Control Schedule in Project Management

Control Schedule in Project Management

Projects consist of many moving parts that project managers must track consistently. A fundamental responsibility in project management is knowing whether a project is behind or ahead of schedule. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the process for monitoring schedule progress against the baseline is called control schedule.

Project planning, monitoring, and controlling all go together when executing a project and keeping it on track to meet your deadlines. Understanding what schedule control is and how you can apply it to your projects is necessary to complete them on time and under budget.

This article explains the control schedule process and lists the main activities you must complete.

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What is Control Schedule?

The schedule management plan is the plan that outlines how and when the project will be monitored and controlled. The process of control schedule is this work being carried out. While the schedule management plan dictates the tools and methods used and who will be responsible for each task, they don’t really come to life until the plan is executed. According to PMI, Control Schedule is “the process of monitoring the status of the project to update the project schedule and manage changes to the schedule baseline.”

During the project’s execution phase, project managers must regularly review and update the project schedule to ensure the project is on track and running smoothly. Project managers must track the status of all the tasks associated with the project, update project progress reports, and manage any changes to the schedule to achieve the plan. Organizations of all sizes use the control schedule process, which includes project managers and certified professionals such as Project Management Professionals (PMP)®.

How Project Managers Monitor and Control the Schedule

If a project manager did not use a project schedule, they would not be able to monitor and control the project’s activities effectively. This could lead to the project getting off track, missing deadlines, going over budget, and ultimately failing. A project schedule is an essential tool for all project managers and should be used to guide work on all projects.

There are several steps a project manager needs to take to monitor and control the schedule:

  1. Review the schedule and schedule baseline regularly.
  2. Identify variances and take corrective action if needed.
  3. Monitor the progress of the project and make necessary adjustments.
  4. Communicate with all stakeholders about the status of the project.
  5. Keep the project on track and ensure its successful completion.

Why it’s Important to Monitor and Control the Schedule

Schedule control is essential to project management because it monitors and controls the project’s progress. In the world of project management, a project that fails to meet its deadline is not a success. While many metrics determine whether a project is successful, adhering to the schedule is among the most fundamental.

Schedule control is also valuable because it assists project managers with managing the expectations of project stakeholders. This process informs stakeholders about changes to the project and the implications to the overall project schedule. Additionally, it allows project managers to demonstrate and gain buy-in from stakeholders on how the project team will overcome disruptions and keep the project work on schedule. Overall, the schedule control process is vital for project managers to ensure stakeholders are aware of project status throughout the project’s lifecycle.


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Tools and Techniques to Monitor and Control the Schedule

Common tools and techniques project managers use to monitor and control the schedule include the following:

Project management software

Software such as Microsoft Project, Jira, or Primavera helps project managers track project progress and identify issues. More project managers see the value in software with tools and techniques to plan, monitor, and control project schedules. These modern tools provide the following schedule control capabilities:

  • Building Gantt Charts
  • Schedule tracking
  • Reporting and data analysis

Gantt charts

A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that enables project managers to visualize project progress plotted over time (e.g., days, weeks, or months). Each activity is shown as a bar, and its length is based on the estimated time required to complete it. These bars may be sequential or run in parallel depending on task dependencies and resource availability.

Earned value analysis

Earned Value Analysis (EVA) is a method that allows the project manager to measure the amount of work performed on a project beyond the fundamental review of cost and schedule reports. EVA makes it possible to measure the progress achieved and use this data to predict the total cost and date of completion for a project based on trend analysis or application of the project’s “burn rate.” This process depends on a critical measure known as the project’s earned value.

Risk management tools and techniques

Risk management tools and techniques are essential to identify and mitigate risks that can positively and negatively affect the project’s schedule. These commonly include:

Risk report

This communication tool contains overall project risk and summary information on individual project risks, which can be critical to monitor in tandem with the project schedule. It can also be considered an executive summary that indicates the most critical factors driving broad risk exposure for the project. It helps maintain risk awareness and engagement throughout the organization by documenting the sources of project risk overall and providing a summary of individual project risks. It is a snapshot of risk management work at a given moment.

Risk register

The risk register contains individual, identified risks facing the project and the assessment, response plan, etc., for each opportunity or threat. It is a Log file that works as a master database of all the risks captured and other related information, such as Qualitative Analysis, Quantitative Analysis, and risk responses. It is often updated regularly throughout a project to identify new risks as they arise or when existing risk assessments are updated.

A risk register describes relevant information about the risk, including the event, cause, impact, probability, responses, owners, and status. It is a document used throughout the project to make informed decisions and is an input into the risk report, which conveys the overall risk status at a given point in time. Both are maintained along with the risk management plan.

Change management

Change management is a separate discipline within project management. However, the control schedule process also includes managing schedule changes by keeping all the schedule-related documents up to date.

The procedures used for change control govern updates to the project scope, schedule, and budget while ensuring project goals and objectives are met. Successful change management considers human, political, and other organizational change components necessary to ensure project success.

A clearly established change management process benefits project managers in several ways. First, it increases productivity by ensuring all stakeholders are on the same page regarding project deliverables, making it easier to remain focused on executing tasks. Additionally, effective change management relies on proper documentation to define goals and objectives, which in turn can improve communication. Finally, because successful change management requires clear communication regarding project changes, it makes it easier for project teams to collaborate.

Tailoring Considerations

There are a few key ways in which the tools and techniques used for monitoring and controlling a project can vary depending on whether Agile or Predictive project management methods are being used:

  • In agile project management, there is a greater emphasis on tracking progress through short sprints or iterations. This means that tools such as burndown charts and team velocity are often used.
  • In Predictive project management, there is a greater emphasis on creating a detailed project plan and tracking progress against that detailed plan throughout the life of the project. This means that tools such as Gantt charts and earned value analysis are often used.
  • In agile project management, there is a greater emphasis on constant communication with all stakeholders. This means that regular meetings and status reports are essential. In Scrum environments, daily stand-up meetings are used to share progress.
  • In predictive project management, there is a greater emphasis on formal reviews and sign-offs. This means tools such as milestone schedules and change management procedures are essential.

Summary

Project planning, scheduling, and controlling are vital processes to reduce schedule variations and their impacts on your budget. This creates benefits of schedule and financial stability, which projects aim to deliver to key stakeholders and the organization. It may also create documentation that can be helpful when planning future projects similar to the one you’re currently managing.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO