Project Time Management

Often when we read project management magazines, journals and books, the one common and real measure of success that’s often talked about is completing the project on time. The other measure of a project’s success is off course being on budget. The two areas of time and cost are very closely related and are the biggest constraints or challenges a project manager encounters during the course of a project. It is often said that the schedule is the biggest source of conflict during a project. A lot of projects miss their target schedule dates and the misses are often due to changes to the scope or deliverables that directly effect the scheduled completion date of a project.

Planning and Execution both form an integral part of Time management. Time, unlike money, once gone cannot be reobtained. So, time is a much more valuable commodity than money. That’s why the knowledge area of time management is a critically important one. But unfortunately, a universally agreed-upon way to manage time doesn’t exist. The management of time and prioritization of activities depends upon the discretion of the project manager. Fortunately though, there are some standard processes that can help in this regard.

For effective Time Management during the course of a project, the use of a time management (TM) system is recommended. A Time Management system is developed as a combination of processes, tools, and techniques that help the project manager and the project team in the identification, analysis, sequencing, and estimation of the duration for all the activities related to the project. It is important to remember here that the tools, type, and format chosen by you should make sense to the team and must help you with managing the project schedule. People often try to fit the processes to the tools. The tools you select must work for you, not against you.

Project Time Management Processes

You must have heard people say – “time is money.” This saying is especially true in the field of project management. Many project managers have a hard time understanding the knowledge area of project time management and quite often underestimate it when it comes time to manage the schedule.

Time management therefore is an important knowledge area. It includes six processes that can help in effectively managing the work packages and activities of the project. The single most important objective is to complete the project successfully within time according to the approved delivery date. What makes time management a difficult discipline is that time is constantly moving, and like the many dynamics project managers have to deal with on their projects, the target dates and milestones can be moving targets.

Let’s take a look at the six processes associated with the Project Time Management knowledge area:
    Define activities: It involves identifying the specific activities that must be undertaken to produce the approved deliverables for a project. This activity is a part of the Planning process group.
    Sequence activities: This involves identification and documentation of relationships between different project activities (e.g., successor and predecessor activities). It’s a part of the Planning process group.
    Estimate activity resources: Just like the name suggests, this involves estimating the qualitites and quantities of material, manpower, machinery, or supplies that would be required to perform each activity. This activity also falls under the Planning process group.
    Estimate activity durations: This process is about estimating the number of work periods needed to complete individual activities with the estimated number of resources available. The process group is Planning.
    Develop schedule: This involves analyzing the activity sequences, durations, resource requirements, and schedule constraints to create a schedule for the project. The process group for this activity also is Planning
    Control schedule: This is the process of monitoring the progress of the project to update status and manage changes to the schedule baseline. Its a part of the Monitoring and Controlling process group.