Tips for effective Project Scheduling: Getting Started

There is a project manager in all of us. All project managers want to organize and complete projects on time with quality and within the budget. Effective project scheduling helps project managers to keep projects on track. This typically results in reduced costs and increased customer satisfaction. How do you get the most from your project management solution?

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Vijay Delmade has helped many companies leverage effective project schedules. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a look at several tips Vijay has for effective schedule management. Let’s start with some foundational ideas around creating a schedule and managing project resources.

Tip 1: Appreciate the Importance of the Schedule

Project managers and the project management team needs to put enough emphasis on having a good schedule that covers all process areas. Schedule changes can affect any area of the project with its downstream impacts. The project manager addresses those changes through the project’s issues and risks processes. In this manner, the schedule becomes the central focus and the foundational tool for managing the project.

 Tip 2: Understand the Stakeholder’s Needs (the deliverables)

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Before we begin project scheduling, it is very important to understand the stakeholder’s ultimate needs and goals. The key thing is to identify the most important element for your stakeholders and prioritize that element as the first thing to complete. That is the primary value proposition. The project manager can focus the team’s time and energy on giving stakeholders exactly what they want, despite the challenges and struggles that may arise on the course.

Using schedule manager capabilities in Teamcenter, a schedule coordinator can define schedule level deliverables upfront and use them later to assign to various tasks as task deliverables. Schedule deliverables support various objects, such as documents, parts, change items, and more, which can be set as a deliverable.

Tip 3: Determine the Process

After a project manager knows the deliverables, the next logical step is to determine a broad-level process with sections defined. Each section has a specific amount of time allotted with a set of reasonable goals on the timeline.

Tip 4: Complete the Task Breakdown Structures Diligently

After the process has been defined, the project manager should break down overall deliverables to the lowest estimable deliverable (work packages). The goal is to achieve a level where one can get realistic estimates from the deliverable owner. During task breakdown, a project manager needs to pay attention to include ALL deliverables, including preparation time for meetings, communication packages, etc. The more comprehensive the better will be the quality of the schedule.

Rule of thumb! : A simple rule of thumb is to assign a maximum of 40 hours or less to a task to have a granular deliverable.

Using schedule manager capabilities in Teamcenter, a schedule coordinator can structure the set of tasks inside a schedule. A scheduling coordinator can break down a SINGLE schedule level deliverable to MULTIPLE tasks as a task deliverable which would get accomplished when all related tasks finish.

Definition: Top-down scheduling approach

After process finalization, the project manager normally knows the duration and timeline for various project process phases at a higher level but may not have information about various tasks within these phases as to how they will be executed. In the top-down approach, project managers start with a milestone schedule and add detailed tasks later when more information is available. 

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Tip 5: Use Milestones as Targets and at Regular Intervals

Project managers should use milestones in the actual project schedule at regular intervals. Checking the milestones frequently for monitoring slippage is important. For example, when a project lasts for 6 months then at 3rd month you do not want to know it is late due to a task in the first month wherein you do not have a milestone for each month.

Using schedule manager capabilities in Teamcenter, a schedule coordinator can create a “milestone only schedule” using milestone tasks spread across regular intervals as per plan.

Tip 6: Use Schedule Templates Effectively

Use templates to save time from repetitive work like standard schedules, standard organization calendars, and standard tasks to be executed on almost all schedules.

Using schedule manager capabilities in Teamcenter, a schedule coordinator can use templates or existing schedules to create new schedules.

Tip 7: Do Forward Planning

It is good to do forward planning, specifying a start date in schedule information. Allow scheduling tool to calculate dates of other tasks and end dates. Do not enter start and end dates for the individual tasks as task dependencies can manage this.

Using schedule manager capabilities in Teamcenter, a schedule coordinator can use the forward planning method for creating scheduled tasks and milestones linked with dependencies.

Tip 8: Optimize Tasks to Attain a Healthy Schedule

A healthy schedule is a schedule that requires the least maintenance. Avoid setting anything in the schedule that restricts the movement of tasks if predecessors finish early or late. Create schedules with as few constraints as possible. It is better to create schedules by specifying only dependencies.

Using schedule manager capabilities in Teamcenter, a schedule coordinator can create a schedule wherein tasks can be linked using dependencies (& lag times) with no or minimal constraints.

Tip 9: Build the Schedule Around Deliverables.

Traditionally, schedules have been built around tasks. In this approach, the project manager cannot easily tell if a stakeholder change is actually within the project scope. Project schedulers should build the schedule around deliverables because they are tangible and verifiable.

Using schedule manager capabilities in Teamcenter, a schedule coordinator can use schedule deliverables as the reference to define detailed schedule tasks to accomplish a particular set of schedule deliverables.

Tip 10: Project Resources: No Summary Task Assignments

Summary tasks have rolled up information. Avoid assigning resources to summary tasks.  

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Tip 11: Project Resources: Identify the Availability of Team Members

Project managers need to have a resource inventory to plan and execute the entire project. Checking the availability of the members helps project managers to work efficiently on their budget and timeline.

Using schedule manager capabilities in Teamcenter, a schedule coordinator can use the organization users list to assign members to schedule.

Tip 12: Project Resources: Understand Team Members’ Workload

Everyone has multiple projects to work upon. It becomes important to understand how much time and effort project members can put into a given project on weekly basis. It helps to allocate tasks evenly and get them done efficiently. If something goes wrong project manager needs to know which team member has the capacity to fix it.

Using schedule manager capabilities in Teamcenter, a schedule coordinator can use the resource graph tool to understand the schedule member’s existing workload.

Tip 13: Project Resources: Don’t Assign Everyone at 100%

Project managers assign resources to a task with a default level of 100% loading. This means resources will be assigned full-time on that task for its entire duration! This is always not true since members can have parallel tasks. So it is a good practice not to assign them full time in these cases.

Using schedule manager capabilities in Teamcenter, a schedule coordinator can use task assignment dialog and resource load effectively to assign the loading of the task per user.

With some of these essential tips to scheduling projects, the project manager in you can get started building effective schedules that help your team get work done. Stay tuned for more tips!!

Other discussions in this series include:

Tips for Effective Project Scheduling: Digging Deeper

Tips for Effective Project Scheduling: Fine Tuning

References:

  • Seven Tips on How to Build a Solid Schedule by PMI.ORG
  • Chapter 9 “Project Scheduling” From Subject “Project Planning and Scheduling” from Semester 3 -MBA Course -Sikkim Manipal University,India
  • 7 useful tips for effective Project Schedule Management by Avi Dasgupta LinkedIn.

About the Author

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Vijay Delmade is a Technical Product Manager at Siemens PLM Software, based in India. As a part of the Teamcenter applications product management team, he is responsible for the Schedule Manager. He has more than 12 years of experience in the research and development of CADPLM software products. Vijay holds a diploma in Railway engineering, a B.E. degree in Mechanical, and MBA in Project management. 

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/teamcenter/tips-for-effective-project-scheduling-getting-started/