Scheduling Components for Project Management Plans

Instructor: Sally Cornett

Sally has a BS in computer science and over 10 years of engineering and business experience.

This lesson will consider the components that should be included in a comprehensive project schedule and explain how that schedule needs to support the overall project plan.

The Project Schedule

The project schedule is a major component of any project plan. Remember that a project plan includes: scope management, time management, cost management, quality management, resource management, risk management, issue management, procurement, and communication management. A project schedule considers all the tasks to be completed during the project, so it makes sense that tasks from all aspects of the project plan are included.

In addition to a list of tasks, the schedule typically identifies what resources are required to complete each task, how long the task is expected to take, and indicates dependencies between tasks. Imagine a NASA-sponsored, multi-year, multi-departmental project intending to send a manned spacecraft round-trip to Mars. In this project, the task for astronaut training can't begin until the task of astronaut selection is complete.

Building the project schedule

The following things must be considered when developing the project schedule:

  • Inputs and Outputs to each WBS component
    • The tasks included in the project schedule typically relate to the work breakdown structure (WBS) elements of each project phase. The WBS breaks down all project work into manageable chunks. The project schedule lists tasks associated with completing these chunks of work.
    • To identify tasks that should be included in the schedule, it can be helpful to consider what does the output of this task need to be? And then, what input is needed to begin this task in order to get to that output?. By considering what the inputs and outputs are for each task, you will ensure all the critical project tasks are included in your schedule. Typically, the only way inputs and outputs for each scheduled task are included in the schedule is in the task description.
      • For example, in the project schedule for our NASA Mars trip there might be a task for assemble the spacecraft. The assembled spacecraft is the output from this task. The inputs to this task would be all of the spacecraft components. Never having built a spacecraft, we could guess that these might include things like: command and communication center, astronaut living chambers, storage compartments, waste compartments, Mars surface building materials, and you can probably think of many others.
      • The components required to complete the task assemble the spacecraft would have been generated in prior schedule tasks such as determine communication capabilities required in the command center, design command and communication center, and build command and communication center module. See how thinking about inputs and outputs helps identify tasks to include in the project schedule?
    • The schedule will include the estimated time it will take to complete each task.
    • Remember that the output of a project phase may be a physical thing that will be built, but it could also be something else, like a requirements document or technical design document. It could even be something abstract such as a concept: Define the process that astronauts will use to grow or generate food for the duration of the multi-year mission.
  • Tasks associated with:
    • Scope verification
    • Deliverable review
    • Quality verification and signoff
    • Issue and Risk review
    • Resource acquisition and management (people, materials, infrastructure, budget)
  • Milestones: significant check points of zero duration that can indicate, at a high level, whether the project is proceeding as expected. An effective project schedule makes it easy to identify tasks that are behind and related tasks that are also in jeopardy of being completed on schedule. Milestones allow the project schedule to indicate these situations.

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