Project Schedule Management

Knowledge Area Executive Summary

Schedule Management - PM-ProLearnThis Knowledge Area is all about the processes required to manage the timely completion of the project.  In this Knowledge Area, the WBS from Project Scope Management is further decomposed into Activities, which then through further processes are sequenced, estimating (for resources and durations) and then finally into a project schedule. You can find details of all other PMBOK Knowledge areas in The Best PMP Study Guide.

  • Process Groups in this Knowledge Area
    • Planning
    • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Processes in this Knowledge Area
    • Plan Schedule Management
    • Define Activities
    • Sequence Activities
    • Estimate Activity Durations
    • Develop Schedule
    • Control Schedule
  • Major or important ITTOs
    • Project Charter
    • PM Plan
    • Scope Baseline
    • Project Documents
    • Work Performance Data
    • Data Analysis
    • Decomposition
    • Rolling Wave Planning
    • Precedence Diagramming Method
    • Dependency Determination and Integration
    • Leads and Lags
    • Estimating Techniques
    • Schedule Network Analysis
    • Critical Path Method
    • Resource Optimization
    • Schedule Compression
    • Schedule Management Plan
    • Activity List
    • Activity Attributes
    • Milestone List
    • Change Requests
    • Work Performance Information
    • Schedule Baseline
    • Project Schedule Network Diagrams
    • Duration Estimates
    • Basis of Estimates
    • Project Schedule
    • Schedule Data
    • Schedule Forecasts

As with Project Cost Management, Project Schedule Management is one of the sides of the “Triple Constraint Triangle” (shown below). Similarly, this is one off the many ways that Project Managers measure their success; the term “on time and within budget” rings here as well.  In many cases, the success of the schedule is derived from careful management of the tasks, keeping an eye out for variances between the planned completion of a task and the actual completion of that task.  Schedule planning relies completely on the scope planning on a project.  In other words, how can you determine how long a project and its tasks will take if you don’t know the activities and work packages associated with the scope of the project?

triple constraint - PMI

Our first Schedule Management process is Plan Schedule Management.  Its primary purpose is to establish the policies, procedures, and documentation for planning, developing, managing, executing, and controlling the project schedule.  In this process, we take the Project Charter and ay already-developed portions of the PM Plan to define the starting point for schedule planning.  In most cases, the Project Charter will include the high-level milestones and other ‘imposed’ dates for the project.  We use the PM Plan to ensure that all of the planning for Schedule Management is in line with the other portions of the PM Plan (remember back to the Project Integration Management portion of the Best PMP Study Guide).  Using some analysis tools and techniques, we will draw out the constraints from the Project Charter to ensure that our Schedule Management Plan (the major output of this process) includes these limitations or guidelines.

Our next process is to Define Activities.  Here we will decompose all of our Work Packages from Project Scope Management into schedule activities that will allow us to estimate, schedule, execute, as well as monitor and control the project work.  This process depends on scope planning being complete (or far enough along to allow for further Decomposition).  As a result of this process, we see the Activity List, Activity Attributes, and Milestone List take form.  These, along with the Assumption Log, will feed into the next process, Sequence Activities.

In the Sequence Activities process, we will analyze activity dependency attributes in order to facilitate the Precedence Diagramming Method which allows us to write/draw the schedule network diagram(s).  Another tool and technique here is ‘Leads and Lags’ which allow us to determine the amount of time a successor activity can be advanced with respect to a predecessor (lead) or the amount of time a successor activity can be delayed with respect to a predecessor (lag).

Now that we have defined and sequenced the activities for the project, we will need to Estimate Activity Durations. In this process, we estimate the number of work periods that are needed to complete individual activities with estimated resources.  In some cases, regardless of how many resources you allocate to an activity, it will still take the same amount of time (think the amount of time it takes paint to dry or concrete to set).  This process will generate our Duration Estimates and will be accompanied by the Basis of Estimates.  Simply put, this process provides the amount of time each activity will take to complete and is accompanied by a document that explains the logic of how we came up with that estimate.

At this point, we have everything we need (presumably) to perform the next process; Develop Schedule.  This process is used to analyze activity sequences, durations, resource requirements, and schedule constraints to create a schedule model for project execution and also monitoring and controlling the schedule.  This process requires a great deal of coordination.  It is an iterative process that is based on the best information available (which means we will need to consistently review the schedule to ensure it is based on legitimate assumptions or estimates) and will review the duration estimates, resource estimates, and the reserves associated with the schedule.  This also requires coordination with project team members to confirm that the start and finish dates do not create conflicts or induce unnecessary risks to the project.  If there are large gaps in information or you are working with incomplete data (making assumptions), it may be a good idea to add this to your Project Risk Management processes to account for any potential issues.  During this process, we will also employ some scheduling tools (specifically the Critical Path Method) to determine the minimum project duration and determine any flexibility that may exist on each network path.  We will cover these techniques in greater detail in the Project Network Diagramming article.

Another item of note for the Develop Schedule process is Schedule Compression.  Schedule Compression techniques are used to shorten the schedule without reducing the scope of the project.  This is done using two different techniques; Crashing and Fast-Tracking.  Each has their own benefits and drawbacks to a project or project activities.

