15 Best Practices for Project Schedule Management

By | February 5th, 2016|Project Tracking|4 Comments

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. (more…)

9 Benefits of Tracking Project Schedule

By | January 19th, 2016|Project Tracking|0 Comments

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. (more…)

Earned Value Management—An “Overhead” View (PART 2: EVM Drawbacks and Benefits)

By | May 23rd, 2014|Project Management, Project Management Methodology, Project Tracking|Comments Off on Earned Value Management—An “Overhead” View (PART 2: EVM Drawbacks and Benefits)

Earned value management (EVM) is an efficient methodology for monitoring and predicting project performance only if it is correctly and timely applied. Otherwise, it can become a negative risk for the project, as it ends up consuming managers’ and project teams’ time without producing accurate estimates.

EVM Drawbacks or Limitations

Putting an EVM system in place attracts implementation costs, training costs, software costs, and other associated costs. In addition, generally only organizations with a mature project management system – that is, those that use well-defined processes and procedures consistently across projects – rely on EVM. Organizations that have inconsistent project management practices or little experience with projects may have more to lose than to win if attempting to invest their efforts into using EVM, as it requires accurate project planning and effective change management practices. Proper project planning includes, among many others, documenting requirements well and creating a good work breakdown structure – both essential for EVM.

If the project plan is faulty, EVM will result in misleading results, which are not only a waste of time and effort, but may also lead to project failure. Some organizations start employing EVA analyses in their projects, only to find out later that they got no reliable results. Instead, they realize that employing this technique only added to the cost of managing their projects. Usually, in these situations, the culprit is not EVA, but a missing earned value management system, which may well be the case in an organization with little experience in running projects. (more…)

Earned Value Management—An “Overhead” View (PART 1: EVM Basics)

Despite being one of those topics that put project management students into the doldrums, earned value management remains the most effective way for monitoring project performance. It is a project management methodology used by the U.S. Department of Defense and by many private companies all over the world. Besides a PMBOK chapter and the U.S. Department of Defense EVM Implementation Guide, many other resources cover this topic.

This article—structured in two parts—outlines earned value management in an attempt to provide a starting point for anyone interested in exploring the topic or wanting to decide if it is something his or her organization might use.

EVM, EV, EVA, and EVMS—Not Interchangeable Acronyms

According to the authors of the PMBOK, earned value management (EVM) “integrates project scope, cost, and schedule measures to help the project management team assess and measure project performance and progress.” EVM is a system for project management control that uses earned value as a criterion.

PMBOK defines earned value (EV) as “the value of work performed expressed in terms of approved budget assigned to that work for an activity or work breakdown structure component. It is the authorized work that has been completed, plus the authorized budget for such completed work.” (more…)

Fixing a Project that is Behind Schedule

By | July 31st, 2013|Project Tracking, Resource Management, Risk Management|1 Comment

project behind scheduleA project being delayed may seem a reason to panic but schedule slippage is not as rare as some might expect. Depending on the project, there may be things that can be done to fix a delayed project. In some cases, however, there is no choice other than cancelling the project. Before listing any solutions,  there are things that should not be done, at least for most delayed projects.

Just Work Harder?

A simplistic solution for a delayed project is putting up more effort to catch up with the schedule. Some claim that this is as easy as estimating how behind you are and how faster you need to go to catch up. But doing more in less time is only possible if the team has not operated at their full productivity so far, or has not used the most efficient tools possible, and the project being delayed is only a question of improving efficiency or simply the work climate. Overtime work may be a solution but only for a limited amount of time and in the right environment. It actually creates a negative work climate, which has a detrimental effect on the schedule. So is there a way to fix a delayed project?

The Cause of “Evil”

As with all problems, minimizing or cancelling the symptoms does not eliminate the cause and the problem re-emerges. You need to identify the cause of the discrepancy between schedule and reality. You cannot tell that from analyzing the schedule unless there is a specific task that is causing delays or an artificial task dependency. In the first case, add expert resources to bring back on track the delayed task. In the second case, eliminate the artificial task dependency.

3 Ways to Fix a Delayed Project

If you find out that the project schedule is slipping because you have an unclear scope, or a scope creep, you have a serious problem and the project is likely a death march. However in many cases, the team is very good, all tasks were done efficiently, but the project schedule was very optimistic. If it is so, discuss with the management and project sponsor and look for solutions: (more…)

Managing Projects Using Project Baselines

By | September 24th, 2012|Project Management Software, Project Tracking|1 Comment

Baselines in RationalPlan Project Management SoftwareA baseline as the name suggests is a line that is being used as a base for future measurement. It is a reference. In Project Management, the term baseline refers to an accepted and approved project plan. Usually known as project baseline, it is a must for a project manager that wish to monitor and evaluate the success of the project. Without it there is no possibility to compare the current status of the project with the initial estimated one.

Once established what the baseline is, the next important step is to store it for future use. If it is not stored, then it cannot be used to compare against it and it is meaningless. For a project there can be saved multiple baselines depending on the project size and how often the project plan changes.

To obtain the best efficiency a project manager should best use a project management software to create the detailed project plan. After it gets approved the manager should save it as a baseline project plan. During the project execution, comparisons can be done between the initial baseline estimates and the current status to compute variances. This comparison can be done either manually or automatically by software tools. Of course the second approach is preferred.

Types of project baselines

Since a project baseline includes many data from a project it is difficult to manage it as a whole and usually it is broken into several parts. This makes the complexity of baseline management easier to deal with. Project baselines generally include:

  • Scope baseline – the technical, physical and functional requirements for deliverable products
  • Schedule baseline – the project schedule and all of the elements supporting the schedule
  • Cost/Budget baseline – an approved budget usually in a time distribution format used to estimate, monitor, and control overall cost performance on the project
  • Quality/Risk baseline – the set of known possible changes (uncertainties) that could impact the performance of the project (more…)

Project Management – The Light On The Critical Path

By | February 21st, 2012|Project Management Software, Project Tracking|2 Comments

The mysterious critical path notion seems to put project managers in difficulty and especially the novice ones. However if anyone would take just a few minutes from his precious time to pay a closer attention to it things would be a lot more clear.

The origin

In order to clear things up we need to have a background knowledge. On short it all started with the Critical Path Method (CPM) an algorithm for scheduling activities within a project. This method is best used within the project scheduling phase and basically it requires to construct a model of the project that includes:

  • the list of activities needed to complete the project (aka Work Breakdown Structure defined in the project planning phase)
  • the duration estimates for these activities
  • the dependencies between the tasks

Graphical representation


There are two possibilities to render the structure created according to CPM: activity on arrow and activity on node. The most used representation nowadays is the activity on node. The activities are rendered as nodes and each node contains the duration of that activity while the dependencies are rendered as arrows where the arrowhead points to the successor while the tail to the predecessor.

To some extent a Gantt chart can also be considered as a CPM presentation although a more complex one. (more…)

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.
(more…)