Introduction to Project Scheduling Techniques
We need to use scheduling techniques in a project to align all its aspects so as to work corresponding to each other. A schedule should be proportionate with the time set for the project and all its resources should be used in an optimum manner. Given the variable nature of the project and its scope, it is hard to plan it, but we are expected to do it because it is we who will be held responsible.
A schedule consists of all the activities included in the implementation and execution of a project within the pre-determined time frame of the project. A project schedule helps in prioritizing work involved in a project and finish it off in an orderly manner. It also helps in appointing the right person for the job and in the proper allocation of the available resources. Time management and adjustments with the scope of a project is only possible if there is a proper schedule prepared for the project being worked upon.
Different Techniques of Project Scheduling
Project Scheduling typically includes various techniques, an outline of each technique is provided below.
1. Mathematical Analysis
Critical Path Method (CPM) and Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) are the two most commonly used techniques by project managers. These methods are used to calculate the time span of the project through the scope of the project.
a. Critical Path Method
Every project’s tree diagram has a critical path. The Critical Path Method estimates the maximum and minimum time required to complete a project. CPM also helps to identify critical tasks that should be incorporated into a project. Delivery time changes do not affect the schedule. The scope of the project and the list of activities necessary for the completion of the project are needed for using CPM. Next, the time taken by each activity is calculated. Then, all the dependent variables are identified. This helps in identifying and separating the independent variables. Finally, it adds milestones to the project.
b. Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)
PERT is a way to schedule the flow of tasks in a project and estimate the total time taken to complete it. This technique helps represent how each task is dependent on the other. To schedule a project using PERT, one has to define activities, arrange them in an orderly manner and define milestones. You can calculate timelines for a project on the basis of the level of confidence:
- Optimistic timing
- Most-likely timing
- Pessimistic timing
Weighted average duration and not estimates are used by PERT to calculate different timeframes.
2. Duration Compression
Duration compression helps to cut short a schedule if needed. It can adjust the set schedule by making changes without changing the scope in case, the project is running late. Two methodologies that can be applied: fast tracking and crashing.
a. Fast Tracking
Fast-tracking is another way to use CPM. Fast-tracking finds ways to speed up the pace at which a project is being implemented by either simultaneously executing many tasks or by overlapping many tasks to each other. CPM helps us identify activities that can be used to speed up the pace of the project. Although it is an appealing technique, it has its own share of risks too. As many activities will be simultaneously implemented, it is highly to make mistakes and compromise on quality.
Crashing deals with involving more resources to finish the project on time. For this to happen, you need spare resources to be available at your disposal. Moreover, all the tasks cannot be done by adding extra resources. Need to add new team members to a project and limited divisibility of tasks leads to increase communication and is the basic reason behind it. The crashing technique can also be used by adding time, paid overtime, but it should stay within the decided deadline. It, unfortunately, leads to raising the cost of the project.
The expected duration of the project is calculated by using a different set of tasks in simulation. The schedule is created on the basis of assumptions, so it can be used even if the scope is changed or the tasks are not clear enough.
4. Resource-Leveling Heuristics
Cutting the delivery time or avoiding under or overutilization of resources by making adjustments with the schedule or resources is called resource leveling heuristics. Dividing the tasks as per the available resources, so that no resource is under or over-utilized. The only demerit of this methodology is it may increase the project’s cost and time.
5. Task List
The task list is the simplest project scheduling technique of all the techniques available. Documented in a spreadsheet or word processor is the list of all possible tasks involved in a project. This method is simple and the most popular of all methods. It is very useful while implementing small projects. But for large projects with numerous aspects to consider task list is not a feasible method.
6. Gantt Chart
For tracking progress and reporting purposes, the Gantt Chart is a visualization technique used in project management. It is used by project managers most of the time to get an idea about the average time needed to finish a project. A project schedule Gantt chart is a bar chart that represents key activities in sequence on the left vs time. Each task is represented by a bar that reflects the start and date of the activity, and therefore its duration.
Many don’t consider scheduling tasks on a calendar for their project requirements – when they should! Most of the calendars can be curated with names of their own. In this case, you can create one calendar per project and scheduled events for that project. The calendar shows a timeline for the entire project. The major advantage is that it can be subjected to change as it is shareable. While it seems to be a great technique for tracking a project, it does have certain limitations you cannot assign tasks to certain people and you cannot see task dependencies.
Resource scheduling tools can help a project manager in the allocation of resources and finish up a project within the prescribed time span. They also help in preparing schedules for all the projects that are to be taken up in the future. Studying the past performance of your team, the hindrances faced while pursuing a project and how were those obstacles overcome come very handy. Scheduling must be an integral part of project management. It just does not help save time but gets the project to be organized.
This is a guide to Project Scheduling Techniques. Here we discuss the various Techniques and an outline of Project Scheduling. You can also go through our other suggested articles to learn more –