Planning by Time, Duration, Dates & Workload
Planning and Project Management
When it comes to the job of project management, planning is one of the most important tasks that you will take on. So many aspects of the project are dependent upon your planning that in many ways, the success of the project rests upon your ability to put forward realistic time and resource estimates. The plans that you set forth will propel and guide the project forward at every stage of the development cycle. Therefore, once a project has been initiated, the first thing that you should create and present is a project plan.
Prioritize the Triple Constraint
There are many ways to approach the planning stage of a project. To start with, you will have to have a very clear idea as to how the Triple Constraint is prioritized in the project you are working on. What is the client asking for? Does the client insist that the project be completed and tested by a certain date, are they insisting that the project have certain functions and content above all else or are they demanding that work be successfully completed within the specified budget? The answers to these questions tell you what is the priority and they will influence the way in which you plan your project. If you find that you do not have the answers to these questions, you will need to present them to the client.
To estimate factors like how much time a project will take, what resources are required and the cost of a project, you will need to have a complete and thorough understanding of the scope of work. You will then need to generate a time estimate for every single task in that project. With time, there will be many components of the project that you will have a lot of experience managing and may know the length of the task. Still it is a good idea to liaise with the person that oversees the department that will fulfill the task to ensure that your estimates are always correct. For tasks that are unfamiliar to you, this is a must-do.
What are Dependencies?
Once you have time estimates for all of the tasks involved in a project, you will need to figure out the dependencies in your project. This is best done with a chart. In all projects there are always certain tasks that can not be started until certain other tasks have been completed. These are dependencies. When a project is laid out in a graphical form, showing milestones and task dependencies, the critical path for that project can then be established. The critical path network enables management to plan for the optimal use of time, resources and scheduling. It also ensures that there is no unused slack time in the project. Managers rely strongly on the information supplied by the critical path network and PERT applications to ensure that sufficient resources are available to complete the project successfully and on time.
When Time is of the Essence
When a client has made it clear that time is of the essence and the pressure is on time wise, your ability to plan becomes more and more important. Your estimates of the amount of time it will take to complete a task will need to be as accurate and experience-based as possible. In addition to this, your start and end dates will need to be as reliable as possible. Gantt charts provide the project manager with a visual representation of when individual project tasks begin and end. All project tasks are displayed (often color-coded) with their start and end dates. This allows the project manager to more accurately estimate and plan the overall duration of the project.
Project Management Tools
A variety of charts are used in combination with one another in project management. Some are more useful than others depending on what is being measured. A milestone chart shows progress by workload or by what has or is to be accomplished. Milestone charts along with percentage-completed charts help management stay up-to-date on where the project should be and where it currently stands.
Charts and Analysis
By reviewing milestone charts and percentage-completed charts, project managers can quickly detect when things are falling behind schedule and find solutions to the problem. The solution will not always be to put more people on the job. There is a very well known concept in project management called the Mythical Man Month theory. This theory basically states that the more people that you place on a project, the more time that is needed for communication. It also teaches us that arbitrarily adding people to a project that is running late can in many cases slow things down even further.
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