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Project Scheduling

Submitted by: Rana Talha Nazir

Project Scheduling Submitted by: Rana Talha Nazir Scheduling is an inexact process in that it tries

Scheduling is an inexact process in that it tries to predict the future. While it is not possible to know with certainty how long a project will take, there are techniques that can increase your likelihood of being close. If you are close in your planning and estimating, you can manage the project to achieve the schedule by accelerating some efforts or modifying approaches to meet required deadlines. One key ingredient in the scheduling process is experience in the project area; another is experience with scheduling in general. In every industry area there will be a body of knowledge that associates the accomplishment of known work efforts with a time duration. In some industries, there are books recording industry standards for use by cost and schedule estimators. Interviewing those who have had experience with similar projects is the best way to determine how long things will really take. When preparing a schedule estimate, consider that transition between activities often takes time. Organizations or resources outside your direct control may not share your sense of schedule urgency, and their work may take longer to complete. Beware of all external dependency relationships. Uncertain resources of talent, equipment, or data will likely result in extending the project schedule. Experience teaches that things usually take longer than we think they will, and that giving away schedule margin in the planning phase is a sure way to ensure a highly stressed project effort. People tend to be optimistic in estimating schedules and, on average, estimate only 80% of the time actually required. To cut development cost and meet tight deadlines in short staffed software projects, managers must optimize the project schedule. Scheduling a software project is extremely difficult, though, because the time needed to complete a software development activity is hard to estimate. Often, the completion of a task is delayed because of unanticipated rework caused by feedback between activities in the process. Before a project schedule can be created, a project manager should typically have a work breakdown structure (WBS), an effort estimate for each task, and a resource list with availability for each resource. If these are not yet available, it may be possible to create something that looks like a schedule, but it will essentially be a work of fiction.

In order for a project schedule to be healthy, the following criteria must be met:

The schedule must be constantly (weekly works best) updated. The EAC value must be equal to the baseline value. The remaining effort must be appropriately distributed among team members, taking into consideration vacations.

Project Scheduling

Submitted by: Rana Talha Nazir

Project Scheduling Submitted by: Rana Talha Nazir Project Management Tools are very useful if applied in

Project Management Tools are very useful if applied in a disciplined manner. If they are used to replace expertise and in other inappropriate ways, then they will not provide value for money. Project Managers should constantly review the use and output of tools, because just because one was bought some time ago, it doesn't mean it is still of value today or in the future. If you want to migrate data to the next generation system, consider using open architecture or commercial standard tools and systems, otherwise if you use be-spoke systems it could be more costly in the future. Also look at what tools your customers and competitors use. There are three basic tools of Project Scheduling.

Critical Path Method

PERT Chart

Gantt Charts

Critical path Method:

The critical

path

method

(CPM) or critical

path

analysis

is

a

mathematically

based algorithm for

scheduling a set of project activities. It

is an important tool for effective project management.

Basic Technique:

Project Scheduling Submitted by: Rana Talha Nazir Project Management Tools are very useful if applied in

The essential technique for using CPM is to construct a model of the project that includes the following:

A list of all activities required to complete the project (typically categorized within a work breakdown structure), The time (duration) that each activity will take to completion, and The dependencies between the activities Using these values, CPM calculates the longest path of planned activities to the end of the project, and the earliest and latest that each activity can start and finish without making the project longer. This process determines which activities are "critical" (i.e., on the longest path) and which have "total float" (i.e., can be delayed without making the project longer). In project management, a critical path is the sequence of project network activities which add up to the longest overall duration. This determines the

Project Scheduling Submitted by: Rana Talha Nazir

shortest time possible to complete the project. Any delay of an activity on the critical path directly impacts the planned project completion date (i.e. there is no float on the critical path). A project can have several, parallel, near critical paths. An additional parallel path through the network with the total durations shorter than the critical path is called a sub- critical or non-critical path. These results allow managers to prioritize activities for the effective management of project completion, and to shorten the planned critical path of a project by pruning critical path activities, by "fast tracking"

PERT Charts:

Complex projects require a series of activities, some of which must be performed sequentially and others that can be performed in parallel with other activities. This collection of series and parallel tasks can be modeled as a network. The Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) is a network model that allows for randomness in activity completion times. PERT was developed in the late 1950's for the U.S. Navy's Polaris project having thousands of contractors. It has the potential to reduce both the time and cost required to complete a project.

Steps in the PERT Planning Process:

  • 1. Identify the specific activities and milestones.

  • 2. Determine the proper sequence of the activities.

  • 3. Construct a network diagram.

  • 4. Estimate the time required for each activity.

  • 5. Determine the critical path

  • 6. Determine the critical path

  • 7. Update the PERT chart as the project progresses

Benefits of PERT

  • 1. PERT is useful because it provides the following information:

  • 2. Expected project completion time.

  • 3. Probability of completion before a specified date.

  • 4. The critical path activities that directly impact the completion time.

  • 5. The activities that have slack time and that can lend resources to critical path activities.

  • 6. Activity starts and end dates.

Limitations:

The following are some of PERT's weaknesses:

The activity time estimates are somewhat subjective and depend on judgement. In cases where there is little experience in performing an activity, the numbers may

Project Scheduling Submitted by: Rana Talha Nazir

be only a guess. In other cases, if the person or group performing the activity estimates the time there may be bias in the estimate. Even if the activity times are well-estimated, PERT assumes a beta distribution

for these time estimates, but the actual distribution may be different. Even if the beta distribution assumption holds, PERT assumes that the probability distribution of the project completion time is the same as the that of the critical path. Because other paths can become the critical path if their associated activities are delayed, PERT consistently underestimates the expected project completion time.

