What is a Good Project Schedule?

Dynamic project schedules reward your investment and aids schedule management, forecasting and risk management.

The following is an extract from Eric Uyttewall’s ‘Dynamic Scheduling with Microsoft Project 2003’,

What is a good project schedule?

A good project schedule is,

A model of the project.

  • A model is a deliberate but smart simplification of the complex reality of the project.

A valid model of the project.

  • A model is valid if it predicts and forecasts your project well.

A dynamic model of the project

  • A dynamic model updates itself when a change is entered.

Why do we need a good project schedule?

A good schedule forecast’s a project’s outcome prior to, during and after execution e.g.,

  • Prior to Execution
    • Time: Answering when the project will start, its likely duration and estimated finish?
    • Cost: Answering how much the project will likely cost and the investment over time?
    • Resourcing: Answering what roles are required, number of resources involved, for how long and when?
    • Organisation: Answering is the organisation able to allocate and commit resources?
    • Risk: Answering how risky is this project and what time and cost contingency is needed should that risk eventuate?
  • During Execution
    • Time: What is our current performance and what is the likely forecast outcome?
    • Cost: What is our current performance and what is the likely forecast outcome?
    • Resourcing: What is our current performance, and if necessary, what do we need to do to bring the project back on track?
    • Organisation: Can we add more resources to recover, else should we re-baseline or kill the project? How well are we adhering to our plan?
    • Risk: What key risks remain and what plans have been put in place to mitigate?
  • After Execution
    • Time: How accurate were the baseline estimates and our ability to forecast?
    • Cost: How accurate were the baseline estimates and our ability to forecast?
    • Resourcing: What was the impact to staff morale in having to work overtime and being pulled from one project to another?
    • Organisation: What additional resources did we have to throw at this project and what was the impact to the rest of the portfolio?
    • Risk: How much of our contingency was used and was it enough?

Why do we need a dynamic project schedule?

There are several reasons why we need schedules to be dynamic,

  • Change is inevitable. If you have a static schedule then every time you make a change the remainder of the schedule also needs to be updated. Since it doesn’t take much for this to become overwhelming most static schedules are abandoned during execution.
  • Since it is rare for an organisation to run only one project, the knock-on effect of a delay in one project needs to be assessed against the master schedule. Similar to the previous point, if the master schedule is tightly constrained this becomes impossible and masks issues.
  • If there are too many constraints in a schedule it makes it very hard to explore ‘what-if’ scenarios, which are needed both at the individual and master schedule levels.
  • In order to simulate your schedule for a quantitative risk analysis and forecast accuracy study, the schedule needs to be dynamic for the data model changes to take effect.

How do we create a good project schedule?

The GAO Schedule Assessment Guide 2015 suggest the following ten best practise,

  1. Capturing all activities
  2. Sequencing all activities
  3. Assigning resources to all activities
  4. Establishing the duration of all activities
  5. Verifying that the schedule can be traced horizontally and vertically
  6. Confirming that the critical path is valid
  7. Ensuring reasonable total float
  8. Conducting a schedule risk analysis
  9. Updating the schedule using actual progress and logic
  10. Maintaining a baseline schedule

GAO defines a good schedule as being comprehensive, well-constructed, credible and controllable.

How do we create a dynamic project schedule?

The best way is to diagnose and cleanse your schedule is to resolve the following flaws,

  • Links on Summaries: Eliminate links on summaries and instead link to an activity.
  • Predecessor: Filter on ‘blank’ and ensure every activity has a predecessor.
  • Successor: Filter on ‘blank’ and ensure every activity has a successor.
  • Hard Constraints: Remove all hard constraints (Must Start On and Must Finish On)
  • Soft Constraints: Remove all soft constraints (Start No Earlier Than, Start No Later Than, Finish No Earlier Than and Finish No Later Than).
    • TIP: Make constraint types either As Soon As Possible else As Late As Possible.
  • Leads: Remove negative lags (leads), which results in a more realistic forecast.
  • Lags: Either eliminate positive durations else convert the lag to an activity.

Summary

Since the above takes time, effort and money the best option is to purchase pminsight’s APS5 Schedule Diagnosis service. Let us do the hard work for you using advanced descriptive analytics.

Learn More

If you would like to know more about leveraging data-driven actionable insights for your project schedule, then feel free to contact me on itierney@pminsight.com.au

About Ian: I have more than 20-years IT Project Portfolio experience spanning vendor, solutions integrator and customer side both for private and government organisations. I have worked for Motorola, Ericsson, Vodafone, Dimension Data and Fujitsu amongst others. I am the principal of pminsight, a boutique consultancy specialising in empowering project organisations and professionals with project data-driven insights. 

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