Tag: Project delivery

Project Timeline Explained

Project Timeline

Project timelines are planning tools that allow you to organize all the activities that make up a project, in order. Create milestones, set deadlines, and manage tasks, all in one easy to view location.  Using timelines with project timeline software unlocks interactive features that dramatically improve the way they can be visualized and collaborate on projects.

Providing a visual representation, timeline are a visual list of tasks or activities placed in chronological order, which lets project managers view the entirety of the project in one place. A project timeline typically takes the form of a horizontal bar chart, where each task is given a name and a corresponding start and end date. It also provides an in-depth overview of the entire project from start to finish. When a task starts and when it’s due—and importantly, whether or not it’s dependent on another task.

Project timelines give project managers an opportunity to:

  • Organize their tasks
  • Show when in the project the tasks start
  • View task deadlines
  • Link dependent tasks
  • Break the project into phases
  • Identify team members assigned to a task

To make a thorough project timeline, follow these steps:

  • Write a project scope statement: A scope statement outlines the tasks, milestones and deliverables for the project. It’s an essential part of the project management plan and it has all the information needed for the project plan timeline
  • Make a work breakdown structure (WBS): Use this graphic tool to break down the project scope into smaller work packages. The WBS allows the visualization and organize the project’s tasks, milestones and deliverables by hierarchy to establish a chronological order
  • Identify task dependencies:  find out which of those activities are dependent on other tasks to start or end
  • Estimate task duration: Make a reasonable time estimate for each task. This is a critical step to create the project management timeline, and determine the time required to complete the project
  • Define deadlines: Determine how much time the team can spend on each task
  • Set milestones: Milestones are important dates that mark the end of one phase and the beginning of the next, which makes them an important component of a project management timeline. Milestones are reached by completing task sequences and deliverables

Project management timelines can take many different forms with varying levels of efficacy. They can be drawn by hand, or on a whiteboard, but this method is inflexible and large changes to your project might require scrapping the entire timeline.

Using a spreadsheet loaded up with macros can make for very capable, if time consuming to create, timeline. A project timeline excel template can save effort and time it takes to create the spreadsheet.

To run projects effectively and efficiently, project managers prefer project timeline software that integrates their tasks with an interactive, feature-rich Gantt chart that can schedule, assign tasks, monitor progress and report on performance. Project timeline software is more versatile than project timeline templates because it allows project managers to easily update the timeline and keep track of tasks with dashboards and reports.

As stated, software is commonly used by project managers to create their project plan timelines. Project timeline software is an integral part of the planning process and often includes additional features that help to monitor progress when executing the project.

Using project timeline software is generally regarded as a necessity for keeping a modern project on schedule. It allows managers and teams to see the status of their tasks; that is, whether they’re in progress, overdue or done.

At its most basic, project timeline software creates a graphic representation of the project on a timeline with tasks and milestones plotted across. Tasks can be assigned start and end dates, and display a duration bar that indicates the planned amount of time to complete the tasks. More powerful software offerings can also include further options to manage tasks.

Online project timeline software offers a centralized data repository in which everyone involved in the project can access the project timeline and other critical project documents and data. This means that managers and teams can access the project timeline when they need to, even if they’re working different shifts and located in different time-zones.

Every project is impacted by the triple constraint of time, cost and scope. To start controlling the time and scope part of that important triangle, create a project timeline during the planning stage.

The project timeline helps everyone on the project team by giving them a roadmap of where they are, and where they should be, at every point in the project. Timelines and schedules are essential to execute the project plan.

As planning tools, project timelines and understanding how to compose them is essential to every project manager, let us know your thoughts, tips and trick you use when creating a project timeline, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Tasks are given start and end dates and show on the timeline as a line connecting to points in time. If some of those tasks are dependent on another to start or finish, these task dependencies can be indicated on the project timeline as well.

This assists a manager by keeping those dependencies visible and preventing possible bottlenecks that could block the time during the execution of the tasks.

Work Management and managing a team’s workload

Work Management

Work management helps managers improve how they balance workloads, communicate goals and track progress. Overlooking the importance of work management is a common managerial mistake. Project management spends a lot of time on the work that must happen before any project can be executed. Researching the feasibility of the project, planning for its success, scheduling tasks, organizing resources and building a budget are all important.

Then comes the execution phase and often much of a project manager’s attention is focused on monitoring, tracking and reporting on progress and performance. While this is happening, overlooking the team can occur, when it shouldn’t.

Getting the most out of the team, making sure they have the necessary resources to match their capacity at a specific point in the project is key to maximizing productivity. To create that optimum workflow structure requires a work management methodology.

Work management is the intersection of business and team processes to structure workflow so that teams work more efficiently. It’s a way to manage the team and the way they work to assist with increased efficiencies.

This can be applied to the scope of the project or the organization of the project’s operations. Either way, the goal is to streamline these processes to better schedule tasks, meet the expectations of stakeholders, manage resources and evaluate performance to further improve productivity.

The cycle of managing work starts with identifying that work, planning and scheduling it, and then executing the work. Management of this work is important as can it improve performance.

Better performance is one of the reasons for work management, which leads to more quality deliverables on time and within budget. But work management also streamlines processes not merely to improve their performance but to reduce any redundancies that are unnecessarily taking up valuable time and money.

In short, work management is known to reduce waste. Getting rid of those activities that serve no purpose creates better projects.

But there’s more an active work management plan produces, such as fostering collaboration on tasks to work better together. Communication is the essence for all project management processes and so better communications are part of a work management program. It speaks to collaboration, but also clear direction.

Work management is about taking many of the different parts of managing a project as they relate to the team and integrating them into a system that boosts productivity. Therefore, work management touches many aspects of project management.

