Project time management
What is Project time management?
Managing time is a core project management activity. It involves a series of steps, and the use of a number of tools and procedures, all geared to ensuring that a project meets set times for completion.
Timing goals are set during a project’s planning phase and monitored continually throughout its execution, with adjustments made as necessary. On project completion, achievements against the schedule are audited to see what could have been done better.
Step 1 — define project activities and their chronological order
Time management of a project involves firstly defining the activities that have to be managed. To that end, documents such as the Project Charter, Project Scope Statement, Project Plan and Work Breakdown Structure may be useful.
A schedule network diagram is then produced to display the order in which these activities will be undertaken. (This diagram differs from a GANTT Chart in that it is concerned only with the chronological order of tasks and their links. A GANTT chart represents the timing of the project tasks.)
Step 2 — estimate time durations and resource needs
Once activities are defined, the duration of each is estimated, and the expected resources each will require to complete, mindful of available resources. These resources are then assigned to particular tasks.
Estimating the time each work component will take to complete needs to be as accurate as possible to ensure no time blow-outs as the project proceeds. Historical data on projects of a similar type is often a guide in this respect. Activity logs, recorded over time for particular types of activities also yield useful data for estimating. It is important when estimating times for project activities to always build in a contingency to cover unexpected delays or complications.
Step 3 — prepare a project schedule
A project schedule is then developed, taking into account work done to this point. It may be documented in a GANTT chart or developed using a tool such as Microsoft Project.
Added considerations that may influence scheduling include priorities that may apply for certain tasks, known risks and task dependencies.
- Task dependencies are the relationships, or dependencies, that exist between certain tasks in respect to when they can start and when they can finish.
- There are four task dependencies: Finish to Start, Start to Start, Finish to Finish, and Finish to Start.
- Dependence may be mandatory (e.g. the project cannot proceed without certain approvals, or without another task having first been underway for, say, a week), resource-based, or discretionary (e.g. a preference to do something in a certain way).
Step 4 — identify the critical path
Once a project schedule is drawn up, the critical path can be identified. Managers might use a tool such as the critical path method or PERT to calculate the earliest and latest start and finish dates for tasks to work out lead times, lags and float. Alternatively, they might use the critical chain method, which takes resources into account in scheduling activities.
Step 5 — monitoring and control
The project schedule is monitored and controlled for the life of the project through to its completion. This is to take account of unexpected risks, changes to project scope, unforeseen delays and task dependencies and so on.
Monitoring and control may include:
- compressing the schedule (if it is running late) using overtime for affected tasks, or fast tracking. Each option has risks and cost implications.
- using tools such as earned value management (EVM), variance analysis (e.g. using the Schedule Performance Index [SPI]) or project management software.
To read more about the critical chain method, view:
To read more about EVM and SPI, view the following weblinks: