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Advice on Project Scheduling

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There is more to project scheduling that time-lines, dates and plans. All this information has to be communicated right first time, and on time.

Step 1: Define Activities

The goal of the activity definition step is to identify – and describe - all the work products and deliverables that comprise a project.  These deliverables are found as the components of a Work Break Down structure (WBS). The project schedule further decomposes these deliverables into the actual activities required to complete the work. Once defined, they of course need to be communicated.
If the project team doesn't have an established scope statement, WBS, or sufficient scope definition, they may need to host a workshop or two to gather the requirements and further develop the project schedule – more communication. Once you have all the activities defined, the next step is the sequence of the activities and communication tasks.

Step Two: Sequence Activities

At this point you've entered all the task names and have further decomposed the deliverables listed in the WBS. The next step is to sequence the activities with dependencies, which should include communication. During this step, you'll identify any dependencies of related tasks and document them in the project schedule. Analyse each of the tasks to understand which task has a dependency on additional tasks. All, of course, depend on effective communication. There are different types of dependency relationships including Finish-to-Start and Start-to-Start dependencies. These relationships will impact your task start and finish dates – and communication roll-out.

Step Three: Estimate Activity Resources
The next step is to identify the resources and their availability to your project. Remember that not all team members will be 100% available to your project as some team members will be working on multiple projects. In this step, you'll also assign resources to each of the tasks. It is recommended breaking down the tasks so assignments are one task to one resource to avoid adding multiple resources to a given task. It creates a larger project schedule, but it allows better control in allocating and tracking resources as the project executes. Communication is a task. If it is not allocated to a resource, and is not measured, the project will suffer.

Step Four: Estimate Activity Durations
With resources assigned, the next step is to estimate each task's duration. The activity's duration is the number of working periods required to complete the task. This can be defined in days, weeks, and even months. It is also important to understand the difference of the different duration types including Fixed Work, Fixed Duration and Fixed Units. Selecting the correct duration type impacts the resource availability and the forecasted task end date.
Communication, of course, is a task which runs for the entire duration of the project.

Step Five: Develop the Schedule
The next step is to analyse the project schedule and examine the sequences, durations, resources and inevitable scheduling constraints. It is recommended that Resource Graph and the Gantt View are used to identify resource over allocation and reassigning work. Once you've completed the schedule development, you'll be ready for a review with the project owner for initial feedback.
The better you prepare and present your plan (another communication task), the quicker the project owner will accept it.

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