Once the scope is completed or, in some cases, if the scope and schedule are being prepared concurrently, we need to detail the timeline as thoroughly as the scope, even though it may be easier to lump tasks together into one large activity, such as prepare project documentation. It is best to divide something as labor-intensive as preparing documentation by its steps, such as research, analysis, validation, and so on. Though it may seem a more than necessary laborious task, the idea is that you can best monitor how you spend your time on a project and whether or not you estimated correctly. If so, then you can use the same approach for the following project. If the estimated time per task is not accurate, you can make the necessary adjustments in the future.
To monitor how you are spending your time on a project, as described above, it is essential to either fill out a coded timesheet with each activity and sub-activity. For example:
ACTIVITY MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY
Research 8 hrs 6 hrs
Analysis 2 hrs 6 hrs 4 hrs
Validation 4 hrs 4 hrs
Not only will tracking your hours spent demonstrate if your estimating assumptions were correct, but you will also find out if you are on track for finishing the work on time. In other words, as in the example above, if you were supposed to finish the analysis on Wednesday, but did not do so until Thursday, then there is obviously a slip in the timeline. Additionally, we will talk about this in an article related to cost; the number of hours spent will also determine whether you are below, at, or above cost targets. For example, if you had allocated 10 hours for “Analysis” and you have spent 12 hours on this task, as the table above shows, then you are also over budget.
Another important part of an effective schedule is the intermittent milestones. For obvious reasons, it is not advantageous to wait until you are close to the end of a project to determine whether you are on or off target. Yet many teams work in this matter, sometimes hoping to make a push at the end to finish the uncompleted work. A better strategy is to follow or establish pre-determined milestones along the timeline. And these milestones should be in concert with rollout dates, stage gates, project financing, and so on.
As project managers, we know that at the heart of any project are the scope, schedule, and budget. Furthermore, these three components of a project have established baselines, which are directly related to any project’s success. Therefore, the schedule needs to be defined and detailed as the project scope and the budget. Furthermore, the schedule is typically a contractual agreement between buyer and seller and, in some cases, if the agreement is not adhered to, there can be repercussions, such as fines, loss of work, and in extreme cases, lawsuits, should a project delay impact the client/buyer financially.