Managing a project is not everybody’s cup of tea; it is certainly a tough row to hoe. Whether it is a large scale project or a medium scale project, there are many important facets of the project which require a constant monitoring to keep them on track. You cannot encapsulate your project for a safe run, changes are inevitable, and it is impossible to turn down the change requests. Thus, it is a bitter pill to swallow for the managers to control the project by simultaneously accepting the expected and unexpected changes.
So, the project managers have to be alert enough to control the various changes happening in the path of project life cycle, be it the scope change, change in resources, budget or schedule, or a change request which comes from the stakeholders.
While managing all these changes, one of the important factors which impacted the most to the project, is the project’s schedule. The client and stakeholders associated with the project have some common assumptions that all the requested changes can be accommodated within the existing project schedule.
And to meet their expectations, the project managers along with his team have to burn the midnight oil and race against the time to complete the project works on schedule.
Monitoring and controlling the project schedule is indeed a tough job. It is not enough if we just respond to the changes and see to it that these are adequate, but you have to be proactive enough to control the changes before they affect your project. The project managers along with his team need to be vigilant enough to control the project schedule from any deviation.
While controlling the project schedule, another important aspect which needs to be taken care of by the project managers, is managing the stakeholders expectations by effective communication. It is the job of the project managers to keep informing the stakeholders on the project’s progress, such as when the work should be performed, who will be working, how long will it take, impact of the work on the project (if any) etc , so that they will be rest assured that the project is on track. Because we know that an influential stakeholder can use his power at any point of time, which may impact the project badly.
There are various tools and techniques which the project managers across the industries apply to their projects to monitor and control the project schedule. Those are already proven techniques used by many managers and also suggested by PMBOK. It is important to keep a close eye on the schedule performance factors, such as start and finish dates, complete percentage, and remaining work and duration etc.
Let’s discuss few of those useful techniques which can be used to control the project schedule.
It is a graphical analysis technique, used to observe the performance of the project over a period of time to ascertain whether the performance is improving or deteriorating. Based on the observation, the project manager can take the appropriate action to run the project on right track.
While analyzing the performance, it is important to compare the progress along the critical path. The activity on the critical path has direct impact on the project schedule. So any variance on the critical path can affect the project schedule. So it is advisable to keep a close tab on the activities residing on the project’s critical path.
The critical chain method is nothing but a buffer management technique. Basically two types of buffers, project buffers and feeding buffers are used to deal with the uncertainty which can has the impact on the project schedule. The project buffers (pre-calculated non-working days) placed at the end of the critical chain to protect the target finish date from slippage.
Feeding buffers are the additional buffers placed at each point where a chain of dependent activities that are not on the critical chain feeds into the critical chain. Thus, it protects the critical chain from slippage along the feeding chains.
The earned value management technique measures the Schedule Variance (SV) and Schedule Performance Index (SPI), which are used to calculate the degree of deviation to the original schedule. Based on the variances, the project managers can decide whether corrective or preventive actions are required.
Managing the available resources according to the requirements of the business to accomplish the established objective is a major concern for the managers. Generally, two resource optimization techniques are famous namely – Resource leveling and Resource smoothing which can be used to deal with those situations.
To bring back the activities which are running behind, the team can adjust the lead (successor) and lags (predecessor) by analyzing the network diagram. Based on the analysis, they can increase or decrease the leads and lags time to bring the schedule on track.
The schedule compression techniques such as fast tracking and crashing can be used to shorten the project duration to bring the project schedule on track. Fast tracking is a technique where the activities or phases on the critical path are performed in parallel rather than in sequence. So, by overlapping some of the activities, we can control the project schedule.
Crashing technique can be used to bring back the activities which are running behind by adding more available resources onto them.
Today, we have discussed some of the useful tools and techniques to monitor and control the project schedule. While managing the project, it is crucial to control the schedule from any slippage, and in case of any variation; these techniques can help you to bring the schedule on track.