The most fundamental skill of project management is how to read, design and amend the time schedule. The time schedule represents actual project performance and discloses expectations of what could occur as a result of its implementation.
The first step is to determine the purpose of the project. This must be carefully defined. Then, answer the following question: what is the project’s driver – time or cost?
For over 20 years, schedules had been prepared manually. Now there are computer programs that deliver them. So, not surprisingly, there is more than one method for drawing up a project’s time schedule. The choice itself depends upon the nature of the project and the presentation required for senior management’s purposes.
How the schedule is prepared is the cornerstone of project management. It establishes how human resources and equipment are allocated, and discloses how costs are to be distributed along the project’s timeline, enabling identification of possible ways to enhance cost controls as the project moves towards completion.
During World War I in the previous century, Henry L. Gantt used the first method considered scientific to prepare a project schedule. It begins with its representation of activities by simple rectangles. The method is used in project planning and work schedules at the time of production. The Gantt chart was used by putting a plan on a magnetic blackboard using rectangles of iron, whose length was a time unit.
This was developed into the S curve, used for monitoring performance of project follow-up activities.
Until the mid-1950s, however, there was little further development of project planning as a management. In 1957, there emerged two different teams working on project planning using networks.
The first team was prepared by way of Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). This method relies heavily on mathematical-statistical probability theory.
The second team was using a network and depended on CPM (Critical Path Method).
CPM methods have share many of the methods used for PERT, but some of the objectives are different. Development of the actual project plan is done through the application of Operations Research methods.
The first team to employ the PERT method in a major practical case was working on the U. S. Navy’s deployment of the POLARIS submarine-based missile system. At the time, in 1958, the Navy was seeking to produce rocket launchers in record time.
Using mathematical statistics, the PERT method can be applied to furnish some exactitude for the determination of a project’s activity duration time. Maximum, minimum, and most-likely times are computed for each activity in order to obtain a fully elaborated estimate of the likelihood of completing the project, or critical parts of it, within a range that specifies the likeliest minimum and maximum probable durations.
Teamwork on critical path methods (CPM) was introduced in 1957 by two companies, Du Pont and Remington Rand Univac. The objective of the working group was to reduce the time period for maintenance and overhaul rotating machines, as well as construction work.
Because its approach requires identifying only one expected time period for each activity, and the project itself is laid out as a string of such activities on "the critical path," the calculation of the time required for different activities in a CPM-based approach to project-management planning was easier and less complex than what had been demanded of the team managing the the POLARIS project activities.
Today, the critical-path method — used with some other methods, utilizing computer software — is the most commonly-used methof of networking activities in project planning.
In the planning process, whatever is to be accomplished by the project is planned in accordance with the order and manner of the project’s overall execution. There will often be some changes, and the time schedule will require adjustments in accordance with the changes in the project.
In order to do the work with a good plan, you must answer the following questions clearly:
• What are the activities that you want to execute?
• When will you execute these activities?
• Who will execute these activities?
• What are the equipment and tools required?
• What activities cannot be executed?
Answers to these questions are crucial for arranging the work in the most appropriate way. From that point, the project will become comprehensible to all others involved in its realization. Now your goal as a project management proferssional is to transform this information in a simple way, present it to all parties of the project, and make sure everything is clearly understood.
Your planning team target is to implement the project in a timely manner in accordance with the specific cost and, at the same time, achieve the required level of quality. Therefore, the planning of this project is needed for the following:
• To reduce the risks of the project to the lowest level possible
• To achieve the performance specifications of the project
• To establish organization for the implementation of business
• To develop procedures to control the project
• To achieve the best results in the shortest possible time
Due to unavailability of certain information, the planner cannot be expected to plan in detail every single minute of the project in advance of execution. Time must be available to adjust the plan schedule as more information becomes available.
If you ask people what makes a project successful, "a realistic schedule" usually tops the list. But ask them to be more specific, and several characteristics of a realistic schedule emerge. A realistic schedule does the following:
• Includes a detailed knowledge of the work to be done
• Has task sequences in the correct order
• Accounts for external constraints beyond the control of the team
• Can be accomplished on time, given the availability of skilled people and enough equipment
Finally, a realistic schedule takes into consideration all the objectives of the project. For example, a schedule may be just right for the project team, but if it misses the customer completion date by a mile, then it’s clear the whole project will need reassessment. Building a project plan that includes all the necessary parts and achieves a realistic balance between cost, scheduling, and quality requires a careful, step-by-step process.