How to Use a Schedule Model in Project Management
Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential holders are expert organizers capable of seeing complex projects through to completion. Directing projects from beginning to end is no small feat, and project managers employ an array of tools to ensure tasks are assigned, team members are aligned, and projects are completed on time and within the allotted budget. One essential tool for project management is the schedule model, a helpful method of organizing tasks that allow leaders to optimize their employees’ time.
This article will explain a schedule model and cover the basics of using this tool in project management.
On this page:
- What is a Schedule Model
- How to Create a Schedule Model
- Benefits of a Schedule Model
- Schedule Model and Project Schedules
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What is a Schedule Model
A schedule model depicts the plan for executing a project’s activities, including durations, dependencies, and other information necessary for resource planning. Schedule models can be used for various purposes, including planning the execution of a project, identifying potential risks and problems, and communicating the project plan to stakeholders. Schedule models can also help generate other scheduling artifacts, such as project schedules and Gantt charts.
The schedule model can be thought of as a simplified version of the project. Many enterprise projects are complex, with numerous tasks included, each with its own start dates, deadlines, budgets, etc. Creating a project model allows stakeholders to better visualize and understand the project by representing the tasks, task relationships, deadlines, date constraints, resources, etc., necessary for developing the project deliverables.
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How to Create a Schedule Model
Some project managers feel the most efficient way to create and use a schedule model is with software programs with built-in analysis capabilities, such as Microsoft Project, Primavera, or Jira. The benefit of building the schedule model this way is that the software can largely automate the creation of the finalized schedule, allowing the project managers to focus on communicating responsibilities with their team and facilitating the completion of the project and its subsequent tasks.
However, project managers are not required to rely on software to build the schedule. If the project manager prefers, they can instead use manual methods to build out the schedule model, but it is worth noting that this can be more time-consuming.
The essential steps in creating a schedule model include the following:
- Plan schedule management: Summarize what resources are available for the project and list stakeholders.
- Identify the project activities: Create a list of tasks that must be completed to fulfill the project’s objectives.
- Determine dependencies: Figure out which tasks rely on others to be completed.
- Estimate task durations and project resources: Outline all the personnel, subcontractor needs, physical or digital tools, and facilities your project will require. As part of this, determine how much time will be needed to complete each task.
- Sequence project activities: Usually, a task begins when the previous one finishes, but that is not always the case. Rather than determining start and end dates, this step is about organizing the order in which project activities will be done.
- Create the project schedule: The project schedule should include each task’s official start and end dates. This is necessary for knowing when to schedule work, order equipment, and prioritize resources.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a schedule model, as the process will vary depending on the software used and the specific project requirements. However, creating a schedule model generally involves entering data into the software program, such as activity names and durations, and then using this data to generate a graphical representation of the project schedule. Whichever method a project manager elects to use to create the schedule model, the schedule model is a critical part of generating the final project schedule.
Benefits of Schedule Model
An excellent way to think about why project managers use a schedule model is that the entire project is more likely to run smoothly when done well. The primary benefit of using a schedule model is that it enables you to see the more extensive project plan and the essential tasks needed to complete it. The schedule model benefits senior management, giving them the insight they need to allot appropriate resources for various tasks and ensure the project is completed on time.
Project Managers using a schedule model gain many benefits, including:
- Schedule models provide a high-level overview of the project’s activities, durations, and dependencies.
- Project Managers obtain a detailed project schedule which is a helpful tool for identifying potential problems and risks before they arise, such as an unrealistic timeline for specific tasks.
- Improved transparency, communication, and accountability among the project team and stakeholders.
- Project Managers can avoid assigning their subordinates too many assignments at once, ensuring they don’t succumb to burnout or risk missing deadlines.
Schedule Model and Project Schedules
A schedule model represents the overall plan for executing the project’s activities, while a project schedule is an actual schedule that results from this plan. In other words, a schedule model is used to create a project schedule. The project schedule includes additional information such as individual tasks’ start and finish dates, assigned resources, and milestones. In this way, schedule models and project schedules serve different purposes.
The schedule model evolves into a project schedule once all tasks receive start and end dates, they are assigned to team members or vendors, and the team begins project execution. Once work is underway, the project schedule will generally be presented as a bar chart, activity list, or network diagram, depending on the project manager’s preference.
Because projects often require significant resources, notably labor, management must understand how to optimize them. The project schedule identifies the dates every team member will work on a task, allowing leadership to resource-plan against each step.
When it comes to creating a schedule model for a project, there is no single correct way. Every project has unique needs, and the schedule model should reflect that. It should be a valuable way for project managers and PMP credential holders to organize complex projects into an easily digestible format to successfully communicate project needs to their team. Project Managers should understand that effective, organized, and realistic scheduling is central to increasing the likelihood of project success, making the schedule model a valuable tool for efficient and effective project completion.
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