Introduction to Project Planning and Scheduling
‘Project Planning and Scheduling’, though separate, are two sides of the same coin in project management. Fundamentally, ‘Project planning’ is all about choosing and designing effective policies and methodologies to attain project objectives. While ‘Project scheduling’ is a procedure of assigning tasks to get them completed by allocating appropriate resources within an estimated budget and time-frame.
The basis of project planning is the entire project. Unlikely, project scheduling focuses only on the project-related tasks, the project start/end dates and project dependencies. Thus, a ‘project plan’ is a comprehensive document that contains the project aims, scope, costing, risks, and schedule. And a project schedule includes the estimated dates and sequential project tasks to be executed.
The project planning phase refers to:
- Developing a project to make it ready for investment
- Determines the jobs/tasks required to attain project objectives
Stages of Project Planning
The project planning stages are enlisted below:
- Identifying the key project sponsors and stakeholders, to determine the basis of project scope, budget, and time-frame for project execution.
- Upon enlisting the stake-holder requirements, prioritizing/setting project objectives.
- Identifying the project deliverables required to attain the project objectives.
- Creating the project schedule.
- Identifying the project risks, if any, and develop suitable mitigation plans.
- Communicating and presenting the project plan to stakeholders.
Benefits of Project Planning
- Route-Map: The project plan offers a road-way that gives direction to the project from start to end.
- Documentation of Customer Requirements: A well-articulated project plan enables the record of the requirements of the customers in a documented form. This provides a precise direction instead of relying on assumptions, which could be incorrect and may lead to project errors.
- Task Autonomy: Planning enables one to assign tasks to specific team members and gives autonomy. The team feels a sense of responsibility and ownership of the success or failure of a project. Consequently, it urges them to work better or encourages them to bring inconsistent results.
- Resource Estimation: Planning is vital as in a way, it enables us to estimate resources, costing and time. It gives a judgment of any delays if several members are working on various projects at a time.
- Mitigation Plan: The project plan gives a way to forecast risks, if any, and plan for mitigation strategies accordingly.
- Identification of Employee Capabilities: The planning phase enables to identify employees with certain skill-sets or expertise. And as the tasks get assigned, team members get trained on a lacking skill-sets or either upgraded on the ones they possess.
- Strengths and Short-Comings of Previous Projects: Project plans also help to analyze and improve or learn from the previous project records and facilitate decision-making.
The project scheduling phase refers to:
- Estimation of human resource and material requisite at every stage of the project; and approximate calculative time to complete each of these tasks.
- Indicates the start and end date of each project task and logical connectivity among various project tasks/activities.
Stages of Project Scheduling
The project scheduling stages are outlined below:
- Based on the project scope, design and develop the TBS (Task-Breakdown Structure).
- Identify the project-related tasks.
- Identify the human resources and material requisite
- Evaluate the approximate time required for each and every task
- Allocation of resources
- Analyze the detailed schedule
- Monitor and govern the schedule
Benefits of Project Scheduling
- Reduces Lead Time: The project schedule gives an outline of the tasks that are to be completed on a priority basis or simultaneously with other tasks. This keeps the team members notified about it and prevents any delays or postponing of tasks, thus reducing the lead time.
- Cost Reductions: It enables to monitor of the resources by preventing the overlapping of tasks. It also leads to the effective utilization of resources and returns the unconsumed resources in time, thus cutting costs.
- Facilitates Productivity: Upon evaluating logical connectivity between the tasks, resources that are not optimally utilized can be assigned on extra tasks, thus enhancing productivity.
- Foresee problems in Advance: A precise project schedule enables one to foresee any problems in advance pertaining to either, under or over-utilization, of resources and ensures optimum consumption of the same.
- Sets a Goal: A project schedule allows us to set goals, short-term or long-term, providing a direction and vision while executing the project. It also makes everyone in a team aware of the guidelines and methods to attain these goals. Without a schedule, the project would be vaguely defined. Thus, making it cumbersome to manage and organize the tasks so as to run it successfully.
- Current Progress Updates and Alerts: The project schedule is a sketch that gives way to the project. A project might go through certain challenges, however, if there is no route map, how would a project move in the right direction? In such a case, a project schedule helps in assessing how off-track a project has been and possible ways to bring it in the correct direction.
It is evident that ‘project planning and scheduling’ go hand-in-hand and are essentials of project management. In a nutshell, ‘Project planning’ is an elaborative process that includes all details of the project, from its inception to completion. And ‘Project schedule’ is the tracker that monitors the sequences and tenure of project-related tasks.
A project schedule notifies/alerts the project team on any delays or if the project is not incorrect direction. It is a live document, requires periodic updating and recording. The tools and techniques deployed for project planning are ‘Task Breakdown Structure’, ‘Scope of Work’ and ‘Critical Path Method’ abbreviated as ‘TBS’, ‘SOP’ and ‘CPM’ respectively. While, project schedule uses software tools and methods such as ‘PERT’ (Program Evaluation Review Technique), Gantt charts, Pareto charts, and other networking illustrations.
A project is incomplete and cannot be a success without a well-developed project-plan and precise project-schedule.To attain project milestones, Plan and Schedule it!
This is a guide to Project Planning and Scheduling. Here we discuss the project planning and scheduling along with stages and benefits. You may also look at the following articles to learn more –
- Project Scheduling Example
- Project Manager Responsibilities
- Skills for Project Manager
- Project Management Jobs