The last process, Control Schedule, is used to monitor the status of the project and make updates to the project schedule as needed.  Also during this process, changes to the Schedule Baseline are managed.  This ensures that the Schedule Baseline is maintained throughout the project.  In this process, all schedule documents, portions of the PM Plan associated with scheduling, and actual Work Performance Data are analyzed to determine how the schedule is actually performing in comparison to the planned schedule.  This is where Earned Value Management is conducted on the schedule (always in terms of a dollar-amount).  Quick tip:  All of the same tools used in Develop Schedule are used again to Control Schedule.  As an output here, we have Schedule Forecasts which are based on current performance and take into account the predicted time that remains on the project.  Any variances noted may require Change Requests to be generated to update the Schedule and Cost Baselines.

Knowledge Area Frequently Asked Questions

FAQQ: Does Schedule Management change at all in Agile projects?

A: Only slightly.  As an addition to the tools and techniques for the Develop Schedule process, we introduce the Agile Release Planning tool.  This is used to outline any high-level schedule items and iterations (often called Sprints).  Also included in the Agile Release Planning is any feature that will be available at the end of each iteration.

Q: Which Schedule Compression technique is better; Crashing, or Fast-Tracking?

A: It depends on the scenario, needs, and risk tolerance of the project or its stakeholders.  Crashing is where you will add resources to Critical Path activities in order to reduce their duration.  This results in increased cost to a project.  Fast-Tracking is where you rearrange the original activity sequence for activities that were originally intended to be done sequentially but instead, are performed in parallel.  This results in increased risk.  If the budget is a higher concern than the level of risk, you may want to Fast-Track.  If the opposite is true, then Crashing may be the better option. 

 What to Memorize in this Knowledge Area

For this Knowledge Area, we are separating Schedule Management from Project Network Diagramming.  This is due to the way in which the diagrams can be performed.  We will cover Project Network Diagramming in a separate post, so for now, just memorize the below terms and their intricacies.  You may want to add a few of these to your Brain Dump.  I have highlighted these in bold text.

  • Decomposition
  • Rolling Wave Planning
  • Precedence Diagramming Method
  • Dependency Determination and Integration
  • Leads and Lags
  • Estimating Techniques
  • Schedule Network Analysis
  • Critical Path Method
  • Resource Optimization
  • Schedule Compression
  • Schedule Management Plan
  • Activity List
  • Activity Attributes
  • Milestone List
  • Types of Float
  • Duration Estimates
  • Basis of Estimates
  • Project Schedule
  • Schedule Data
  • Schedule Forecasts

Memorize - Study

Knowledge Area Critical Reasoning & Testing Skills

Schedule ManagementQ: You are the Project Manager for a software development project.  You realize after performing Earned Value Management techniques that you are behind schedule.  You analyze your project schedule in order to determine how best to complete the project on time with the existing resources.  You notice that you can delay Activity 1 by 3 days without delaying its successor, Activity 2.  However, delaying Activity 1 will delay the project by 4 days, but will not result in the overall project finishing late.  Which of the below statements BEST describes this scenario?

  1. Activity 1 has no Total Float and must be completed on time.
  2. Activity 2 has a Total Float of 4 days and a Free Float of 3 days.
  3. Activity 1 has a Total Float of 4 days and a Free Float of 3 days.
  4. Activity 1 is on the Critical Path and must take only 4 days to complete.

EXPLANATION: This question requires you to understand the terms and definitions of the different types of Float.  There are several types of Float; Total Float, Free Float, and Project Float.  Total Float is the amount of time an activity can be delayed from starting without delaying the project completion date.  Free Float is the amount of time an activity can be delayed and extended beyond its early finish date without delaying the early start date of its immediate successor.  Project Float is the amount of time that a project can be extended beyond its completion date without violating a contractual deadline.  This question is asking us about two of the three types of float; Total Float and Free Float. Quick Tip: Items on the Critical Path cannot have ANY float whatsoever, often described as ‘Zero Float.’  Since the scenario is describing Activity 1 as having both a Total Float and Free Float of higher than ‘0’ it is not on the Critical Path.  Answer A and D are out.  Answer B discusses the Total and Free Float of Activity 2, which is not discussed in the scenario, so this answer is also out.  The scenario does describe the Total Float of Activity 1 by stating that it can be delayed by 4 days without delaying the overall finish date (Total Float = 4).  It also describes the Free Float of Activity 1 by stating that it can be delayed by 3 days without affecting Activity 2 (Free Float = 3).  Our BEST (and only) answer here is C.

Knowledge Area Closing Summary

This Knowledge Area covers only two Process Groups and six processes.  However, succeeding Project Schedule Management for the PMP Exam requires an in-depth knowledge of several terms.  Since Schedule Management is one of the sides of the “Triple Constraint Triangle” it would not be wise to try and take on this area alone.  Make sure you take the time to read through this and other areas associated with Schedule Management on the Best PMP Study Guide. You should also look into the many ways that PM-ProLearn can help with our many course offerings.

PM-ProLearn Logo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s