What is Schedule Data in Project Management?
As a professional project manager, you rely on accurate data to make decisions. At each stage of the project, you need to know what resources are available to you and how well they’re working to meet the project’s goals. When it’s time to plan and monitor the project’s schedule, you’ll use the schedule data available to establish the baseline and milestones.
On this page:
- Defining Schedule Data
- How Project Managers Use Schedule Data
- How Schedule Data Can Identify Potential Risks
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Defining Schedule Data
Schedule data is the information project managers use to outline and control the project schedule. This information includes the beginning and end dates for the project as well as the following details:
- Constraints: conditions that affect the project team’s ability to work or make decisions
- Dependencies: interrelated tasks that must happen in a specific order
- Milestones: a significant point or event in a project, program, or portfolio
- Resources: assets needed to carry out tasks on the project, including people, equipment, and materials
Schedule data also includes assumptions and constraints. For example, the project manager may assume the project materials will arrive on time or the workers contracted to work on the project will be available when needed during the project timeline. Each assumption the project manager makes is a potential risk to the project since an assumption that proves untrue can delay or disrupt the process and schedule.
How Project Managers Use Schedule Data
Project managers use schedule data to create and update the project schedule. This document details the project’s tasks, baseline, and resources, giving all stakeholders an insight into what to expect. They also use this data to make project decisions, measure workers’ performance, and assess progress.
The project manager relies on schedule data at every stage of the project. They use it to determine how many tasks are needed to complete each phase, how long each task will take, and how many workers and other resources are required to meet each deadline. When the project reaches its first milestone, the project manager can assess whether the current level of resources is sufficient. From there, they can then work through the appropriate approvals to adjust if needed.
Say, for example, that a project requires 10 contractors to produce 10 units per week for a total of 400 per month. If the 10 contractors fall behind and only make 80 units per week, the project manager must find out why the output is low and why the team isn’t meeting the goal. Ideally, they would review the data regularly enough to catch the delay early in the process so they can adjust to get the project back on track.
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How Schedule Data Can Identify Potential Risks
A critical function of schedule data is to help the project manager identify potential risks that can delay or disrupt the project. This is why schedule data includes more than start and end dates or the availability of resources. The project manager also has to consider task dependencies, identify unknowns, and develop a risk response plan to manage those unknowns if they transpire during each process in the project.
For example, a project manager working for a construction company may set a goal to build a house in six months. The project manager considers details like the time of year the crew begins working and the weather conditions — a blizzard, a flooding river, hurricane — that can slow down or completely disrupt the project.
There’s no way to predict the weather months in advance, but the project manager should have a plan for it and an appropriate response to manage the project’s timeline in case it happens. A severe weather event can knock out electricity at the job site, which means the project manager may consider having generators at the site. Crew members may need to take time off to care for their families and property, which may mean adjusting deadlines if the crew is working on a task that must be completed before moving on to the next.
Schedule data is an essential tool in the project manager’s toolbox. They use it to analyze dependencies and evaluate the resources they have and need to keep a project on track. Schedule data is used to monitor, control, and make decisions throughout each task, process, and phase.
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