You mean my project should have a schedule?

We all know how important a schedule can be, but often we don’t create a true schedule for our long term projects.  This means there are no actual dates when tasks are due.  We rely on memory and hope it will be done on time.

NEMT President Linda Allard

This is a surefire way to have a project that will either cause a lot of stress or not make deadline. It takes time and is somewhat tedious to create a true schedule, but it is the only way we can assure that we will meet the go-live date of our project.

Using good project management software will help with this task (we will talk about it in the future).  Creating a schedule requires looking at your project as a whole.  A simple way to look at a complete project is to lay it out in sequential order in a chart where you can see the tasks together as a whole.

Let’s look at our previous tasks and see how we can do this.  We already determined what the predecessors were and how long each task will take so now we can put them into a Gantt chart.

Project Management Software

Click the image to see a larger version

By using a Gantt chart, we can see how dependent each task is on the predecessor and that we can’t move forward until the required task is completed. Once we have done this, we need to look at our project in several ways to see if we really have a timeline we can meet.

First look at it from start to finish.  Look at each step and how long it will take. Start to think about the resources you need to complete the individual task.  Get a good feel for the steps of the project.

Now we are going to reverse and look at it backwards.  Start at the end of the project and work your way backwards through the tasks.  I often start with the end of a project or the deadline date so I am sure everything will fit in.

Ask yourself “When do you really need this project done?”  In the example we are using, we have it set to finish on June 15.  What if you need it to end on June 13?  What if you don’t need it until July 1?   This is the time to adjust tasks to meet the deadline you need.

Your next step is to look and see which tasks can float a day or so and won’t hold up the project.  It is very important to figure out which tasks in a project must be completed on the exact date or they will delay another task and ultimately your project.  Those tasks now form your critical path for the project.

In the above project, we could float speaking with the IT and shorten our site visit time.  Those are internal and we can rearrange and only allow three days for the site visit rather than seven.  We cannot float the installation of phones and Internet.  The phone and Internet company have said they require two weeks so we must start them on time because without them we won’t be able to do business. They are part of your critical path.

By creating an accurate timeline and identifying which tasks are critical, we can bring our project in on time and with much less stress to ourselves and our team.

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About Linda Allard

Linda Allard is the president of NEMT.
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