Project Management. Planning Phase. Schedule

Project schedule – after creation it is used regularly till end of the project. The main schedule I prefer to track in Microsoft Project. In my practice I’m trying to use the following principles while dealing with MS Project:

  • Human resources load can not be more then 80%. On the one hand nobody can work 100% a day, on the other hand there is a small time reserve – it sometimes can help you meet deadlines.
  • All milestones and deadlines from A3 and business project request as well as key dates from risks list must be moved to MS Project as deadlines or other highlighted elements. E.g. I usually marked tasks on which critical risks depend with special colours. I can say that last versions of MS Project provide a vast variety of different design tools, so only your imagination can restrict you ))).
  • I also group tasks by development phases: design section, development section, test section and stabilization section. This helps to estimate the total amount of work for each phase of program life cycle and set logical links between each phase.
  • I try to compose tasks using the following rule: minimum task length 1 hour, maximum – 40 hours. It’s quite hard to register and analyse tasks smaller than 1 hour – such micromanagement would overload project manager. And it’s impossible to track huge tasks – you would never know exactly when the task would be ready – you can face the situation when developer has spent all 100 hours and is still at the beginning of the process. And it’s better to know about the fact we have some problems after 16 hours, then after 100 hours.

The MS Project file can look like:

But how we can communicate this plan to project sponsor and business representatives? It’s a bad idea to send them plan in MS Project – they do not need such detailed specification. For this purpose I create a separate file in MS Excel and update it on weekly or monthly basis (depends on the project duration).

This file uses also Gantt principles but much simpler than MS Project:

The vertical red line shows current week. This file is a top level schedule for the project and is rather suitable to be presented to project team.

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