management should address both types of risks, minimizing threats and maximizing opportunities.

Project risk is something you can control. You must manage risks if you want your project to succeed. However, be aware that there are risks called black swans that you cannot include in your risk analyses. I’ve explained why these risks are special and what you can do to minimize their consequences in another article.

 2. What’s the difference between a risk and an issue?

A risk is something uncertain, so it will happen or not during your project. An issue is an event that has happened or that you know for sure it will happen, even though you might not know when. A risk that occurs becomes an issue. This might be bad news or good news for you and your project, depending if the risk is negative or, respectively, positive. A positive risk becomes an opportunity for your project—for example, the opportunity to finish earlier than scheduled, or below budget, or anything that you might otherwise consider “lucky”. Both risks and issues have causes and consequences. Risk management is the way to deal with risks while problem solving is the way to deal with issues. Read the rest of this entry »

RationalPlan 4.11 – Improved Online Project Planning and Support for High Resolution Monitors

RationalPlan Project Management SoftwareStand By Soft is pleased to announce the release of RationalPlan 4.11. Current version comes with support for high resolutions screens, an improved web-based project management module for the Server product, better support for opening Microsoft© Project 2013 files, custom filters, more predefined roles and much more. Plus starting with this version RationalPlan is also available in Brazilian Portuguese language.

RationalPlan started as an easy to use and straightforward project management software but it evolved into an embedded and powerful system that is now available even as a project management cloud service both for individuals and for companies that need a distributed solution with concurrent access from multiple users.

Important changes for this version

For the online and server side segment the users will get:

  • Improved web-based project management module
  • A project guide
  • More filters and settings
  • New predefined roles (responsible and project manager)

Changes for the stand alone products:

  • Support for high resolution screens
  • Added possibility to change application font size
  • Added Brazilian Portuguese language
  • Improved integration with MS© Project 2013 files
  • Support for creating custom filters and saving filters

Online project planning is now easier to achieve with the new web-based interface from the RationalPlan Cloud solution. Although still in beta users now have interactive Gantt charts, access to manage risks and project details like info, notes, assumptions & constraints. Easy, straightforward and from any place with just a simple access to a web browser. Read the rest of this entry »