Just as proper project management requires project planning, a perfect project plan requires well-defined project timelines. One of the major reasons behind failed projects is unrealistic goals and impractical deadlines. Setting unreasonable targets only leads to rushed task completion and increased complexity. As a result, even after timely delivery, project deliverables are incomplete and inefficient.
Creating project timelines can help you gain clarity of project tasks and dependencies. This article will discuss 7 steps to create the right project timeline and how a PMP training can help you achieve the same.
How to Create a Project Timeline?
Every project manager has a different method of handling project execution and deciding timelines according to the requirements of the business. Using the below steps, it is possible to create your own structure by merging and tweaking some steps.
Without further ado, let’s see what are these steps:
- Outline Brief
Before discussing any timelines, it is best to define the scope of the project or outline the project brief. It is necessary to know the deliverables and goals of the project.
Here are the things that should be included in the project brief:
- What are the external and internal goals of the project?
- Who are the stakeholders of the project? What roles will they play in the project?
- What is the expected deadline for the whole project?
- Define Work Breakdown Structure
Once you have defined your scope, take it and break it into smaller sections, which makes your work breakdown structure. WBS helps you focus on the dedicated, measurable small goals rather than a big activity.
Here are the reasons why you should use a work breakdown structure:
- To find dependencies.
- To estimate proper costing.
- To determine the time of tasks.
- To track project progress.
- To identify hidden risks.
- Define Tasks
While WBS helps you divide your wide goal or project scope, defining tasks include further division of these sections into sub-tasks.
For example, you have defined WBS of a software program as:
You can define sub-tasks under these divisions such as defining business cases under initiation. Often this step is achieved in WBS itself for ease.
Importance of this step
This step helps in finding the gap in your goal and baseline. By defining tasks in the WBS, you can move from starting to conclusion along with analyzing the dependencies in the system.
- List Dependencies
Dependencies are sub-tasks or activities which you cannot start before completion of some other task or activity. One of the reasons why deciding the timelines of the project is imperative.
Analyzing each task decided in the above steps to see how various tasks overlap and create dependencies is the system that allows the team to stay up-to-date. You can rely on your timelines and expect every interdependent task to start and execute on time.
For example, in the above example of a software project, the testing of the project can’t start without receiving the final code. If the development team is unable to offer the executable code on time, the testing team will face a delay.
In smaller projects, finding dependencies can be easy. However, for a larger project, utilize dependency mapping and colour-coding to clearly separate every task of the project.
- Estimate Time
Once you have listed dependencies of each sub-task, find the estimated time required to complete these tasks.
Utilize the above dependency mapping chart and write the estimated time of tasks in the same chart. Here, it is usually assumed that every team is working without any delay or interruption. However, this structure can vary depending upon the resource availability.
- Draw Timeline
After the estimation of time of individual tasks, create a project timeline that contains the estimated time of several group tasks defined in the WBS such as initiation, planning, execution, etc.
You can also map the delays or overheads in this timeline to ensure that you complete the project on time.
Drawing this timeline will help the team understand the expected completion of every stage of the project along with the interdependencies.
- Take Feedback
The final step of selecting the right timeline is sharing the details with stakeholders and receiving feedback on the same. This will help the team members and involved stakeholders to analyze not only the project’s timeline but also the timeline of their individual tasks. In fact, every team member would be able to track their timeline in relevance to dependencies.
Project management planning may not always go as planned. However, creating the right timeline prepares you for inevitable delays. The project manager can clearly anticipate the impact if one of the tasks of the project is delayed due to unavoidable circumstances. Based on this knowledge, the project execution can be modified a bit to stay on track and maintain consistency.
Remember, Project Management is quite happening today. And a Project Management Professional Certification is just the way to go about becoming one.