Take your project career to new heights with AIPM membership. Join now to unlock the benefits of Australia’s leading body for project professionals.
Take the quiz
Join thousands of project professionals across Australia who have powered their career prospects with RegPM™ certification.
The demand for project management skills continues to grow across a range of industries, and professionals are building lucrative and rewarding careers.
For nearly 50 years, the AIPM has been driving project management across Australia.
22nd Jun 2021
Starting a project without a well-considered project schedule is like setting off on a journey without fuel, luggage, or a destination in mind.
You can’t expect a ragingly successful project without a great schedule. A list of required tasks along with the time and the resources needed will help you arrive at your destination as planned.
Project scheduling is an important skill for any project manager, even if you think it’s a really simple project. We’ve developed this essential guide to improve your knowledge, boost your capabilities and help you create brilliant schedules for your projects.
A project schedule is a timetable that shows the start and end date of all project tasks, how the tasks relate to each other and usually which team members or other resources are responsible for delivery.
It is a dynamic document that is created during initial the planning stage. The approved project schedule acts as a baseline to work to, but it is maintained and updated throughout the project as things change.
While schedules are often thought of as planning and control tools, they are also critical communication tools for team members and stakeholders.
The project schedule:
“At its simplest, a project schedule is a list of the project tasks, and how long each will take. Typically, it also includes the resources required to complete the task which enables the resource cost of the task to be calculated. It’s a fundamental planning, control, and communication tool.”
Graham Watt LFAIPM
Graham Watt LFAIPM
There are many ways that the project schedule can be displayed to meet the needs of the target audience using it. Three commonly used schedule formats are the:
Typically, the project schedule should include the following information:
The project schedule guides the project team as they deliver the project. It communicates progress to the team, management, and other stakeholders. Done well, it makes the entire project run more smoothly and helps you finish up on time and on budget. Data suggests only 30% of organisations are likely to deliver projects that are on time, but more effective scheduling will help.
Project managers use a range of tools and techniques to create, track and control their project schedules. These days, the tools are almost always digital. Here’s a brief description of some of the most common tools and techniques:
The most basic form of project schedule, this is a list of activities with deadlines that must be completed to finish a project.
The most common form of project schedule is the GANTT chart. It’s a horizontal bar chart that tracks activities over time. Depending on resource allocation and task relationships, the bars might be running in parallel or sequentially. It can be produced with differing levels of detail depending on the needs of the target audience.
A graphic that details the deliverables by presenting key milestones within a hierarchy. It simplifies projects into smaller, more manageable groups. It also provides the necessary framework for detailed cost estimating and control along with providing guidance for schedule development and control.
A graphic that depicts the interrelationships and timing of all project activities in chronological order.
The critical path method adds the times of all critical activities, taking into account dependencies, to determine the earliest time that the project can be completed.
The program evaluation and review technique uses a different method to calculate time compared to the critical path method. For each activity, the shortest time, the longest time, and the most likely time are estimated for each task. The time estimate for each task is the weighted average of the three estimates.
When you are first planning your project, ask yourself these three key questions. If you have scoped these answers, completing a full project schedule will be much easier.
Scheduling is part of the planning process. Some simple steps to effectively schedule your projects are to:
Project scheduling software has changed the face of project management. Special software is not necessary for every project, but the software has key features that add significant efficiency when dealing with large and complex projects.
Project scheduling software can allow project managers to:
If you are tasked with selecting project scheduling software, don’t get carried away by the marketing hype. Do your due diligence to choose software that is appropriate for your project. The most complex, expensive, advanced option is not always best, but many projects would benefit from the features. It’s a good idea to read reviews and ask around in your professional networks to find personal recommendations for similar projects. The AIPM has a member forum where topics like this are often discussed.
No matter what level you are at in your project management career, project schedules will be central to your daily existence. You’ll be creating them, contributing to them, working from them, and managing them. If you want to improve your scheduling skills, become an AIPM member and gain access to our community, where project management professionals share tools, resources, and advice, and encourage each other to become better project managers.
Join now to unlock the benefits of Australia’s leading body for project professionals.
A contract management plan is key to successful contract management. Find out why you need one and how to create one here.
Learn about the contract management process and build your contract management skills with practical tips from a lawyer.
Find out about the range of project delivery methodologies and how you can build robust project delivery skills.