"Running out of Time! What time is it? If we don't have the time to do it right the first time, when will we ever find the time to do it over? Are we there yet?" You recognize these common sayings about Time and there are so many of them.
Managing Time in a project is one key to success and here is why. Time is one of the most measured variables a project has. It is highly visible. Almost everyone involved in your project can continuously measure time used, time remaining, and time gone by. How can we ensure success in this area? Here's how.
Successful Time management begins with a good Time Plan. As Project Manager it is your responsibility to create a realistic Time Plan. The most common report form for a project Time Plan is a project schedule.
1. A project schedule always has a start date, and an end date. It is much more than just a list of how long Activities will take to perform.
2. When planning Time, remember that Time never stops. Even if people stop working, or you stop buying things, Time keeps on going! Consider this in your Time Plan.
3. The finalized and approved schedule is the Time Baseline. This is the version of the Time plan that can only be changed through formal procedures and provides a basis for evaluation of the Project Manager, so you will want to do it well.
Let's begin making a Time Plan. The Key Elements of Effective Planning apply to all project Planning, so look at this for review. Now start with your Scope Baseline which contains a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), with its lowest level comprised of deliverable work packages. You will want to follow these steps in the order shown below.
Definitions are found on this document which you can print as a handy reference to use as needed.
STEPS to making a TIME PLAN
1) The first step to making a Time Plan is to decompose the WBS work packages into Activities. An Activity List is a handy way to keep track of Activities and is a valuable input to making your project schedule. On your Activity List you should add Activity Attributes. I like to use the Activity List as a main document then copy parts of it onto other documents such as a Milestone List, a Resources (required) List, and a list of Activity Costs. You can find the total project Cost by summing the costs of all Activities on the Activity list. However, you cannot tell the total project Time by summing all Activity durations. Read on!
2) The next step to making a Time Plan is to Sequence the project Activities. Sequencing simply refers to identifying and documenting the logical order in which the project activities must be done. On your Activity List insert predecessors and successors for every Activity, to help develop sequencing for the whole project. Consider that some dependencies are mandatory and some are discretionary; some are internal, and some are external. To document the sequence, a good visual tool is the schedule form called Critical Path Diagram. This will be more fully described in Step 5.
3) Next look into the resources you will need for your project. Resources consist of: the materials, humans, equipment, and supplies you will need to complete an Activity. You can place the availability of Resources on a Resource Calendar, simply a calendar format modified for this purpose. The availability of resources may impact your Time Plan, so consider this carefully. For example, lower-experienced workers might take longer than those who are highly-experienced. Scarce Resources might only be available at certain times. The technique of balancing Resources supply and demand is called Resource Leveling, found when you scroll down this page to Item #1.
4) You are now ready to assign durations to the Activities. Considering the Activity Attributes and Resources, estimate how long it will take to complete each Activity. You will want to be consistent with the unit of measure (hours, days, weeks, etc). There are several techniques for estimating time and they are discussed here. Insert the time durations into your Activity List and onto your schedule.
5) Having completed the first 4 steps, you can now finish the report of your Time Plan (your project schedule). For each project activity, and for the whole project, the Critical Path Method (CPM) clearly indicates sequencing, durations, and (earliest and latest) start and finish dates. A tutorial on making CPM diagrams is found here.
To finalize your schedule it is worth looking at Schedule Compression (Crashing and Fast Tracking) for possible Time reductions. Lastly, look again at Resource Leveling to ensure you have a workable plan; and Resource Smoothing for possible Cost savings in your Time Plan. All these tools are found when you CLICK HERE.
These 5 steps for making a Time plan are
illustrated on this Flow Diagram.
6) In addition to CPM, two other common forms of schedules are in use. The Gantt Chart is a horizontal bar chart that lists Activities on the vertical axis and Time on the horizontal axis. Since the Gantt Chart visually shows time going by, it is best for tracking progress.
Simple instructions for making a Gantt Chart are found here.
The other form, the Milestone Schedule, is a high-level report of significant points or events. This is most appropriate for executive reviews where details are not required. A discussion on the merits of each schedule form is given here.
Final thought: For more complex projects you will want to develop a Schedule Management Plan.This is a document that describes how Time will be managed on your project. It can establish the following:
> Unit of Time measure to be used (hours, days, weeks)
> Level of accuracy needed in measuring Time
> Process for schedule updating
> Variance thresholds of Time that trigger some action,
and the action to be taken if the thresholds are reached
> Reporting formats