Say you’re planning an important event, such as a wedding or family vacation. What are some of the first steps you’d take? You’d figure out where it was going to be, who was going to attend, how long it would last, and what activities everyone would do. Managing a project is no different. Some of your first steps are determining what work will be done, who is going to handle which tasks, and how long the work will take.
Project managers use project schedules to communicate this important information to the team and stakeholders. If you’re new to project scheduling—or just need to refresh your memory—this guide is for you. We’ll offer best practices for creating a schedule that helps your team complete work on time
What Is a Project Schedule?
The project management schedule is a document that outlines what work needs to be done, the order in which it needs to be done, what resources are required, how they will be distributed, and how long different parts of the work will take. The schedule helps project managers communicate and collaborate with team members and stakeholders, and keeps the project on track.
More specifically, a project schedule covers:
- Project milestones
- Tasks required to complete the deliverables
- Dependencies between tasks and milestones
- Resource requirements and allocation
- Deadlines, time frames, and task duration
Project schedules are used throughout the project management life cycle, as well as in project portfolio management (the process of determining the return on investment of projects). In industries that frequently undertake large, complex projects, such as engineering and construction, creating and maintaining the schedule is a full-time job, handled by a project scheduler or scheduling team. Sub-schedules may also be used in complex projects where more detail is needed.
As with many aspects of project management, scheduling is done in iterations. When creating a schedule, project managers estimate the work, timeline, and resources they anticipate. However, all this information is subject to change once the project is underway. The schedule is typically created during a project’s early stages, but is referred to throughout its life cycle.
Using project management software to create a schedule can help project managers and team members communicate about, track, and revise the schedule more efficiently and effectively. These platforms typically offer templates and sample schedules to guide you. They may also come with scheduling functionality that can automate much of the process, check resource availability, help you calculate task duration, and more.