Why Should I Use Scheduling in Project Management Software?
Without a project schedule, it’s incredibly hard and time consuming to keep track of what needs to be done by when and which resources must be utilized. A schedule is a timetable that outlines the start and end dates of all your project tasks and milestones that need to be accomplished.
Tasks within your project schedule will have dependencies, meaning that if the completion data changes on one activity, it will have a cascade effect on other activities. For example, while building a house, if you end up late pouring the foundation, it delays almost every task that needs to follow.
Project management software enables you to efficiently build and maintain your schedule. It allows you to shift deadlines and have all attached project tasks automatically rescheduled correspondingly, saving you from having to make manual task-by-task changes.
Advantages of project management software scheduling
Without project management software scheduling, you’re forced to manage task and milestone interdependencies separately. Every time one date changes, you must manually alter the date of all impacted tasks and milestones. This process is both time-consuming and at high risk for manual errors.
In addition, a schedule needs to be monitored and updated on a regular basis. By assigning resources and progressing the percentage of work complete, you can use a project schedule to monitor whether your project is on track or not.
Again, without project management software, updating and maintaining the schedule becomes time consuming and at risk for errors.
When your project schedule resides within cloud project management software, you can easily share it for collaboration and communication. Team members can access it in order to update their own progress, leave comments on tasks, and monitor what work is coming up next for them. Stakeholders can quickly see how the project is doing without having to ask you for information or relying on an old, stale report.
Here are several other functions that project management software scheduling provides that are difficult or impossible with a manually created schedule:
Resource management is the process of planning, scheduling, and allocating your project resources in a way that maximizes efficiency.
Project management software with resource management functionality but without scheduling functionality would only do half the job. You could see who was assigned to which tasks, but not what was coming up next or how much work each person was assigned overall.
Resource loading as part of project management is about optimizing your resources. Scheduling allows you to continually monitor who is assigned to what work and when. This ability means that you can effectively balance workloads and prioritize project tasks in a way that optimizes your schedule without overworking your team.
For instance, imagine one of your project tasks was finished early by a week. You will likely want to pull ahead all of the following tasks, so you’re not just wasting a week. But what if two of the resources you need for the next task are already completely tied up with another piece of work?
You could choose to leave them be, rearrange their work schedule, or even replace them on one of the tasks with other resources. But without the high-level view of your resources that a schedule provides, it becomes difficult to know what the right call is.
With project management software scheduling, you can also play around with the different options to see how each one impacts other tasks and resources, as well as the project timeline overall.
Schedule conflict management is an ongoing activity for project managers. As the initial schedule is created and as tasks are progressed and completed, you need to monitor and manage potential conflicts. There are two primary types of conflicts that can appear:
- Resources being overallocated
- Broken or missing dependencies
As we just discussed, resource conflicts can be managed by using project scheduling software that includes resource management.
Successful management of broken and missing dependencies requires its own toolset. For instance, what if a task is scheduled to be completed after its dependent milestone? Resource management wouldn’t show you this. A schedule in Excel wouldn’t be able to notify you of the issue either.
But project management software with a conflicts monitor can identify “broken logic” within your schedule so that no deliveries or deadlines are missed.
For instance, when a task is scheduled to be completed after its dependent milestone, there’s broken logic in your schedule. After all, if the task isn’t completed in time, you can’t achieve the milestone.
A conflicts monitor feature will display conflicts within a dashboard widget.
There are 4 types of potential dependencies between tasks:
For instance, in a start-to-start relationship, one task can’t start until the one before it begins. This type of dependency is useful when you can begin a task before the preceding one is completely finished.
Imagine you’re publishing a book. In a finish-to-start relationship, the book would not go to the editor until the draft was fully completed. To condense the schedule and smooth out resourcing, you could instead use a start-to-start relationship where editing can begin much earlier. After all, once the author moves on from one chapter to the next, the editor can begin editing.
But the more different types of dependencies you add into a schedule, the harder it is to monitor conflicts. Unless you have project management software that can help keep track of which tasks have which dependency types and can clearly see when one of them is broken.
Project management software enables you to manage multiple project schedules in an integrated manner. This functionality is important because if two different projects have interdependencies, changes in one can impact the other.
For instance, if one project is running two weeks behind and you need one of their resources next week for your other project, there’s now a conflict. But without a way to see the big picture and how these projects integrate, you may not even be aware of the conflict until it’s time for the resource to begin work on your project.
An integrated project schedule gives you a bird’s-eye view of every project within your company and how they all inter-relate. An integrated project schedule also helps unify schedule creation and reporting. When project managers can see how each other’s projects are planned and structured, they can identify best practices and move toward a common standard.
This commonality helps speed up the creation of future projects by enabling the creation of templates. It also allows stakeholders to receive consistent views and reports across the organization.
When stakeholders have 6 different-looking reports from six different projects, it takes more time to understand what they’re seeing and it makes it difficult to compare reports and combine them into one comprehensive picture of the company. But with project management scheduling software, they can gain one consistent overview of all projects whenever they wish.
To review, we covered the following topics:
- The advantages of scheduling in project management software
- Applications of resource loading
- Best practices for conflict management
- Project integrations