How to Develop Your Project’s Schedule

Project management involves creating and maintaining your project’s schedule. Developing a project schedule requires the combination of activities, resources, and activity-performance sequences that gives you the greatest chance of meeting your client’s expectations with the least amount of risk.

After you specify your project’s activities, take the following steps to develop an initial project schedule:

  1. Identify immediate predecessors for all activities.

    Immediate predecessors define the structure of your network diagram.

  2. Determine the personnel and nonpersonnel resources required for all activities.

    The type, amount, and availability of resources affect how long you need to perform each activity.

  3. Estimate durations for all activities.

    See the section “Estimating Activity Duration” for details on how to do so.

  4. Identify all intermediate and final dates that must be met.

    These dates define the criteria that your schedule must meet.

  5. Identify all activities or milestones outside your project that affect your project’s activities.

    After you identify these external activities and milestones, you can set up the appropriate dependencies between them and your project’s activities and milestones.

  6. Draw your network diagram.

    Use the network diagram to determine what schedules your project can achieve.

  7. Analyze your project’s network diagram to identity all critical paths and their lengths and to identify the slack times of noncritical paths.

    This information helps you choose which project activities to monitor and how often to monitor them. It also suggests strategies for getting back on track if you encounter unexpected schedule delays.

If the completion date is acceptable to your client, you’re done with your scheduling. However, if your client wants you to finish faster than your initial schedule allows, your analyses are just beginning.

Beware of developing a schedule by backing in — that is, starting at the end of a project and working your way back toward the beginning to identify activities and estimate durations that allow you to meet your client’s desired end date.

If you back into a project, you substantially decrease the chances that you’ll meet the schedule, because

  • You may miss activities because your focus is on meeting a time constraint, not ensuring that you’ve identified all required work.

  • You base your duration estimates on what you can allow activities to take rather than what they’ll require.

  • The order for your proposed activities may not be the most effective one.

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