The second day of the Project Management workshop I attended was dedicated to project scheduling. It is an important step under the project planning phase. To develop a project schedule, we must start with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which organizes the work required and ensure no tasks are forgotten. In a WBS, we start with the most important project items that must be completed. Project items are broken down into detailed descriptions of cost and duration of completion. This breakdown chart is kind of a visual representation of the scope of the project. The experience and expertise field of a project team may influence the way items are broken down. For example, if a project team is not well versed in the field of IT, they would breakdown items related to software installation into several sub-items. Please find below an example of a WBS we worked on in class. In the example, the project we considered was making a smart toothbrush. The main items in the WBS would be:
- Research and development,
- Product materials,
- Software development,
- Marketing and distribution.
These items are further broken down into product testing (for item number 1), develop an app (for item number 3) and so forth…,
WBS is a great tool that can encourage the team to brainstorm and collaborate.
There are several techniques used in project scheduling, such as network diagrams, PERT, critical path, and Gantt charts. The critical path method helps in determining the items that have no slack time in completion. This helps in focusing the project team’s attention on those items as they would be considered the most critical in the project. In order to identify these items,
we first need to identify 4 timelines for each activity: the earliest start time, earliest finish time, latest start time, and the latest finish time. Based on these identified timelines, we would be able to determine the critical path network for all the items. The critical path shows us which items do not have slack time or any extra days for completion, and therefore would be considered the most critical items. Some mathematical calculations are required to be able to identify these timelines for the items. I created a video explaining the process and steps of how to draw the network diagram and find the critical path.
Although I felt that learning about scheduling and the critical path method was interesting, I wonder if project managers use this method in real projects especially that the examples we’ve used to understand the method were all simple examples. In a more complex project, the time to develop such a diagram would be even more lengthy and time-consuming.
I will try to cover the communication plan in my next blog. I found some interesting resources for this topic on Lynda.com. Also, I found another very good resource at the Taylor Institute for Learning Development, thank you very much, Nancy, for the recommendation.