One of the biggest reasons why projects fail is because project managers set unrealistic deadlines and goals. Setting unpragmatic deadlines and targets not only put extra pressure on your team but also forces them to rush through project activities. When they rush through project activities, chances of errors and cutting corners increase manifolds. As a result, the quality of your project’s deliverables takes a hit.
Even if you succeeded in delivering the project before the deadline, it would not satisfy your client. That is why it is crucial to create a project timeline for all your projects. A project timeline gives you more clarity into what project activities will be undertaken and the time each activity would take. This will help you stay focused and prevent dependencies and overlapping activities before they can hamper your project progress.
In this article, you will learn about seven simple and effective steps to create a perfect project timeline.
1. Create a Project Brief and Scope Document
Start by writing down the project scope document. This will allow you to map out the scope of the project. A project scope document outlines the goals and deliverables you want to achieve at the end of the project. The project brief document provides you a summary of project ideas. The project scope document should include the list of internal and external project stakeholders and clearly define their roles. Keep your project brief short and to the point, but don’t forget to include key objectives, project milestones and project goals.
2. Define the Steps
Once you have written down both the project brief and project scope document, now is the time to list down the steps and create a work breakdown structure. In short, break down a complex project into smaller more manageable chunks. Take the top-down approach and start from deliverables. Now, divide your deliverables into sub-deliverables and sub deliverables into tasks and tasks into subtasks. This will help you focus on the scope of each task and ensure that you don’t miss out on the nitty-gritty.
3. Time Estimation
By now, you will have a complete list of tasks required to achieve project goals successfully in front of you. It is time to allocate time for each activity. The key to success here is to strike a perfect balance between giving your team enough time to complete the task effectively and staying within the project deadlines.
Here are some of the techniques you can use to determine the time each project activity will take to complete:
- PERT Method
- Analogous estimation
- Parametric estimation
- Expert Judgement
- Delphi Technique
4. Keep an Eye on Dependencies and Sequence
Once you have allocated time to each project activity, now you can easily set the priorities of tasks. This allows you to arrange them in the right sequence. More importantly, it also helps you in identifying dependencies between different tasks. This is very important, especially if you are following one of the linear project management methodologies such as waterfall model where you can not move to the next task until you complete the previous task.
All tasks should be completed in a sequence and if there is any dependency, it can have a negative impact on your project progress. You can cope up with that with a smart task management software like TaskQue, which allows you to rearrange tasks in its Kanban view by simple drag and drop operation.
5. Draw Your Timeline
By this stage, you might be able to create a rough sketch of your project timeline in your mind. Keeping all that information stored in your brain is not the most practical thing to do. You can quickly lose track of tasks and deadlines, which is why it is important to start drawing your project timeline. For this, you can either use a whiteboard or use different tools such as:
- Office Timeline
These tools will save you from the hassle by offering you ready to use timeline templates. If you want to create a timeline from scratch, you can also do that. All you have to do is to enter task details, including start and end date and these tools will automatically create a visual timeline of your project.
6. Share It with Stakeholders
After creating a rough representation of your project timeline, it is time to show it to all the project stakeholders. Project stakeholders want to see visual evidence and when you show them a project timeline, they will undoubtedly take notice. If you have stakeholders who are not engaged in your project, this will encourage them to play their part. Take feedback and get the approval from project stakeholders to add finishing touches to your project timeline.
7. Adapt and Manage
Once you have the stakeholder’s feedback, use that feedback to tweak your project timeline. There are instances when things do not go according to the plan. How would you cope up with such situations? You will have to adapt according to the changing project dynamics and manage your time efficiently. Have a time buffer to accommodate unplanned delays. There is nothing wrong with making slight adjustments to your project timelines, but make sure that you don’t divert too much from the deadline.
How do you manage your project timelines? Do you follow a sequential approach or an agile merhodology? Share your modus operandi with us in the comments section below.