The underestimation of the project completion time due to alternate paths becoming critical is perhaps the most serious of these issues. To overcome this limitation, Monte Carlo simulations can be performed on the network to eliminate this optimistic bias in the expected project completion time.

Gantt Charts:

During the era of scientific management, Henry Gantt developed a tool for displaying the progression of a project in the form of a specialized chart. An early application was the tracking of the progress of ship building projects. Today, Gantt's scheduling tool takes the form of a horizontal bar graph and is known as a Gantt chart, a basic sample of which is shown below:

Gantt Chart Format Task Duration Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Gantt Chart Format
Task Duration Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1
2
mo.
2
2
mo.
3
2
mo.
4
2
mo.
5
2
mo.
6
2
mo.

The horizontal axis of the Gantt chart is a time scale, expressed either in absolute time or in relative time referenced to the beginning of the project. The time resolution depends on the project - the time unit typically is in weeks or months. Rows of bars in the chart show the beginning and ending dates of the individual tasks in the project. In the above example, each task is shown to begin when the task above it completes. However, the bars may overlap in cases where a task can begin before the completion of another, and there may be several tasks performed in parallel. For such cases, the Gantt chart is quite useful for communicating the timing of the various tasks.

IV

Project Scheduling

Submitted by: Rana Talha Nazir

For larger projects, the tasks can be broken into subtasks having their own Gantt charts to maintain readability.

Gantt Chart Role in Project Planning:

For larger projects, a work breakdown structure would be developed to identify the tasks before constructing a Gantt chart. For smaller projects, the Gantt chart itself may used to identify the tasks. The strength of the Gantt chart is its ability to display the status of each activity at a glance. While often generated using project management software, it is easy to construct using a spreadsheet, and often appears in simple ASCII formatting in e-mails among managers. For sequencing and critical path analysis, network models such as CPM or PERT are more powerful for dealing with dependencies and project completion time. Even when network models are used, the Gantt chart often is used as a reporting tool.

Project Scheduling Submitted by: Rana Talha Nazir For larger projects, the tasks can be broken into

Advantages of using project management tools are:

  • 1. Tools can facilitate the creation and maintenance of project artifacts (e.g. project schedule) and especially good at complex analysis (e.g. Earned Value Management);

  • 2. Tools are very good at linking to sub-projects or other work packages/plans;

  • 3. Tools are very good at providing various outputs (e.g. Gantt Charts, Milestone Charts, Network Diagrams etc)

  • 4. They can assist in the estimating/scheduling/planning stage and many scenarios can be run to find the most appropriate course of action;

  • 5. They are a good reminder of what needs to be done and what is outstanding;

  • 6. They can help record, link and analyze lots of data (e.g. Requirements Management Tool, Change Management Tool; Stakeholder Management Tool or Lessons Learnt Tool);

  • 7. They are good for trend analysis and looking at prioritizing or re-scheduling activities (e.g. resource scheduling);

  • 8. Contribute to the build up of statistical information to assist in improving management of future projects;

  • 9. Allows a more objective comparison of alternative actions/decisions and provides repeatable results;

    • 10. Helps distinguish between good and bad luck and good and bad management;

    • 11. It can provide electronic methods of approvals, speeding up decision making;

Project Scheduling Submitted by: Rana Talha Nazir

  • 12. Can be very good when teams are not co-located at one place, and the team can access data when they need it and not rely on any individual (e.g. methods and procedure database with the most up-to-date versions on it);

  • 13. Can be good at generating automated reports (e.g. timecards associated with individual projects), if they are setup in the right way in the first place;

  • 14. Very good at re-assigning authority when individuals are away, so decisions can still be made and do not rely on single points of failure;

  • 15. The requirement to measure physical items facilitates tighter management controls.

Disadvantages of using project management tools are:

  • 1. Some people (including management, team members, stakeholders) can find them difficult to understand;

  • 2. Tools can sometimes take too much time just to maintain the data and keep the tool updated - Don't under estimate the cost of capturing the data;

  • 3. They take time and effort and funding to train the staff to use;

  • 4. Often can often be expensive and there is a license fee attached to the tool (if not developed in house) and annual maintenance charges;

  • 5. Change them and updating can be costly and complex;

  • 6. Staff can use them inappropriately and not enter the required data to make them worthwhile (e.g. risk management tools);

  • 7. They can require lots of data to be generated and if it is not generated, then the results of the tool maybe suspect;

  • 8. If not understood properly they can be prone to error and can produce misleading results and can lead the Project Manager to make ill-informed decisions;

  • 9. They can be too complicated, too time-consuming and unnecessary for small projects;

    • 10. Use with caution on very large and complex networked projects because you can make a change and this could affect the rest of the project and you may not be aware of the automated changes the tool makes;

    • 11. People can tend to trust the tool outputs without questioning the rigor that went into producing the results;

    • 12. It can be very difficult retrospectively looking at what happened if you didn't capture the input data at the time;

    • 13. Tools can hide the detail and provide a whole project view, which may hide over performance in one area and under-performance in another.