Ask any project manager, and they’ll tell you that the teams, tools, and resources they use will vary from one job to the next. It all depends on the project scope. There is, however, one element so essential that it appears in every project no matter what the industry: the project timeline.
The timeline serves as the blueprint of a project. It starts the entire endeavor off on the right foot, clarifies the ultimate goal and contains a series of milestones that measure progress. Your success as a project manager depends on your ability to create a realistic yet effective timeline.
A scope statement is precisely what its name suggests: a document that defines the scope of a project and presents the information that shapes the project timeline. Contents include:
Another goal of this statement is to create a common understanding of the project scope among internal (e.g. the company’s upper management) and external (the client) stakeholders, so that there are no unfounded assumptions that could compromise the project later.A #project timeline is akin to a blueprint, if it's not done right, the whole thing may fail. Step up your game with this ultimate #guide: Click To Tweet
A work breakdown structure (WBS) breaks down and organizes the required work into sections that the project manager can evaluate and assign to members of the team. Instead of focusing on individual tasks, the WBS emphasizes milestones in the project timeline. Each one will have its own to-do list and blend naturally into the next stage in the project.
Breaking down a large project in this manner makes it easier for the manager to establish dependencies, develop a schedule, assign roles and responsibilities, and monitor the progress of the project.
A dependency is a task that cannot commence until another one has been completed. For example, if you’re designing a new app your team cannot start working until you have a workspace for them. Dependencies can be ‘upstream’, meaning that something external must happen before work can begin, or ‘downstream’, which is when the team must deliver something before the next stage in the project timeline can be achieved.
Constraints are like dependencies in that they also affect project delivery, only constraints are restrictions. Examples include:
Once the constraints are identified, the project manager is responsible for determining ways to deliver the project as specified despite these limitations.
Once the WBS has been created and both dependencies and constraints are clarified, the project manager must decide how long it will reasonably take to complete each task. If they have worked on a similar project in the past, making these determinations should be a straightforward process. But if it’s an entirely new scope or environment, discussing the matter with a colleague or experienced team member can provide necessary guidance.
Once the project manager knows what resources will be required to create the project deliverables, confirming availability is next. If a graphic designer is needed to complete the app interface, is there someone available to work on the task for as long as the job is expected to take? If there will be six people working on the project, is a suitably sized workspace available? Only when all resources are confirmed to be available should actual work on a project begin.A #project timeline is akin to a blueprint, if it's not done right, the whole thing may fail. Step up your game with this ultimate #guide: Click To Tweet
The purpose of milestones is to allow the project manager to track progress on the deliverables from beginning to end. If the team falls behind for any reason, the project manager will know instantly by looking at the milestones. This advance knowledge gives the project manager time to make the adjustments needed to keep the team and the work on target.
Some project timelines are generated and maintained in Microsoft Excel, but a growing number of project managers use specialized software to create their timelines. The best project management software packages use intuitive templates and workflows that are easy to follow and make schedule creation and maintenance much more efficient.
Teamweek is a popular online project planning software that includes a team calendar. It delivers a visual and real-time overview of team activity at all stages of the project life cycle and allows managers to respond quickly to change. In addition to building project timelines, Teamweek is a strategic tool to help you track your project’s progress.
Heading off into the great unknown can be exhilarating- unless you’re a project manager. With a project timeline in place, you and your team will be prepared. Project timelines will align team members and stakeholders, define the scope, outline both deliverables and tasks, and confirm resource allocation.