IT Project Management Office Weekly Update – 4/15/14

Project Time Management Example

Suppose you are planning a surprise birthday party for a loved one. You have gathered all the requirements and identified the deliverables (or outcomes) needed to make the party successful. They include obtaining a venue and decorating it, the guest list, food and drinks, presents, activities, and the cake. And, since this is a surprise party, arguably the most important deliverable is getting the guest of honor to the party destination just in time for the surprise of their life. In this example, we’ll focus on the surprise portion of the party plan, because for it to work well, project time management is essential.

The first step is to define how to manage the party schedule. This keeps those involved with scheduling the surprise party and executing its time-sensitive activities well informed with how the plan will be developed, executed, and changed (if necessary).

The next step is to define the activities involved to pull off the surprise successfully. General requirements defined previously are broken down into activities that individuals can perform. In our example, a key surprise party requirement is to have a “handler.” The handler will have several activities that he or she must perform well in order to keep the guest of honor unaware of the surprise and to get them to the party on time.

When it comes to a surprise party, knowing the sequence in which activities will occur is essential. Some activities must be done in a dependent order, while others can be done in a non-dependent order or even simultaneously. An example of dependent activities are that you must first get the guest of honor to the party before the guests can yell surprise. Simultaneous activities involve the handler keeping the guest of honor busy and unaware of the party while others are decorating the venue and preparing the food and drink.

Once the sequencing of activities is complete, we must determine if those involved with planning and executing the surprise require any resources. For instance, the handler may need a car to transport the guest of honor and a cell phone with texting capabilities to quietly communicate their location and time of arrival. Guests of the party will require maps with specific instructions on when to arrive at the party, where to park, and what to do if they’re running late.

Next, each activity is estimated and analyzed in terms of its importance, timing, and dependent activities. Activities with defined dependencies must be measured closely to determine the minimum and maximum amount of time they will take to execute. In our example, the timing of the party setup activities and guest arrivals must be well estimated, as to determine the proper arrival time of the guest of honor.

Now that all the activities, sequences, resources, and durations are identified and the time estimates are complete, the next step is to integrate this information into a schedule. With our surprise party example, an accurate, well managed schedule will ensure that the activities are listed, organized, and communicated clearly to those responsible for executing the activities, so there are no misunderstandings.

Things can change in life, and your ability to accommodate and even capitalize on change is important – especially when managing projects. In our example, suppose the handler is unable to manage the guest of honor as planned. Controlling the schedule will allow you to have the mechanisms in place to update it and to inform those affected by any schedule changes in a timely manner. This requires a careful yet quick review of the time management processes to ensure that the updated schedule includes the proper activities, sequencing, resources, and durations. This will also help prevent any unwanted time management surprises.


Next week we’ll look at project quality management.

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