Step 3: Schedule (time) management

Schedule or time management is the process of recording and controlling time spent by staff on a project.

As time is a scarce resource within projects, each team member should record time spent undertaking project activities and the appropriate Deltek charge number(s). This will enable the PM to control the amount of time spent undertaking each activity within the project. A timesheet register is also completed, providing a summary of the time spent on the project in total so that the PM Plan can always be kept fully up to date.

Schedule status should be collected and/or reported weekly or monthly. Weekly status collection is best for larger complex projects where the PM doesn’t interface with team members daily, projects where the schedule is critical to the customer and will thus drive cost, and projects where the team is spread over multiple locations. Collecting reports of schedule progress weekly will send a message to the entire team that schedule is important. Collecting schedule status in a weekly face-to-face meeting with teammates present is the best way to get real understanding of performance issues.

The most common method of reporting schedule status is the planner/scheduler putting collected status into Microsoft Project and seeing what it does to the critical path and downstream milestones (including project completion). Your company will require that projects use a scheduling tool such as Microsoft Project unless your client specifies a different automated tool. This is usually done monthly, even when status is collected weekly.Corrective actions are assigned when slips impact critical milestones. Another approach is to do milestone counting. Each task start and stop date is given a point value (e.g. one point for a start and two points for a finish). Points are then recorded for each schedule owner and compared against planned points in the baseline on a weekly or monthly basis.  While this doesn’t show the impact on the critical path, milestone counting focuses the team on meeting all commitments.

Some PMs feel that if the schedule is monitored and the planned dates are met, cost will take care of itself. And, for labor-intensive contracts, a strong correlation between schedule and cost does often exist. However, both should always be closely monitored and forecasts of schedule and cost performance compared and used as sanity checks against each other.

Here is a list of common schedule control metrics:

  • Schedule variance
  • Milestones late (aged)
  • Average duration/planned duration for completed tasks
  • Actual hours versus plan
  • Schedule performance index
  • Number of class hours training conducted
  • Milestones completed on schedule
  • Software problem reports opened
  • Cumulative # of open software problem reports
  • Number of design changes
  • Software problem reports closed
  • Number of COTS product version upgrades
  • Number of requirements changes
  • Number of temporary fixes for COTS products in use

Project Schedule Metrics Checklist (Word version)

Project managers finding themselves behind schedule may need to impose seemingly drastic measures to control the schedule performance. Such things as extended workweeks, added staff, weekly or even daily schedule reviews, and planning with daily “inch-stones” can be effective in improving schedule performance.

One key to schedule success is to explain the project activity network to the entire team and help them understand the downstream effect of being late on a small milestone. If this is done effectively, then every member of the Project Team becomes schedule focused and meets his or her individual schedules or asks for help.

– Mike Lisagor


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