The primary output of a schedule management plan is the project schedule, an essential component of a comprehensive project plan. A thorough schedule management plan is essential for project progress and success. 

As a project manager, smart planning can be the difference between achieving your project goals and missing deadlines or delivering poor results. Improved schedule management planning helps with forecasting time-related costs, budget and resource allocation, and personnel availability. 

When you create realistic schedule management plans for your projects, you can establish clear timelines, procedures, and documentation. These plans help you achieve the expected results at the right time, deliver successful project outcomes, resolve project variations, and enhance resource utilization.

However, even after careful planning and scheduling, projects can deviate from the plan. As a hands-on project manager, you should immediately take corrective actions to plug the gaps and get the project back on track. Your schedule management plan should include guidelines on how you and your team navigate situations like this.

What is a schedule management plan?

A schedule management plan is the precise organization of project activities and tasks by time factors. It outlines the start and end dates of tasks and milestones that must be accomplished for project completion. Developing a schedule management plan is a critical phase in project planning that ensures you start, monitor, control, and complete projects successfully.

Your plan should include each activity's duration, resources needed, and assigned team members' availability. These establish a solid baseline, which guides the project through its various stages until completion. You should also define methodologies used to determine the project schedule management plan and establish notable time measurement guidelines, e.g., hours, days, weeks, months, or quarters. 

Project managers can improve their schedule management planning skills by creating, using, and improving project schedules in real-world projects. Below are guidelines to help you develop intelligent schedule management skills using the best project scheduling software for your team and projects.

What goes into a project schedule management plan?

Schedule management plans differ based on timelines, project size, and organizational resources. However, there are procedures that these plans should cover for the best chances of success. An example is free slack allowance - which ensures that enough time is allotted to each task to avoid situations where subsequent tasks — or the entire project — is delayed.

At the beginning stages of preparing your project schedule management plan, it is wise to involve team members and subject matter experts to define activities and ensure the project schedule management plan is as accurate as possible. 

  1. Settle on a scheduling methodology
    Your schedule management plan should specify which project methodologies you intend to use. Certain project methodologies work best for specific projects. Some examples include the sequential Critical Path Method (CPM), which is based on the concept that some tasks can't start until a previous one is complete, and the Agile Project Management (APM), which prioritizes shorter, iterative cycles and flexibility. 
  2. Choose the best project scheduling software
    Your plan should also clearly state the project scheduling software you plan on using. This software will help you manage projects deftly, including all relevant team members. Ensure everyone has access to a software consulting agreement, where everyone is included in choosing the best option. 
  3. Establish a schedule baseline 
    Your schedule management plan should establish a strong project baseline to ensure all working parties clearly understand the project, its goals, and when it's on course or not. Baselines enable you to assess the performance of your project over time.
  4. Identify performance measures
    Your schedule management plan should include a process for submitting, reviewing, and implementing feedback on tasks to keep team members and stakeholders working at a set standard and accountable. 
  5. Create contingency plans for schedule variances
    Contingency plans for potential risk and variations must be documented and communicated to eliminate bottlenecks, dependencies, and delays in your project. 
  6. Identify schedule change control procedures
    Include directives on when elements of the schedule can be changed, who has the authority to do so, how quickly, and which team members must be informed or granted permission. 
  7. Measure project performance
    Your schedule management plan should show how often you'd measure project performance to achieve the best project outcome. Would you measure project performance weekly or monthly? How will you measure, and how do you deliver reports? Which project scheduling software, tools, and metrics do you use? 
  8. Identify project variance thresholds 
    Your project schedule management plan should include variance thresholds to guide the team and maintain standards, budget, and set timelines. The schedule performance index would show whether a project is behind or ahead of schedule, and the variance threshold defines when you should take corrective action.
  9. Schedule report format and frequency
    Your project schedule management plan should document how you and team members submit updates within the project. Questions like "who sends the progress reports? Who receives them? Do you use a bar chart, a simple list, or network diagrams?” You should note reporting methods and procedures to ensure quality review and closure of tasks within a project.

What is the difference between project planning and scheduling?

A project plan is a comprehensive document that includes various components such as project requirements, objectives, scope, risks, budget, and schedule. In comparison, a project schedule is a document that includes start and end dates and sequences of tasks and activities within a project. A project schedule shows what needs to be done, resources and personnel to utilize, and when tasks and projects are due.

A project plan focuses on all the deliverables and processes of a project, whereas a project schedule focuses on the timing: start to end, sequence, and dependencies.

It's important to note that project planning and scheduling are not one-and-done activities. A skilled project manager continuously updates these documents to learn from real-world effects on the project plan.

Project schedule management plan example

To improve your schedule management planning skills, you should aim to manage more real-life projects using project schedules you prepared yourself. 

Wrike's free project scheduling template is an excellent project schedule management plan example. Use it to significantly reduce the time spent creating your project schedules.

The more projects you manage, the more competent you become in project planning and scheduling. Whether you're a junior or senior project manager, you’ll benefit significantly from choosing the right project scheduling software.

How to use Wrike as project scheduling software

When it comes to project planning and scheduling, Wrike enables you to assign tasks to teammates with precise descriptions and a due date. 

You can break tasks into subtasks and order dependencies to avoid lead or lag times. You can also add teammates and stakeholders to each project with the appropriate visibility level for each one's role.

Using Wrike as your project scheduling software makes schedule management planning easy. You can vastly improve your chances of success in project planning and schedule management by getting started with a free Wrike trial today.