Here I am again touching upon project management basics and how they apply to project scheduling. My intent is after writing these basic concepts I will start building tutorials on actual projects, which will be fictional, of course. I just feel a strong the need to make sure I lay down the foundations by writing these basics. Believe me, I would just love to jump in and start putting tutorials together. Theory is not as fun as actually putting something together and getting your hands dirty. But if you really want your project to work, you need to first try to understand the basic concepts behind building a good foundation for your schedule and have a little patience.
Previously I touched upon the importance of good planning in Project Management Basics #1. Then, I explained some simple scheduling concepts in Project Management Basics #2. I explained project scheduling, and the importance of asking questions about the different project aspects. I also introduced the concept of EVMS and how to go about top-down planning to define a project.
Scheduling Building Blocks
Let’s touch upon some scheduling building blocks. I will not go into a lot of detail here, maybe I’ll do it at a future date. Here is a list of things you need to know about scheduling.
- Build a list of activities
- Group together activities that go hand in hand
- Figure out the logical sequence of the activities
- Identify the relationship and dependency between each activity
- Figure out the duration of each activity
- Resource Allocation
- Baseline the project
Build a List of Activities
Start building the list activities needed for your project. At the beginning don’t worry about what order they are in. The important thing is to list any and every activity you can think of to make your project successful. I would start with major phases or modules and start adding details to each big area, but you go ahead and build your list the way it makes most sense to you.
College Education Activity List
|Freshman English 1|
|English 1 Homework A|
|English 1 Quiz A|
|English Homework B|
|English Quiz B|
|Calculus 1 Homework A|
|Calculus 1 Quiz A|
|Calculus 101 Homework B|
|Calculus 101 Quiz B|
|Spanish 101 Homework A|
|Spanish 101 Quiz A|
|Spanish 101 Homework B|
|Spanish 101 Quiz B|
|Freshman English 2|
Group Together Activities That Go Hand in Hand
After you have your activity list it’s time to sort through it. If you didn’t start with a top-down planning, then this is the time to group activities together under a general umbrella, or as we call it in scheduling, a summary task. An example of this is gathering all the freshman courses tasks under a group/summary task named Freshman 1st Semester.
College Education Grouped Activity List
|Freshman Sem 01||Freshman English 1|
|Freshman Sem 01||English 1 Homework A|
|Freshman Sem 01||English 1 Quiz A|
|Freshman Sem 01||English Homework B|
|Freshman Sem 01||English Quiz B|
|Freshman Sem 01||Calculus 1|
|Freshman Sem 01||Calculus 1 Homework A|
|Freshman Sem 01||Calculus 1 Quiz A|
|Freshman Sem 01||Calculus 101 Homework B|
|Freshman Sem 01||Calculus 101 Quiz B|
|Freshman Sem 01||Spanish 101|
|Freshman Sem 01||Spanish 101 Homework A|
|Freshman Sem 01||Spanish 101 Quiz A|
|Freshman Sem 01||Spanish 101 Homework B|
|Freshman Sem 01||Spanish 101 Quiz B|
|Freshman Sem 01||Biology 100|
|Freshman Sem 02||Freshman English 2|
|Freshman Sem 02||Calculus 2|
|Freshman Sem 02||Economics 101|
|Freshman Sem 02||Spanish 110|
|Freshman Sem 02||Biology 110|
Figure Out the Logical Sequence for Each Activity
Now that you have grouped together all the activities that are similar, it’s time to go ahead and start sequencing them. That means you have to figure out which activity will go first, second, etc. Remember, some activities may be done concurrently with other activities.
Identify the Relationship and Dependency Between Each Activity
Some people may get confused as to the difference between sequencing and finding the relationship between activities. Sequencing is putting your activities in order from beginning of the project to the end of the project. Identifying the relationship between each activity is defining how each activity relates to another. In scheduling there are four types of scheduling relationships that define the dependencies between each activity.
FS – Finish to Start
Finish to Start (FS) relationship is where one activity has to finish before another activity can begin
FF – Finish to Finish
Finish to Finish (FF) relationship is where one activity will finish when another activity finishes
SS – Start to Start
Start to Start (SS) relationship is where one activity cannot start until another activity begins
SF – Start to Finish
Start to Finish (SF) relationship is where one activity has to start for another activity to finish. This SF relationship is rarely used. Up until now I haven’t found a reason to use it. Do not use it if at all possible since it’s not part of the best practices of scheduling to use it frequently.
Figure Out the Duration for Each Activity
Now that you have defined the relationship between each activity you now need to figure out how long it’s going to take for each activity to be completed. This will help determine the length of your project. Remember, try not to put too little or too much time for each activity. If this is your first time trying to figure out durations, it’s best to err on the side of more time than less. It just has to make sense. There are techniques you can use to figure out durations.
Historical Data – How long has it taken in the past to complete a similar activity
PERT – Program Evaluation and Review Technique
Not all schedules are resource loaded. At least that has been my observation over the many years I’ve been putting schedules together.
Actually, of all the schedules I’ve encounter, maybe 10% were resource loaded. Not that the companies didn’t want resource loaded schedules. That was their number one request when I first spoke to them about their schedules. But somehow, they have a difficult time implementing it because they need to have the right information to make it work.
So if you can’t get your schedules resource loaded, it’s not the end of the world. It does mean you won’t be able to take certain measurements like EVMS. Your schedules might then have to be solely on based on duration. That means your time model of your project, your schedule, will be less reliable. But as long as you keep that in mind, in my opinion, and you do everything else you need to do, then you can still have a chance to bring in your project on time.
Baseline the Project
Once you have all your ducks in a row, meaning you have built out your schedule, built the relationships, made sure all tasks have a predecessor and a successor, determined durations, and resource loaded your schedule, then you can baseline the schedule. Voila! You are ready to start updating and maintaining your project with your project schedule.
The Next Step – Building a “real” hand-on project schedule
If you have any questions, let me know. In the next couple of weeks, I will walk you step by step on how to build a schedule with a specific project. The one I have in mind now, which I have touched upon here, is to build a project on getting a college education. I think it’s something most people are familiar on the sequencing. Until next time.