Schedule Planning (With Benefits, Steps, and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 5, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Project schedule planning is an important aspect of project management that helps create reasonable timelines and ensure team members meet the set deadlines. Project managers use this skill to monitor the progress of a project and inform teams of pending tasks. Understanding how to create an effective scheduling plan can help you organize your tasks and complete them on time. In this article, we explain what schedule planning is, discuss its importance, give you six steps to create a successful project schedule, and highlight some examples of project schedules.

What is schedule planning?

Schedule planning is describing a project and crafting a plan for when and how teams can complete the project. Managers establish the beginning and end dates for every task within the project timeline to ensure the project continues at a suitable pace. Developing a project schedule that incorporates a timeline and specific deadlines for every undertaking offers a vision to employees about to the tasks to perform and keeps the responsible parties on track. The schedules, which are divided into tasks and milestones, also recognize all essential resources required to conclude the venture and put a timeline for conclusion.

Scheduling in project management may seem like a daunting task, but coming up with a work breakdown schedule ahead of time may ease the process. The work breakdown acts as a visual illustration of the project's scope and realization. A breakdown schedule gives the team a glimpse of the tasks needed to complete the project and also acts as a firm basis for effecting the project schedule.

Related: What Is a Project Management Plan? With Tips and Examples

Project planning vs. scheduling

Project planning mostly has to do with choosing the relevant strategies and actions to accomplish the goals of the venture. Scheduling changes action plans of the project for scope, quality, and cost into a working timetable. A project schedule is a vital component of the project plan, but the plan has several other elements that don't reflect on a schedule. The project plan, for instance, also incorporates the risks, budget, and goals of the finished project. You can only adopt a project schedule once all parties involved have understood and acknowledged the plan.

Related: Understanding Project Management Methodology (With Examples)

Why is schedule planning important?

Here are some reasons why this planning is beneficial to your project:

Makes goals more attainable

The aim of every project or business is to accomplish its goals, which often include increasing revenue. While it may not be easy to achieve these objectives, having a practical schedule can make your targets more tangible. With the accurate steps the schedule provides, it's easy to accomplish your goals.

Reduces cost

Scheduling plans enable you to operate within your budget. This particularly applies to builders who manage diverse kinds of employees that may be on a contractual, daily, or weekly pay. Having a cautious plan and timeline can help you spend within your budget.

Accommodates contingencies

Planning and scheduling can prepare you to tackle unforeseen challenges. A good plan can recognize potential risks and problems of starting a project. With adequate preparation, it's easier to foresee problems that may arise when managing the project and give you a chance to set up contingencies for them.

Clarifies team members' roles

When you have a carefully prepared schedule and plan, you can get every team member to agree with your project because the schedule gives a clear definition of the expectations and roles of the team members. Every team and their members understand where their roles start and where they end. The schedule establishes timelines for each section or individual and, for this reason, members can work harmoniously.

Eases progress tracking

Once you've established your objectives and duties, jointly with its parallel schedule, it's easier to gauge where the business stands. Progress checking is possible because you now have standards to judge against. The schedule can tell you the exact phase where you need improvement or where the project is doing well.

Related: Promoting Collaboration in the Workplace: All You Need to Know

6 steps to effective schedule planning

Here are six steps you can take to create a successful project schedule:

1. Define the project

If you used a work breakdown structure while completing project planning before starting the project scheduling process, the framework may be helpful during this step. Get the structure you developed for the undertaking and identify the tasks and goals required to complete the work. Although you may not wish to set the steps of each assignment drawn in when creating your schedule, separating every task can help ensure your timeline is correct.

2. Sort project tasks and milestones

After identifying the tasks and milestones that are indispensable to the completion of the project, the next step is to arrange them in the correct order. Some functions may be contingent on the conclusion of preceding functions. If you don't make an allowance for dependency at this stage, other team members may wait longer to accomplish their assignments, and this may affect the timeline. Where there are no dependencies, it's still prudent that employees understand the timelines for accomplishing every task.

3. Analyze the critical path

The critical path is the longest series of tasks that control the planned start and completion date of a project. If any task on the critical path delays, the entire project is highly likely to delay by the same time. Analyzing the critical path correctly ensures you know the functions to complete at a stipulated timeline to ensure the project runs according to the plan. It's advisable to consider the dependencies defined earlier when classifying the critical path. Also, consider discussing the critical path analysis with the individuals tasked with the completion of specific tasks.

4. Assign the needed resources

When developing a project schedule, it's important to identify the resources required to complete the project and allocate them accordingly. If team members require specific tools or equipment, consider purchasing or hiring the equipment. You might also find that a certain team requires additional human resources to accomplish their goals and training an additional member to help the team might help the project run smoothly. Collect the information you require to comprehend the demands of the project and the extent of the business, and then strive to streamline them to make your schedule more attainable.

5. Establish a timeline

Once you've allocated resources for the project, you can now create your timeline with concrete dates for every component of the venture. An effective timeline aligns with the critical path and order you set out to accommodate any limitations or dependencies. Also, remember to consider weekends, holidays, off days for team members, and other issues that may affect existing work hours. Whereas you may anticipate a change in your schedule because of scope variations, unforeseen discrepancies in efficiency, and other problems, ensure the schedule is as precise as possible.

6. Monitor progress and amend the schedule as the project advances

Unexpected challenges may arise even after completing the schedule and the project is ongoing. For this reason, it's advisable to monitor the progress of every assignment and milestone. Whenever you determine that the schedule requires some amendments, it's important to make the changes promptly to ensure the project ends as planned.

Related: 8 Types of Project Charts for Effective Project Management

Examples of project schedules

Here are some of the top scheduling formats you can consider:

Gantt charts

Gantt charts are one of the oldest project scheduling techniques that involves using a bar chart to envisage the capacity of your project at specific timelines. The chart contains two axes, the x-axis and the y-axis. The x-axis represents tasks and milestones of the project, while the y-axis shows the used-up time. Here is what you can expect to see when using this chart:

  • Many milestones assembling all tasks

  • Dependencies that unite various tasks

  • Tasks providing an outline of what to do

  • The approximate time for every activity, reflected in hours and minutes

  • Individuals responsible for completing exact duties

  • The start and end dates of the project

Kanban boards

This is a project scheduling tool that enables you to plan and control all steps of your project by visualizing each step of your workflow on a visual board called the Kanban board. The board contains many columns marked to do, in progress, and done that help you envisage work, lessen work in progress, and enhance efficiency. The benefits that come with using this board include:

  • Improved monitoring of tasks

  • Enhanced predictability

  • Transparent work environment

  • Improved understanding of the status of the project and its workflow

Sprint planning

A sprint is a two-week period during which to complete individual assignments according to what the team has scheduled to deliver to the relevant client. This scheduling technique is more applicable if your project is large and you wish to divide them into controllable milestones. The smaller projects usually last for two weeks. Sprint planning helps team members concentrate on what is crucial for the project and this may boost the decision-making processes.

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