Thursday, February 22, 2007

February 22, 2007 – Deliverable-based Project Schedules: Part 1

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People build many different types of project schedules. There are the massive checklist and the one liner varieties. I’ve seen them with Phases, Activities, Tasks, Sub-Tasks, Sub-sub-tasks and sub-sub-sub-tasks. Some have randomly bolded Milestones and still others fail to communicate anything.

For projects that span more than a couple of months and a handful of individuals, a deliverable-based project plan offers the best way to track and report on it. Over the next several entries we’ll look at:
1. Definitions
2. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) – what it is and how to use it
3. Creating the Schedule
4. When is enough too much?

Definitions. Since there are 3 words there are obviously 5 definitions that we need to review.

Deliverable – pre-defined, tangible work product. This could be a report, document, web page, server upgrade or any other building block to your overall project. The size of a deliverable may depend on the size of your project, but typically they should be between 4 and 6 weeks in duration and spread evenly across the project length. There is another huge discussion we could have on acceptance management at this point. Check out the entry of February 2, 2007 Managing the Think: Acceptance Management for more on the topic.

Project – temporary endeavor to produce a unique thing. That thing can be a product, service or some thing.

Schedule – tool that defines what tasks are to be done, by whom and when. This is different than a Project Plan, which explains the need for the fourth definition.

Project Plan – formally approved document that lays the ground rules for how the project will be managed. The schedule management is a part, but it also includes change management plan, risk management plan, resource management plan and other pieces to guide project execution and control.

A Deliverable-based Project Schedule then is a tool to define and track the delivery of a unique product or service. Ideally all of the activities and tasks within the project will roll up to be part of the one of the project’s deliverables. Any tasks, then, that is not part of a deliverable may be out of scope for the project.

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