How to Create Your First Project Management Timeline in 7 Easy Steps
Are you thinking of how you will undertake your project? How do you get started? Will you meet the deadlines? These anxious-inducing thoughts are crossing your mind. Despite their validity, they shouldn’t slow you down.
By using the right tools, you can complete your project. Using a project management timeline can help you win your project. The tool helps you map out your project and ensures you have a clear strategy on how you will tackle it. You can create your project management timeline by following this guide.
1. Draft a Project Brief
To make sure everyone on your project is on the same page, start by drafting a project brief. A project brief is a quick summary of the project. Think of it as a condensed version of your project plan. It should answer the questions:
- What is the purpose of the project?
- What are the goals of the project?
- What are the key milestones?
- How long will it take to complete the project?
- How much is the budget?
Keep it brief so as not to overwhelm project stakeholders with unnecessary details. It will be the document that your project stakeholders and project members refer to frequently as the project goes on.
2. Create a Work Breakdown Structure
After creating your project brief, you need to create an action plan to get the project going. This action plan is called a work breakdown structure (WBS). Rather than writing each action to be taken to finish a project, the WBS focuses on deliverables and milestones. The rules to making a WBS are:
- 100% rule: All work that is in the WBS must be 100% necessary for completing the project goals. There should not be any unrelated or redundant work in it. Subtasks must also be 100% needed to complete a parent task.
- Mutually exclusive: Do not account for any work twice. You will violate the 100% rule and have miscalculations when calculating the resources required to complete the project.
- Outcomes, not actions: Your primary focus should be on deliverables and not on actions. For example, if you are building a house, one deliverable is doing the foundation. The steps in this deliverable will be picking a site, digging, installing, and sealing footing. So, do not get lost in these actions, but focus on the outcome, which is having a foundation.
- The 8/80 rule: This rule states that a task should take no less than 8 hours to complete, and neither should it take more than 80 hours. When applying this rule, if the work takes more than 80 hours to complete, break it down further into a lesser work package.
- Assign: You should assign a task to a specific person or team. If your WBS is thorough, there should not be an overlap of work between individuals or teams.
3. Create a Time Frame
Once you have created your work breakdown structure, allocate time for completing each task. For tasks, you will not be doing yourself, consult directly with the person(s) who will do it. Ask them what they need to do the work and how much time they are going to need.
Do not be too optimistic when doing this. Create a balance between giving enough time to do the tasks and staying within the overall time frame of the project. Allow for some wiggle room as well for any unexpected situations.
4. Schedule in Dependencies
You now know how much time it is going to take to finish each task. But what about tasks that depend on each other? There are often several sequences to an assignment that depends on each other.
There are usually four project dependency types of project management. These are:
- Finish-to-start: the first task has to be complete before the second task can begin.
- Finish-to-finish: the second task can’t be complete before the first task is complete. For example, if you’re doing electrical wiring for a house, you can’t lay the wires until an inspection.
- Start-to-start: successive tasks can’t start before the first task starts. For example, you can’t level a concrete floor until you pour the concrete.
- Start-to-Finish: the first task has to begin before the second is complete. For example, if you are upgrading to new software, you will start installing the new software before you phase out the old one.
So, make sure you identify the nature of dependencies you have at hand and then work on them. In some situations, the dependencies are more complex processes, so create a flowchart, swim lanes, or color-coding to help you visualize and identify them.
5. Create a Base Timeline
Now it is time to visualize your project timeline. There are several project management tools you can use to build your project timeline. The go-to for most projects is the Gantt chart.
The Gantt chart gives you a quick snapshot of your project, start and end dates of tasks, key milestones, dependencies, and assignee of each task. Gantt’s charts are interactive and can be updated and edited in real-time. Other timeline tools you can use to build and manage your timeline are the historical timeline and vertical chart timeline.
6. Send It Out
Share the timeline with all the project stakeholders. It will thrill them to see a clear plan of action for the project. They will also want to weigh in and make suggestions on how to go about improving some things on the project. Be open to feedback.
7. Change as Needed
A project is a living thing and will keep changing and evolving as it goes. It is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means you have to adapt as things keep changing.
The good thing is that when you already have a timeline, you will be more empowered to incorporate the change. Also, make sure you communicate the changes in real-time with all the stakeholders of the project.
Creating Your Project Management Timeline
Creating your first project management timeline can be daunting. However, with the above steps, you can create a meticulous timeline and deliver your project successfully. So, be sure to implement the above guideline and have a stellar timeline.
Want to complete big projects without mismanagement or going over budget? Here are some tips to help you avoid these mistakes.
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