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Project scheduling

  This is a guest post from Brad Egeland - IT/PM & Business Strategy Consultant & professional PM & Technology author ( www.bradegeland.com )

Simple project scheduling is helping to succeed with PM and your everyday business processes.

   As project professionals we like to think that we should always be using our powerful project management software and tools to the fullest – tracking projects, managing resources, scheduling tasks, assigning dependencies, calculating earned value, and using our project scheduling tools for project budget management. And yes, sometimes we do that – sometimes we must do that to be successful. Sometimes our organizations or our customers require that level of detail, tracking and effort. Sometimes our projects are so large or so complex that we must use everything at our disposal. And sometimes there is so much money at stake that we must manage it to the fullest. But is that the norm? Do we need to go to this extent or effort on every project? Must we test the limits of our tool’s capabilities on every project we manage? On even half the projects we manage?

   Show of hands if you sometimes just use your project software as a scheduling tool. You assign resources, but not to the level of tracking resource dollars, leveling resource hours and worrying about front loading or back loading effort on project tasks. And there’s a special prize for those of you strong enough to admit that you just aren’t that detailed most of the time.

   Best practices are important. Every project needs status reporting. Every project needs customer contact, budget oversight, task management, and resource management. What changes, of course, is the level at which we perform these functions. When we’re managing many small projects that need to be successful but aren’t going to change the world, we may just need to manage who is doing what when and be able to report status on those tasks on a weekly basis. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s really the basis of project management. The end goal is always to deliver a successful solution to the customer, right? If you can get there by minimizing the level of project management detail and effort – thereby saving valuable project dollars by not over managing your project – then that’s a good thing.

   Our project schedules are important, indeed. Along with the status report, they should always be the driving force behind our weekly management of the project. A revised project schedule given to the customer on a weekly basis builds customer confidence. A revised schedule handed to every project resourceevery week keeps them well-informed, focused on their assigned tasks and owning the status and progress of those tasks. Accountability is a very good thing – and you can do a lot of great things with just a revised, accurate project schedule containing tasks and resource assignments…and that’s all.

  What I’m trying to say is…don’t over do it. Too many project managers – especially new project managers – want to jump in with both feet and manage the heck out of every project down to the finest of details. By doing that – especially when it becomes overkill on the project in question – you can end up micro-managing everyone on the project to the extreme, driving everyone crazy with the details, and miss the real project management tasks you were put in place to perform. And that’s managing the customer and managing the team to a successful project solution at deployment. Sometimes – many times– it’s ok to keep it simple. The key is knowing when it needs to be simple and not burn everyone on the project out with too many details. Experienced project managers know this and new project managers need to look for ways to learn this.

   In the scenarios I’m discussing here, easy of use for your chosen project management tool is important. One specific tool that comes to mind that has a small learning curve and can be used in detailed PM fashion or to manage a series of projects at a higher, less detailed level as described here, is Ganttic. It does a great job of allowing PMs to focus on what’s most important for the project scheduling – however large or small – that they are managing for their organizations.