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What You Should Know about Planning Schedule Management for the PMP Certification Exam

Developing your project schedule is an iterative process and one you need to be familiar with to get your PMP Certification. You will repeat the following scheduling processes numerous times before you end up with an acceptable schedule:

  • Identify Activities

  • Sequence Activities

  • Estimate Activity Resources

  • Estimate Activity Durations

  • Develop Schedule

In addition to the scheduling processes, you have to incorporate human resource availability, risk, and cost processes as well.

Although the planning involved in creating a viable schedule is significant, the majority of your time will be spent maintaining and controlling it. To assist you with the development, management, and control, you can develop a schedule management plan.

Schedule management plan. The component of the project management plan that establishes criteria and the activities for developing, monitoring, and controlling the project schedule.

Plan Schedule Management: Inputs

The project management plan provides the elements in the scope baseline. The work breakdown structure (WBS) is particularly useful when creating your schedule because it identifies all the deliverables that make up the product scope. As the project management plan is progressively elaborated, it will also contain the budget, information on risks, and the human resource management plan. The charter includes the high-level milestones for the project.

Enterprise environmental factors (EEFs) that influence how an organization develops and manages the schedule include the company culture, resource skills, and available software. For example, Alpha Company does not have a mature project management practice, instead relying on resources who work on projects part time and as available. Alpha Company develops schedules in a spreadsheet or in a table. The emphasis is on operational challenges rather than project needs.

Contrast Alpha’s approach with Theta Company, which has a robust project management practice. Theta Company employees dedicate some or all of their time to project work. The team members have a familiarity and understanding of scheduling, can create and read a schedule that was developed in scheduling software, and estimate their work and duration much more accurately.

Theta Company makes use of organizational process assets, such as information from previous projects, lessons learned, prior estimates and schedules, and information on risk events that materialized.

Plan Schedule Management: Tools and Techniques

The three techniques used to develop the schedule management plan integrate well: expert judgment, analytical techniques, and meetings. Resources with expertise in the discipline, estimating, and scheduling tools meet and discuss the various options for developing a schedule. Topics at the meeting can include

  • Whether critical path methodology, critical chain methodology, agile methodology, or some combination of the three is the best approach for the project

  • Which deliverables durations should be estimated using an analogous approach, a parametric approach, or three-point estimating; and also what the duration range and confidence levels should be for estimates

  • Whether project management software should be used, as well as the level of detail the schedule should show

Plan Schedule Management: Outputs

The schedule management plan is the sole output from this process. The schedule management plan can be high-level with only a few paragraphs. Or the plan can be quite detailed, containing the following:

  • Scheduling software

  • Scheduling methodology

  • Levels of accuracy required at different life cycle phases

  • Control thresholds for preventive and corrective action

  • Guidelines for establishing and using contingency reserve

  • Measurement methods for recording progress

  • Estimating methods

  • Schedule report formats

Even though most call the output of these processes a schedule, scheduling gurus refer to it as a schedule model. And they’re right! The schedule is just a model of what could happen if all the assumptions in the schedule data (such as activities, sequences, durations, and resources) are correct.

From the purist perspective, the project information is entered into a tool (scheduling software). That is combined with a scheduling methodology (such as critical path or critical chain) to develop the schedule model. The output can be in the form of a bar chart or network diagram with dates or any other presentation that meets the need.

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