You will never be a successful project manager if you do not know how to build and manage a schedule. The schedule may be the most fundamental tool for managing projects. Here are some techniques to help you take full advantage of the project schedule.
1. The remainder of the schedule is the most important
The schedule should represent your best-guess at any particular point in time on how to complete the remaining work. The more complex your project is, the more change is going to be required in your “best guess” over time. The project manager must evaluate the schedule on an ongoing basis and determine the current state of the project. Based on the current state of the project, and your current understanding of the work remaining, you need to re-plot a course that will allow the work to be completed within the original budget and deadline.
2. Update the schedule weekly
For most projects, the schedule will need to be reviewed on a weekly basis. During this review, the project manager updates the schedule with the current state of work that is completed and in-progress. The remaining work should be evaluated to see if the project will be completed within the deadline. If it can, you are in good shape. If it cannot, the project manager must implement corrective action.
3. Proactively manage schedule variances
The project manager may be in a position of having to constantly utilize his experience and creativity to get the project completed within expectations. One week your project many be on track. The next week, you may have work assignments that are late and issues that have surfaced. If you are good at it, managing the schedule can be one of the more challenging and rewarding aspects of project management. If you do not relish the detailed work that is required, you may find it much more difficult to be successful as a project manager.
4. Validate who can update the schedule
On most projects the project manager is the only one that is allowed to update the schedule. However, there are other options, especially for larger projects. The project manager may ask each team member to update the schedule with actual hours worked, remaining hours and proposed end date. For very large projects, it is also common for one or more people to be assigned to update the schedule on behalf of the project manager. These people are sometimes called project administrators, project coordinators or project schedulers. They can get information from team members and update current status and actual hours worked. They bring this all to the project manager for final analysis and evaluation.