A project schedule may or may not have been required during the proposal process. However, a high level schedule should be developed as part of the PM Plan prior to award, if possible. It should be consistent with RFP requirements and the major elements of the initial WBS. As with the other steps in this pre-award Section, it might not be possible to develop the schedule until after contract award.
You might also need to adjust the schedule as necessary to meet the proposed end date. However, you need to accept a reasonable management challenge of getting more done for less to avoid adopting a schedule that is unsupportable by the available resources.
The WBS, cost estimations and personnel assignments all come together to create a project schedule.
An effective schedule, as illustrated in this figure, should show the interdependence of project tasks. It should identify project duration and reveal the project’s critical path. This will expose project risks that can then be mitigated. Also, don’t forget to factor facility and IT needs into the schedule.
Create a list of tasks that need to be carried out for each deliverable. For each task identify the amount of effort (hours or days) required to complete the task and the resource(s) who will carry out the task.
Once you have established the amount of effort for each task, you can work out the effort required for each deliverable and an accurate delivery date. Update your deliverables section with the more accurate delivery dates.
The next step is to network the project activities together to define the predecessor (input) relationships and successor (output) relationships between activities to identify the project critical path. This will help you to identify where the highest degree of schedule risk exists on your project – the project critical path.
At this point in the planning you should use Microsoft Project to create your project schedule. Here is a sample schedule using Microsoft Project:
Input all of the deliverables, tasks, durations and the resources for each task. You can explore various schedule planning and reporting options including:
- Milestone charts
- Activity lists
- Activity Gantt (bar) charts
- Activity networks, critical path networks (project critical path)
- PERT charts
A common problem discovered at this point is when a project has an imposed delivery deadline from the sponsor that is not realistic based on your estimates. If you discover that this is the case you must contact the sponsor immediately. The options you have in this situation are:
- Renegotiate the deadline (project delay)
- Employ additional resources (increased cost)
- Reduce the scope of the project (less delivered)
- Use the project schedule to justify pursuing one of these options.
Depending on the nature of the project, you might also need to adjust the schedule as necessary to meet the contractual project end date. However, keep in mind that you need to accept a reasonable management challenge of getting more done for less. But, do avoid adopting a schedule that is unsupportable by the available resources.
– Mike Lisagor