The elements of work management read like the features of a powerful project management tool. They incorporate resource management, collaboration, time and task management, budgeting, reporting and more. In a sense, work management is the hub around which all these spokes turn.

There are some common aspects to detail regardless of where you work. Collect these elements with the team’s involvement. The secret to a successful work management system is not to have it rigidly defined. It must be a living process that is constantly being reviewed and renewed.

Being transparent with the plan ahead, also seek feedback. This will lead to a happier, more creative and accountable team due to a building of mutual respect. Clear communication goes hand-in-glove with transparency. Good communication builds collaborative and productive teams.

Being open to feedback builds trust and retains employees, which leads to greater work productivity. Make everyone feel an integral part of the process and that their opinions are valued.

Giving the team, the tools to better collaborate is a driver to greater productivity. It also helps to solidify teams and boost morale, which in turn leads to greater productivity. This leads to trust, resources are hired for their skills and experience.

Factor to always consider is a team’s burn out, when delivering project the attrition rate of a team can be overlooked, always maintain a work life balance, without compromising the project time frame. Choose a mechanism to avoid burnout that works for the team, social events for example, collaborate with the team and determine what works.

Another problem is not dealing with issues as they arise in the project. This can be project or personnel-related. Either way, ignoring the issue will not make it go away. On the contrary, it will fester and grow, often to the point that it disrupts work.

Project Managers shouldn’t get in the way of their teams, but also need to have transparency in their work. To have access to a team management page which lists everyone, their tasks and the task percentage complete is a great help. This workload page can be used to determine if anyone is not performing because they’re over allocated. Then reallocate to free them up.

Having the tools to get a high-level view of the project with a real-time dashboard can assist. By automatically tracking project metrics and managing a team’s work load is no easy task, but following the steps mentioned should assist. Let us know your approach to managing a team, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Be SMART about benefits realization management

SMART benefits realization

Realizing the benefits, a project can bring to an organisation, is the measure of ensuring there is return on investment. This is one of the main drivers for organisations to start focusing on benefits realization. Benefits realization management is a process that is undertaken to get ready for and manage planned benefits through change. The fundamental reason for doing this is that it is possible to maximize the benefits that are realized. Taking a more structured approach to this helps to achieve it. However, many organisations do not focus effectively on benefits realization, if indeed they invest any energy into it at all. This is a problem given that the competitive environment for most businesses is intensifying, and that working towards achieving real benefits can ensure that the organisation is focused on the right activities. It is also relevant given that many projects fail and do not deliver the desired benefits.

Before exploring benefits realisation management in further depth, it is helpful to clarify what is meant by the term “benefits”. Benefits should be quantifiable and possible to measure. It is useful to make the required benefits SMART. This means making them specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time bound. Often, benefits will have either a monetary or resource value that is tangible that can be assigned to them. They should also be considered positive by one or more stakeholders. Benefits of undertaking projects usually fall into one of the following categories: increase revenues; lower costs; comply with a legal requirement; continue to deliver business as usual; or provide a tangible contribution to a business imperative. Benefits realisation management helps by turning business goals into measurable benefits that can be tracked.

SMART benefits

Benefits realisation management is important from the perspective that it helps maximise the quantifiable benefits that can be achieved for the organisation. Failing to undertake benefits realisation management is costly and means that there is a strong chance that projects are not deliver all that they could for the organisation.

Benefits realisation management is especially useful from the perspective of being able to make a good business case for the change in the first place, and in making sound business decisions on it. It enables projects to be more closely tied to business performance, and projects are more clearly linked to organisational strategic objectives. In general, this helps to drive a culture of performance in the business. Benefits realisation management is also highly beneficial in terms of making better decisions on how to invest time, resources and money within the firm. The information on the benefits realised can be shared with employees throughout the organisation, which is good for morale.

Benefits realisation management needs to be driven from the top of the organisation. It should be integrated into the process of strategic planning, to ensure that undertaking any initiative will definitely bring about quantifiable benefits that are worthwhile for the business. The focus needs to shift somewhat from outputs and deliverables, more towards benefits and value. Project managers have responsibility for driving this shift, and business leaders for ensuring that the approach is integrated within the strategic goal from the very outset.

Benefits realisation management is not a one-off event. It is something that is ongoing throughout the project or program management. Once benefits are identified, a plan for achieving each must be created. This includes prioritising different benefits and seeing if they are indeed achievable. It considers the inputs that will be needed to achieve them in terms of time and resources, including money. For example, in some cases the cost of achieving it may simply be too great to make it worthwhile. This information needs to be fed back into the strategic decision-making process, and decisions reconsidered. The project management plan dovetails with the benefits realisation process, since all projects should guide the delivering of benefits. The benefits realisation management plan ideally will also include monitoring of progress towards benefits realisation to ensure the project or program stays on track. Some benefits may be delivered faster than others, with some realised before the entirety of the project is complete. Another step is working to ensure the benefits can be sustained in the longer term.

Some organisations appoint a benefits champion to be accountable for the process throughout the project to ensure it gets followed through. This does not need to be an additional headcount. It can be a team member within the project team. Such a person can create a register of benefits and monitor the metrics to track benefit realisation for the project or program. They can also lead on engaging stakeholders in this area, finding ways to get people engaged who need to be but perhaps aren’t. Skills for such a role include good relationship building and interpersonal capabilities as well as effective communication.

Benefits realisation management helps both the strategy and the project to start with the end in mind, through aligning benefits with strategy. Having quantifiable, SMART benefits to work towards ensures that the business can achieve the desired return on investment of the project. Failing to pay attention to benefits is likely to be costly and unproductive. A benefits champion can be helpful in keeping track of benefits, monitoring progress towards achieving them and engaging stakeholders with the project or program.

Your thoughts and comments on achieving desired benefits in projects would be most welcome, please add your thoughts.