How to Create a Realistic Project Schedule

Did you know that approximately 78 percent projects run behind schedule, deliver reduced functionality and surpass the budget which was agreed upon in the beginning? The reason behind this could be that the schedule for the project was created much earlier and did not have a lot of inputs. Hence it lacked direction.

There is often some confusion between project management plan and project schedule. Here is some clarity: the project schedule is a part of the overall project plan. And it is definitely among the most critical aspects of the plan. The primary stakeholders are usually only concerned about the project schedule because they are keen on seeing the results.

Here are some tips that could be helpful in creating a realistic project schedule:

#1: List down the tasks

A project schedule is typically focused on activities since they reflect interdependencies between the deliverables and work packages. Project managers could work towards designing a project charter along with a project scope document as well as a task breakdown structure. These documents are important for drafting a precise list of tasks/activities. You may find that each activity is linked to different aspects: stakeholders and requirements, work packages, deliverables, constraints etc. Also, every activity will have the necessary information needed for planning and monitoring.

After you’ve identified activities, the next step is to draw out a sequence of these activities by identifying dependencies. For this, you would have to assess each task and understand which one is dependent on other additional tasks.

#2: Estimate resource availability for task assignment

After listing and scheduling activities, you need to figure out which resources are needed for the successful completion of your project. It is important to remember that you may not get the 100 percent availability of all team members for the project since some of them would also be involved in various other projects. This step requires you to assign tasks to available resources.

Here is what you can do: break down the identified tasks and assign a single task to each resource. This will help avoid the addition of too many resources to a specific task. Your project schedule may appear too large but it also allows you to enjoy better control over allocation and tracking of resources.

#3: Assignment of duration

When you’ve drafted the list of activities and schedule, it is time to estimate the duration of each activity. The duration of an activity is the amount of working periods needed for completing the task. When done right, each activity could easily be completed by one resource without interruption. You can define the activity duration in hours, days, weeks or months. The selection of the right duration type has a significant impact on resource availability as well as the estimated task ending date. Keep in mind that there are effort-driven activities. Duration of such activities depends on a number of resources you can effectively apply. In other words, you can put several resources to do the job. And it will be faster.

2 Comments

  1. Steve Rollins 2017/01/04 at 22:35 - Reply

    This is a bit perplexing. When are scope deliverables defined? If you don’t know these with certainty, how can your schedule ever be realistic to be trusted that the scope will be deliver timely and on budget or better?

  2. John Ayers 2017/01/14 at 21:39 - Reply

    Other considerations:
    1. placing major subcontracts late are a cause of many schedule delays.
    2. preparing the proposal schedule based on soft input from subcontractors, other disciplines in your company.
    3. risks identified with a 50% or more probability of failure are not included or budgeted in the baseline schedule
    4. preparing a high level proposal schedule and waiting for contract award to detail it out

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