In order to ensure the success and prompt completion of a project, it is crucial to implement the appropriate project planning and scheduling techniques. These goals, however, should be SMART or specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed.
There are varied reasons why a project misses its target deadlines. For one, some stakeholders without an active role in the project establish unrealistic deadlines. Sometimes, a customer modifies the requirements in the project which may not be reflected on the schedule. And then there are instances wherein mistakes are made in estimating the required effort, time and resources necessary to complete the project. It is also common for organizations to completely miss out on risks associated with specific tasks. Sometimes, project managers fail to recognize that the project is delayed and fail to take corrective measures to bring tasks up to speed. Other common reasons for missed deadlines encountered by an experienced time analysis consultant include technical and human difficulties as well as miscommunication.
Among the most common techniques used by project planning and scheduling experts are the Program Evaluation and Review Technique, Work Breakdown Structure and the Gantt Chart.
In the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), also known as the Critical Path Method (CPM), one of the first crucial steps that needs to be taken is determining the critical path. The critical path can be defined as a set or chain of tasks which will be then used to determine the appropriate timeframe for the project. Project managers also have to determine the soonest possible time a task can be started once other tasks are completed. They should also look at the latest time a task can be started without causing the delay of the project. Once done, the project managers can then determine the earliest and latest time to complete the whole project, factoring in the total float or the maximum allowable time slippage which will not cause delay to the total project.
In a Work Breakdown Structure, the project manager and his team need to determine what are the tasks that need to be done to complete the project. This will require the divide and conquer approach. In the divide aspect, the project is broken up into several tasks, the completion of which is to be considered as milestones. These milestones can be used to determine how in sync to the projected timeframe the actual project is. In the conquer aspect, the project team must estimate the amount of time required to complete tasks and then gather tasks as a whole.
Developed by Henry Gantt in 1917, the Gantt chart is a visual representation of a schedule which can be utilized for various purposes including planning, coordination and tracking of tasks. The chart employs a horizontal and a vertical axis. The horizontal represents the total time frame for the completion of the project which can be broken down into days, weeks or months. The vertical axis, on the other hand, details the tasks that need to be done to complete the project.