Topic 3 Project time management

Project time management is concerned with planning, managing, monitoring and evaluating the time needed and spent on project activities, in close relation to the progress planned and actually achieved.

Project time management develops from the WBS. Indeed, the work packages of the WBS are decomposed into activities, which are required to carry out the project.

  1. Accordingly, the required activities are defined. This would be the first step in Project Time Management.
  2. Then, activities are sequenced; namely, the interrelation between project activities is established and an efficient work sequence is designed.
  3. The type, quality and quantity of the resources required for each activity are then estimated. These may include, among others, financial, material, intangible, infrastructure and human resources. This step is necessary to inform the project’s budget (see “Project Cost Management”).

The process of Project Time Management. Graph by Maria Kouri

  1. As a next step, the duration required for the completion of each activity is estimated, also planning for potential constraining factors, or necessary research, pilots, meetings etc.
  2. Accordingly, a schedule of activities is developed. This involves prioritisation and setting specific timeframes, in which specific activities or tasks must be carried out and completed. Since activities are sequenced, the necessity to observe deadlines cannot be stressed enough: delays in some activities can harm the timely completion of the whole project, often leading to increased costs and stakeholder dissatisfaction.
  3. That is why a schedule must include specific evaluation milestones. These are significant points or events within the project, which serve as controlling and evaluation markers for the project’s implementation. They are integral parts of the control schedule, which aims to monitor the project’s implementation according to schedule and specifications. Needless to say that a control schedule must be used not only to monitor and evaluate but also to act on results: a deviation from the plan should be ideally foreseen and avoided. Alternatively, an established deviation must lead to imminent correcting action and to subsequent plan updates.

The above process highlights the skills needed for Project Time Management: planning, setting goals and prioritising for better performance. Keeping track of the time schedule through reminders and alerts is required. A useful tool to schedule activities and track performance was developed by Henry Gantt (1910-1915) and is still used in various versions today.

GANTT CHART

The Gantt chart is a tool to help keep the project on track. It serves for scheduling the start and end dates (=the duration) of activities and tasks. Moreover, grouping together similar activities, offers a visualization of the activities’ sequencing over time. It is a common misconception that a Gannt chart is just a time-management tool, but it was developed to track production progress. As such, a Gantt chart helps follow the activity schedule but also the timely completion of the project’s sub-deliverables. In some chart versions, the name(s) of the team member(s) responsible for each activity is also stated on the chart.

Accordingly, the Gantt chart allows to:

  • Show all project stakeholders the planned work and its positioning over time
  • Display initial planning data and prepare displays for future rescheduling and work progress
  • Facilitate the display of grouping tasks, to have summary views of the schedule
  • Ensure consistency with the job description in the work organisation chart
  • Validate certain necessary tasks before moving on to the next one

Observe the following example of a Gantt Chart: activities, their duration and start date are listed on the vertical axis (e.g. Task A, Task B, etc.), while the calendar dates on the horizontal axis (weekdays). The duration of activities is visualised as red horizontal bars beginning at the start date and ending on the finish date scheduled for each activity. Note the sequencing of activities in the way the horizontal bars follow each other leaving no time-gaps. The allotment of time across the horizontal bar can follow the requirements of each project: it can follow a day-to-day categorisation (like the example here), a weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly time-allotment.

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