The product development process is primarily schedule driven. Effective and disciplined scheduling and tracking of work and resources is directly related to customer satisfaction since customer expectations always include timely delivery as a key priority.
The scheduling process begins with a program plan that describes the overall program in general terms. It is a reference source for all documents that impact on the program. The program plan includes:
■ Program overview
■ Program strategy
■ Customer identification
■ Program objectives
■ Measures of program success
■ Program scope and requirements (summary)
■ Program management, including team roles, schedule, resource plan, and milestones, program review, and risk management
■ Program development and review process
■ Reference documents
Once a program plan is approved, good scheduling is at the heart of the program management process. Program schedules, created in Microsoft Project, linked to a central resource pool file and posted on the network, constitute the basis for program development, tracking, and review. A good scheduling process provides adequate time to ensure that the work breakdown is comprehensive and responds to the customer requirement and product functionality, that scheduled task durations and predecessors are as accurate as possible, that key linkages are made, and that people and resources, once assigned, understand interdependen-cies and are available and committed to the program when they are needed.
Before a schedule is drawn up, the work itself must be clearly defined in a WBS. Thus scheduling provides for an SRS (in the requirements stage), which defines the what and why of the program or product, e.g., a description of the product and its functionality. The scheduling process helps to flesh out requirements as individual features are programmed into various iterations of the schedule, leading to the baseline.
Once the work scope is understood and signed off by the customer, scheduling defines when and how the work is going to be done, key interdependencies, when the deliverable will be produced, and who will do the work. The scheduling process assigns staff to scheduled work and commits staff to do the work within the time constraints in the schedule. Scheduling is a resource planning tool, providing a high degree of discipline to the assignment of staff since each task is specifically described and time-constrained. Thus scheduling requires that those who actually are going to do the work—those who are being scheduled—also be part of the process. Since scheduling "signs up" and mobilizes staff to fit new work into their schedules, which typically includes other program work, it requires that there be a clear picture of staff availability—the current resource picture. New program schedules are phased-in based on the timelines and resource impacts of current work.
The integrity of a schedule is only as good as the description of the work, the processes in place to do the work, a good picture of interdependencies and resource availability, and the commitment of the people who are slated to do the work. This process becomes more complicated when there are several programs or projects operating at the same time and where staff time is always limited by previous commitments driven by earlier or concurrent projects, and by anticipated and unplanned work. In the end, it is the quality of the planning and communication process and the capacity, commitment, and motivation of the individuals actually doing the work that drives a successful schedule.
Project management software makes it easier to accomplish the scheduling process by capturing important planning and scheduling data and making it available to a wide cross section of people, and facilitating presentations and progress tracking. The following process assumes access and proficiency in Microsoft Project as the support software as a network-based planning and communication tool.
Scheduling tailors the product development process to real time and available resources, and flags conflicts and new resource needs. Scheduling provides timephase and links tasks and milestones, assigns resources to complete the work, and supports the monitoring of performance, resource allocations, budget, and earned value.
An example of an integrated baselined program schedule (Gantt chart) is as follows. Note the inserted column for %complete, added through the insert toolbar, then column. Note that predecessor for ID 88 is 87FF+1, entered through the task information dialogue box, predecessors, and type of linkage. 87FF+1 indicates that the task has a finish-to-finish relationship with ID 87, plus one day.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.