Friday, March 2, 2007

March 2, 2007 – Deliverable-based Project Schedules: Part 5

With all the tasks defined and even divided up into deliverable many project managers would be off and running. Truth be told, projects can be successful with the checklist approach. The trouble is a checklist does not allow you to predict when deliverables will be completed, report on the true cost of the project or understand and impact the critical path. I suggest we keep pushing forward, then.

Determine Predecessors. When you are setting up your project schedule, enter the logical predecessors. These are the tasks that legitimately belong linked, like creating the document before you review it and ordering the hardware before you receive and install it. Fake predecessors are based on resource availability or just a random decision because something has to go first. These have their place throughout the project, but not when you are initially setting up the schedule.

The more tasks you can link with predecessors the better your scheduling tool can… well… schedule.

Estimate the Work. You may have noticed we haven’t assigned any resources yet. As you estimate the work for each task, think in terms of 1 person doing the work on that task uninterrupted. So, even if you anticipate it would take 2 people a week to complete a document, set the Work value to 80 hrs. Later we will add the specific resources.

While you are assigning the Work, you are probably thinking of a certain skill level or specific individual. These thoughts influence the estimate. Because of this you should document them as estimating assumptions and include them as part of your proposed schedule. No, this isn’t a fancy word for excuses. If you are expecting an expert Java programmer and end up with a novice, your assumptions were wrong and therefore your estimate will be off. With your estimating assumptions outlined you can recognize the impact and make adjustments accordingly (i.e. more or different resources, additional training, obtain more time, etc.).

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