Project Scheduling – The Central Piece Of A Project Management Software

By | November 30th, 2011|Project Management Software|Comments Off on Project Scheduling – The Central Piece Of A Project Management Software

Project scheduling should be considered the central piece of any project management software. Without the possibility to easily schedule all the tasks of a project there would be little expectation regarding the efficiency of controlling complex projects. However a project scheduling software should simplify a project managers work and not complicate it.

The project schedule

The project schedule is the central part of the project plan and it is used to connect the tasks to be done with the resources that will accomplish them. It consists of a list of deliverables with intended start and finish dates. Deliverables are the lowest level elements in a schedule, which are not further subdivided.

In addition, the schedule provides project teams with a map for project execution and offers a baseline for tracking progress and managing changes. It can be used as a checklist to make sure that all necessary tasks are performed. If a task is on the schedule, the team is committed to doing it. In other words, the project schedule gives the means by which the project manager brings the team and the project under control.

The visual representation of a schedule is a timeline chart. It is created such that it depicts the tasks of the projects, the duration and the sequencing of them, and the major milestones of the project. The Gantt chart is the most popular timeline chart.

Prior to creating the project schedule the project manager must have a work breakdown structure (WBS), an effort estimate for each task, and a list of resources with availability for each resource. Once these data are established a project scheduling tool can automatically do much of the tedious work of calculating the schedule. However, before a project manager can use such tools, he should have an  understanding over concepts like WBS, dependencies, resource allocation, critical paths etc. These are the real keys to planning a successful project.

When establishing the project schedule a few important steps must be performed:

  • Establish dependencies – The first step in building the project schedule is to establish the order in which tasks are going to be performed. The WBS structure will be used as input. A dependency will be created between two tasks if one depends on the other. There are four types of dependencies: Finish to Start, Finish to Finish, Start to Start and Start to Finish.
  • Assign resources to tasks – The next step is to identify the resources required to perform the work. A resource is any person, item, tool, or service that is needed by the project. Based on its availability the schedule might get adjusted in time.
  • Create the schedule – Once the dependencies are established and the resources are assigned the project manager must enter the work effort or the duration for each task. With this information in place a project scheduling software should be able to automatically arrange the tasks and calculate a final date for the project.

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Tips And Common Practices For Project Managers

By | November 28th, 2011|Project Management Software|Comments Off on Tips And Common Practices For Project Managers

Nowadays almost any manager uses some kind of project planning software and the reason for this is simple: software can help and ease a lot the work of any person.

Many experienced project managers have created over time a knowledge base of tips and tricks that they can use. However novices are not that lucky. They need to gain all these in time. In this article we shall try to present some of the most encountered ones.

Keep your project as dynamic as possible

Projects tend to move and change in time and for this reason there must be an easy way to update it. If it is created using hard constraints a simple shift in time might actually be a very hard to do operation. Here are some things that you should take into consideration:

Use of constraints. Constraints on tasks impose certain restrictions in the scheduling algorithm because it relates to certain dates. Fixed dates should be avoided as much as possible since this links the project to a certain time period. Instead of using dates to specify the sequence of tasks you should rather think at adding dependencies between them.

Creating dependencies. If certain gaps must be created in the sequence of tasks within a project then these should always be represented using dependencies with “leads” or “lags”. This is very useful in case of shifting the project in time. Do not simulate them using false tasks or hard constraints. Using false tasks will result in an increased total work and constraints will make the project to be connected to certain dates. Furthermore dependencies should be avoided to be used to resolve resource overallocations.

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Make Sure Your Projects Are On Track

By | November 18th, 2011|Project Management Software, Project Tracking, Resource Management|Comments Off on Make Sure Your Projects Are On Track

A good plan is just the first step to the success of a project. The real work starts only after the project plan is ready. As a project manager you have to track the project’s evolution and make sure it follows the initial plan as much as possible. And the easiest way to accomplish this is through the use of project tracking software.

It is a well know fact that the initial plan does not always fit your expectations. The unpredictable happens. To increase the chances for project success, once your project is started the project manager needs to constantly monitor its progress keeping up with what everyone is doing. There are several factors that need to be kept under control: activities, resources and work, budgets and costs, progress.

Activities

Activities in a project can be categorized based on certain characteristics as projects, phases, milestones and tasks (the term task is generally used for all these terms). A milestone is a key event marking the end of a major stage of a project. And for this reason managing milestones is the most important factor. Essentially these are the deliverables which your project sponsors will remember and keep asking you about. You need to immediately recall these dates to instill a sense of confidence in your ability to be on top of things. The key here is to have a clean layout over the milestone plan and to make sure you check them as completed at the already planned dates. You can do it sooner but not later.

The next important activities are the low level ones. Since phases are just a summary of all these tasks it is obvious that once the tasks are efficiently tracked all the above levels up to the root project are also on schedule. In this case the key is to easily determine the critical path of the project and to constantly track those tasks. Project management tools like Gantt charts can make this job as easy as possible.
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