Project management involves three main phases:
- Phase 1- Project Planning: Involves goal setting, defining the project, and team organization.
- Phase 2- Project Scheduling: Developing the specific time schedule for each activity along with the assignment of budget, people, and resources.
- Phase 3 – Project Controlling: Monitoring of schedules, resources, and budgets.
Managers use project networks in the planning phase of a project to display the link between activities. The next step in managing large projects is the project scheduling phase. In this phase, the time schedule for each activity is developed. The activities have to be labeled as critical or non-critical, and delay times should be considered. Project management techniques can assist in the phase.
A project schedule is a communication device that tells the team, sponsor, and other stakeholders what activities need to be done, in what time frame, and by whom. It is created by the project manager with input from the people doing the work. The project manager must understand the constraints of the project—scope, resource availability, time, budget, risk, and quality—and develop a timeline that will deliver the project appropriately.
The following three techniques provide the project manager a view into the critical aspects of the project schedule, and they provide insight into the influencers on the project’s time line.
Introduction to Gantt Charts
Most project managers are familiar with the Gantt chart. Created in 1917 by Henry L. Gantt, it is the most common and familiar depiction of the project schedule. It charts the project activities across time, showing each project task as a horizontal line. The duration of the task is represented by the length of the line. Milestones are also displayed. Although some scheduling tools will add in dependencies between tasks, they are not included on a pure Gantt chart.
Introduction to PERT
PERT (Program Evaluation Review Technique) is another project scheduling method. Created by the U.S. Navy during the 1950s, this method uses three different time estimates to determine the project schedule: best case, worst case, and probable case. It draws the result, which includes dependencies, in a variety of different formats. PERT is very useful for analyzing the relationships between complex tasks, especially on very large projects.
Critical Path Method (CPM)
Critical Path Method (CPM) is a network diagramming and scheduling methodology, similar to PERT. However, CPM only uses one time estimate. CPM was created during the same time frame as PERT (the mid-1950s) by Morgan R. Walker and James E. Kelly.
There are a number of items of which a project manager must be aware when building a schedule:
Understanding Schedule Influencers
- Amount of work
- Resource availability
- Process restrictions
A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that illustrates the schedule. It shows the project activities across time, using bars and other symbols. A Gantt chart represents each project task as a horizontal line. The length of the line represents the duration of the task. It is also possible to represent milestones. Dependencies between tasks are not shown on a true Gantt chart, although some scheduling tools will add them.
The Gantt chart is the most common representation of the project schedule. It can be used for planning purposes to illustrate the flow of work on the project. It can also be a powerful management tool, providing a mechanism to visually represent the status of the project. It is possible to draw the tasks’ actual progress next to the original timeline, to help facilitate comparing the two.
The following video by Mind Tools will explain the importance of Gantt and how to set up a basic Gantt Chart:
For Larger Projects
For simple projects, a Gantt chart will suffice, but for a larger project, the Gantt chart is just the first project management technique used. The Gantt chart does not adequately illustrate the relationships between activities and resources, and the chart will mainly be used to provide summaries of the project’s status.
Creating a realistic project schedule is a major activity of the project manager. For the project manager to successfully complete this, she must understand the techniques available and the influencers that must be considered.
One option for scheduling a project is a Gantt chart. An advantage of a Gantt chart is they are low in cost. The Gantt chart can verify all activities are planned, the order of performance is accounted for, the activity times are recorded, and the project time is developed. The chart shows the start and finish times of one or more activities. Another advantage to the Gantt charts is they are easy to construct and understand. The manager can use the charts to plan and track the progress of each activity.
Mind Tools Videos. (2011). Gantt chart tutorial video: Learn how to create gantt charts [Video]. Retrieved from the YouTube Web site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rm_iWKoOd0U