Project Schedule Management – Tips and Techniques

I would like to share some of the tips and best practises which could be useful in project schedule management using Microsoft project or any other project scheduling tool.

External Dependencies

Create an external dependencies section with the project to monitor external factors which could impact project timelines. Most of the times, these dependencies are not logged onto the schedule as they do not fall within boundary of the project or feed from some other project. Keeping them in the format of milestones will help in keeping close eye on these factors.

Target Milestones

Most of the time project target milestones are stored in lengthy project documents are not referred on regular basis. It could delay timeline slippage disaster control. Keeping target milestones onto the actual project schedule would help in monitoring slippage.

Project Baseline

A well-managed project often involves comparing a project to earlier version of it. This is a critical part of tracking your project.

Before you start tracking your schedule, however, you need to set a baseline so that you can compare it with your up-to-date schedule later in the project.

Find slack in the schedule

The amount of slack in your schedule tells you how much you can delay tasks before other tasks or the project end date is affected.

If you know where slack exists in your schedule, you can move tasks when certain phases of the schedule have no slack and other phases have too much.

Slack values may also indicate a schedule inconsistency. For example, a negative slack value occurs when one task has a finish-to-start dependency with a successor task, but the successor task has a Must Start On constraint that is earlier than the end of the first task. Negative slack can also occur when a task is scheduled to finish after its deadline date.

Identify Project critical path

One of the first steps in managing projects is discovering how the end date of the project changes as tasks and resource requirements change.

The critical path is the series of tasks (or even a single task) that dictates the calculated start date or finish date of the project. If a single task is late on the critical path, the end date of the entire project will also be late. Viewing project information in this manner is also known as the critical path method of project management

Regularly view the critical path:   Be aware that the critical path can change from one series of tasks to another as you progress through the schedule. The critical path can change as critical tasks are completed or as other series of tasks are delayed.

Closely monitor critical tasks:   Any task on the critical path is a critical task. Monitor these tasks regularly to see if any of them slip. If a critical task slips, so does your finish date. You can save a baseline and use the Tracking Gantt view to see slipped tasks.

Review series of tasks that may become the critical path:   If a noncritical series of linked tasks slips its dates enough, that series of tasks will become the critical path. You can view other potentially risky tasks by showing multiple critical paths in a project.

References

  • Microsoft Project Documentation

Happy learning! We wish you good luck in your PMP certification journey!

About the Author

Mahendra GuptaMahendra Gupta

Mahendra Gupta is a PMP and ISEB certified IT Consultant based in United Kingdom with more than 12+ years of experience in Business System Analysis and IT Project Management of wide range of projects within Banking and Trust Business sector

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