Project duration can range from months to decades. Having a concrete schedule can reduce upset and unnecessary delays. The project schedule is the cornerstone of all project management decisions. It helps isolate risks, prevent overspending and improve visibility, as seen in this ebook.
A project schedule details resources too. This includes physical and labor resources, adherence to budget and project scope, and more. Control over the schedule is tantamount to controlling a project. So, how can project managers improve scheduling processes to ensure maximum efficiency and control?
The answer lies in following a few best practices for project scheduling. Those who take the time to understand these best practices can position their project management office (PMO) to prevent missed deadlines, keep stakeholders informed and drive successful project portfolio management.
Does your organization have these six key factors for success? Find out how to achieve these factors with our free eBook,"Six Key Drivers of Successful Project Management".
Staff Augmentation Services Can Enhance Project Scheduling
Staff augmentation refers to the use of outside agencies or temporary work pools to scale up or down available labor resources. But, controlling the budget represents a fraction of how staff augmentation enhances scheduling. While commonly used for skilled laborers, staff augmentation benefits the PMO too.
For example, a PMO with limited experience may also choose staff augmentation for assistance in navigating complex project controls or platforms. A PMO with a limited level of organization maturity may turn to staff augmentation for help.
Even those with certifications in project management may not be enough to reach the level of organizational maturity required in complex projects, explains this ebook. Team members learn from the temporary employee and meet a higher level of understanding in project management.
Organizational maturity is among the top driving forces of successful project management. When the PMO has a strong level of organizational maturity, risk decreases. Also, studies have shown project managers with a proven track record of success and experience result in a higher return on investment, asserts this ebook.
A PMO can eliminate the initial hiring, training and benefit-related costs of hiring permanent employees through staff augmentation. It provides an outside view of the project. Staff augmentation goes a step further, allowing the project manager to hand-select the skills and assets of employees. These are the skills most needed for successful project delivery, as explained in a previous blog post. This eliminates the uncertainty associated with hiring a permanent employee.
The Importance of Scheduling Cannot Be Overstated
Scheduling plays a vital role in project success. Failure to allocate the right amount of physical or labor resources can result in the premature completion of activities or inexplicable delays. Workers may not clock in, and those at work may let their hours spill into the overtime bracket. Given the average time-and-a-half rate for overtime, this failure can eat away at a budget nearly twice as fast.
Speaking of decimating a project budget, the premature completion of work might seem like a promising idea. But, what happens when workers do not know what to do? The answer is shocking; they may wait on the clock for their next assignment.
This a lull, and it is an unnecessary labor cost. Yet, project managers who update the schedule regularly can avoid the pitfalls of lulls in productivity, as seen in a previous blog post. If advancing the project schedule is an option, updating the schedule mitigates future delays.
Delays are the biggest consequence for not understanding the role of project scheduling. If something goes wrong, deadlines may be missed. Delays resulting from poor employee performance may warrant corrective or disciplinary action. And, the schedule will need to be adjusted. Those resulting from unforeseen risks, like weather changes, will also warrant changes to the schedule. Proactively managing the pace of work, including premature completion and delays, will help with the prompt completion of the whole project.
Stakeholders Rely on Visibility of the Project Schedule
How an organization, including the PMO, communicates with stakeholders can affect project scope, budget and schedule. The schedule is the direct lifeline to the support of stakeholders. A clear, well-defined schedule provides better project visibility. Meanwhile, updating the schedule status virtually eliminates the need for reporting status updates to stakeholders.
This goes back to increasing the organizational maturity of the PMO. Since stakeholders know what is and is not happening, they are more likely to spend less time checking in with team members. Although checking in may not seem like a big cost center, it detracts from other responsibilities. By increasing accountability and keeping the schedule updated, team members can spend more time managing the project and its moving parts. But, it is important to consider how the accuracy of a schedule also impacts its value.
Accuracy Determines a Project Schedule’s Value
The value of project scheduling derives from its ability to provide a one-stop view into all project activities. If the schedule is incomplete, not updated in real time or is unrealistic, its accuracy decreases. In tandem, the visibility into the project decreases, and decision-making suffers.
Unrealistic schedules, like those prescribing completion of milestones without allocating the necessary resources, contribute to a sense of mistrust among stakeholders and disconnect between the C-Suite, the PMO and skilled workers.
Since accuracy is foundation of an effective schedule, it makes sense to use technology to manage the schedule. This is even more important for projects spanning years, if not decades. A project schedule can also take on a new form with business intelligence and dashboarding.
Dashboarding is a fast way of checking a schedule and dispersing information throughout your office, pushing your PMO toward successful project portfolio management. Plus, automated alerts and notifications prevent anomalies from going unnoticed and keep the PMO in tune with the project status.
Unfortunately, the argument for technology in managing the project schedule is only as good as its weakest link. The schedule must be updated regularly, reflect real-time information and set realistic durations. Things will go wrong, and delays occur. This is known as scheduling variances. And, time is of the essence in mitigating the impact of variances.
Project managers must also prevent unauthorized editing of the schedule. This is the most important reason to use modern technology for managing the schedule. Editing controls prevent unauthorized changes and help keep the project on track. In addition, most of today’s scheduling platforms include mobile access, letting project managers adjust and check the schedule while in the field, as well as any other location with internet access.
Key Takeaways in Managing Your Project Schedule Effectively
The right scheduling practices can make or break the success of your PMO and project. More than anything else, remember these top ways to proactively manage your schedule:
- Use staff augmentation services to scale your project schedule when necessary.
- Effective scheduling is key to managing all project resources through the project lifecycle.
- The project schedule gives stakeholders a comprehensive view of your project, increasing visibility.
- A quality software solution improves schedule accuracy and effectiveness.
Project management benefits from an intense understanding of how the project schedule affects overall success. Moreover, project managers can leverage strong leadership skills and a few other tactics to increase the chances of project success. Find out more about the drivers to project success by downloading this ebook, and share your thoughts on scheduling best practices below.
About Jeff Collins
Hi there, thanks for reading! As the President of IMS, I’ve just about seen it all in the project management industry. I’m happy to share my experiences to help managers and organizations improve their project performance. Please reach out to our team if you’re struggling to achieve your goals. We’d love to work with you to discover the PM solutions you need for success.