The Expected Value & Benefits Of Project Schedules
A well-managed construction or business project requires a well-defined schedule or plan. Every schedule serves to communicate to your project team what works have to be executed, which resources will be employed to undertake those works, and in what time frames they are required to be completed. Schedules can range in intricacy from simple to complex and depends on the nature of the project, its scope of work, and requirements. Regardless of their intended usage, all schedules are created premised on a single assumption: they serve to model the intended reality of the project's implementation.
Scheduling constitutes an integral part of project planning, aiding in the development of a comprehensive plan from inception to handover through well defined project activities, timelines, milestones, resource assignments, and deliverables. A schedule will essentially outline how the project will be effectively managed; without one, the project is fated to failure.
We have recognized that the quality of any schedule is subject to the value placed on them by their creators. Some managers and stakeholders fail to see the value in their creation, use, and essential role that they can play in the comprehensive management of projects. Others have gone so far to as to consign schedules to an annoying requirements of the client and nothing more than a waste of time. What then, are some of the expected value or benefit that can be derived from the detailed development and use of schedules in projects?
Effective Management & Communication
A well conceived and formulated schedule will outline how a project will be effectively managed from start to finish. It presents a planned sequence of events, activities, deliverables, targets, and milestones, and by when each must be achieved. For the project leader, it can form the basis for defining and communicating project success, key performance indicators, and the roles and responsibilities of those who will form the project team.
Schedules provide an effective framework for the continuous monitoring of a project's progress. By reviewing the progress of activities and milestones, schedules can provide invaluable feedback on whether the project is proceeding according to plan and if it will be completed in time. Monitoring the schedule can help the project leader to identify critical and slipping tasks, possible or potential delays, and alternatives for effecting project recoveries if needed.
Efficient Resource Management
Schedules aid in the planning, assigning, mobilizing, motivating, and monitoring of the productivity and efficiency of all resources - be it people, plant, equipment, or finances. Appropriately resourced schedules help to optimally align and sequence activities, and their durations, ensuring the maximization and smoothing in their usage. It also helps to improve continuity and reduces high demands and added costs through unnecessary demobilization and remobilization.
Schedules serve to encourage accountability by ensuring everyone meets their obligations. This can include information sharing, performing critical key tasks in the timely manner, responding to contractor and client queries, completing the required testing, and various other forms of documentation and project reporting.
Better Coordination & Focus
Schedules can be used to guide regular team meetings in an effort to receive and review status reports. Having continuous discussions about items or packages of work can help the team to reduce any coordination issues and misunderstandings, gain a more comprehensive view of progress and key challenges in implementation, and refocus their efforts and energies as they move from one activity to another.
Scheduling can greatly impact the overall financial performance of a project, particularly as time constrains the use of resources in the completion of certain tasks. Schedule creators have to allow for both the efficient and effective use of resources on the project, especially when they are highly specialized and costly. It should be noted that completing projects within short periods of time typically cost more due to the additional resources which may be required and often expedited. Furthermore, proper estimating and planning projections help to prevent undesirable and unwanted costs which push up project costs.
Finally, schedules help to maintain key aspects of quality by encouraging project team members to address concerns, problems, and issues in a timely manner, aligned with the client's expectations. By establishing quality controls at the onset of the project, teams that ensure that no major issues appear at the end; particularly delaying completion and increasing costs due to possible rework. Schedules can also inform the quality controls which help project leaders to identify and manage risks, and exploit opportunities to speed up works where possible.