Project Schedules: How to Help Yourself and the Project Scheduler

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Lack of experience with project scheduling by project team members is one of the biggest frustrations that a project manager/project scheduler faces.  Projects in a matrix organization are often staffed with team members who are not familiar with project schedules.  The team members provide input on tasks that they will need to perform to complete the project, but many times don’t include the pre-requisites for completing the tasks.  Hopefully, after reading this blog, you might be able to contribute to a more accurate schedule.

Let’s Get to it!

We will work on a project where Equipment X is purchased and qualified for use.  First thing, we need to do is identify all tasks involved in making toast and an estimate of how long they might take. Annotation 2019-10-04 112607

Now we put tasks in the order in which they need to be completed. We start out by purchasing the equipment.  Many times in the biotech industry, the equipment has a long lead time because the equipment is not off the shelf and the manufacturer has to build it. Then a field acceptance test may need to be performed at the manufacture’s site to ensure that the equipment is working as expected before it is shipped to the site.  Finally, it gets shipped to the site and is installed.

All those tasks were completed serially (one after another).  In a project schedule, that is a finish to start (FS) relationship.  When one task finishes, the next one can start. The task that finishes is called the predecessor and the one that is starting is the successor.  The predecessor to “Installation” is “Delivery to site”.

Once the equipment is installed, the qualification activities can begin.  First, the equipment start up and site acceptance testing. While this task is being completed, the commission protocol could be drafted in parallel.  If the Subject Matter Expert forget to tell the project scheduler that these tasks can be completed in parallel, the project scheduler may assume that they need to be completed serially.  The incorrect assumption would have resulted in a schedule that is inaccurately showing as taking two weeks longer, because the commissioning protocol would not have been drafted until the Startup and Site Acceptance Testing were completed.  The schedule can easily be corrected for small issues such as this as long as the information is communicated to the scheduler.Annotation 2019-10-04 112607

Annotation 2019-10-04 112607In this example, the PQ execution start requires the IOQ Report to be completed and the PQ protocol to be completed.  Let’s assume that Equipment X is a single use bioreactor that requires some single use bags for the PQ execution.  If the project scheduler is not told that bags are needed and are a long lead time, the schedule will not have a task in there to remind them to purchase bags for the PQ.  A lot of the times that there are delays with projects, it is due to small issues such as this, where the schedule is not capturing all the tasks and dependencies (ties between the different tasks).

In Closing….

To make your life and the project scheduler’s life easier and to be able to have a more accurate schedule, do the following:

  • Identify all the tasks that need to be completed for your part of the project
  • Estimate how long you think it might take to complete those tasks
  • Communicate this information to project schedule along with information such as Task A, B, and C need to be completed for D can start and A, B, and C can be completed in parallel.
  • When you get a copy of the schedule and you see something that doesn’t make sense, talk to the scheduler.
  • It may take a few iterations to come up with a schedule that has enough detail to ensure that project will not be derailed, so again, communication is necessary.
  • If you want don’t understand something about how the schedule has been setup, ask the project scheduler. Most of them will be more than happy to explain.

Related Terminology and Great Links

Activity: A task or process to be accomplished in a set period of time as part of working toward a larger project goal. An Activity can be assigned to a resource(s) and have an associated cost. Activities are ordered with logic links.

Activity Relationship: An ordered link between 2 activities representing the order of execution.

The 4 relationship types are:

FS – Finish to Start

SS – Start to Start

FF – Finish to Finish

SF – Start to Finish

Critical Path: A project’s critical path is the sequence of network activities which add up to the longest overall duration. This determines the shortest time possible to complete the project.

Float: Float is the amount of time that an activity in a project network can be delayed without causing a delay to: subsequent tasks (free float) or the project completion date (total float).

Gantt Chart: A time-based activity chart in which a series of horizontal lines shows the amount of work done or production completed in certain periods of time in relation to the amount planned for those periods. (example is shown above)

Predecessor(s): A predecessor activity is an activity that determines the start date or finish date of a following activity based on a logical relationship.

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): WBS is a hierarchical and incremental decomposition of the project into phases, deliverables and work packages. It is a tree structure, which shows a subdivision of effort required to achieve an objective; for example a program, project, and contract.

 

Written By: Niral Patel, Senior ConsultantICQ Consultants Logo (xl)

https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/schedule-101-basic-best-practices-6701

https://www.projectinsight.net/project-management-basics/project-management-schedule

Terminology taken from: https://www.planacademy.com/project-scheduling-glossary/

 

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