7 Project Scheduling Best Practices You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Projects of all sizes need to have proper project schedules in order to stay within their proper timelines and scope. Project scheduling software like Oracle’s Primavera P6, allows you to organize tasks and keep track of changes as they come along. Although a software will allow you to stay organized and keep track of things, there are other areas of project scheduling you need to be aware of as well. In this article, we outline seven best practices that will help you create better schedules and avoid the most common mistakes project managers make.

7 Project Scheduling Best Practices

1. Don’t Schedule Alone

Even for the experienced project manager, you shouldn’t try to plan out a whole project on your own. Use the experience and knowledge of your team to come up with a realistic schedule that identifies all relevant tasks and allocates resources appropriately. You can certainly be responsible for prioritization of tasks, and identifying what needs to be rescheduled for later if timing is taking too long, but work with the team to come up with the best, most realistic schedule for the tasks at hand.

2. Identify Risks

As part of the planning process, you should identify risks to the schedule. Keep this up to date as the project continues as new risks could be identified at any time. Control these as much as you can and allocate resources as necessary to help reduce risks. Sometimes it is better to spend some time sooner to examine risks versus waiting until later to realize the risk is either non-existent or could require a whole reworking of the plan.

3. Use Phases to Help with Synchronization

It is best to break a project down into phases where each phase has a set milestone. With an interim milestone, you can see how well the project is moving along and make sure you’re on schedule more easily. Instead of waiting until the end to see that you’re totally off course, checking in phases allow you to find out sooner when tasking needs to be reevaluated.

4. Use Tools

Once a project has been broken up into pieces and individual tasks have been identified, use tools to track progress. It isn’t project scheduling best practices to have to manually sort through emails to see what’s done and not done. A tool such as JIRA will allow you to see easily through its reporting capabilities what the status of everything is. This will be especially helpful for any weekly reporting needs.

5. Track Levels of Effort

Every task in a project should have a level of effort (LOE) associated with it — how much time does the appropriate party think the task will take. When the task is done, real-time numbers should be compared against estimates both to see how well the estimates were and to help improve estimates in the future. Does one particular engineer always over/under estimate? You can help them provide better estimates so schedules are more realistic by tracking how much time tasks actually took.

6. Beware of Scope Creep

It is going to happen no matter how much you say it won’t. As projects move along, someone realizes original plans are either unrealistic, incomplete, or just plain wrong, among many other possibilities. How you handle the change requests will determine what happens to project. Do you try to double staff? Extend deadline? Drop requirements? There is no one right answer here. If you have a hard deadline, something has to give, but if the schedule can slip two weeks, make sure the team is aware of the updated requirements and deadline.

7. Communicate

Most people hate to spend their days in meetings. However, without regular reviews of progress, it is hard to know what’s going on. Hold regular status updates to make sure there are no roadblocks and everyone is moving forward with their individual tasks. Tools can only show so much, like what’s finished, but not why something isn’t done yet.

Experience helps project managers create better schedules. Even experienced project managers have their own project scheduling best practices.