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Friday, July 8, 2011

Chapter 85: Controlling Schedule

Schedule control has a two-pronged goal; to ensure that the project is progressing on time as planned and to monitor any changes to this progress. As a project manager, you should be out in front of the project, performing the following tasks on a regular basis:
• Determining the current status of the project schedule
• Influencing the factors that generate schedule changes
• Determining whether the project schedule has changed. For ex: if some activities are running late
• Managing changes as they occur

You detect a schedule change by comparing the execution time to the time in the schedule baseline, which is a major input item into the schedule control process. This is formally called Control Schedule.

The picture below explains the Control Schedule Process:

Input to Schedule Control

To control the project schedule, you need to know what the schedule baseline (that is, the expectation) is, how the project is performing from the perspective of schedule, and what the plans are to monitor the schedule. The complete list is:
Schedule management plan - This plan specifies how to monitor and control the project at hand.
Schedule baseline - This is the approved version of the schedule, against which the schedule performance of the project will be measured.
Performance reports - These reports provide information on the schedule performance of the project, such as missed and met planned dates.
Approved change requests - These are requests to change the schedule or other change requests that will affect the schedule. Approved change requests can update the schedule baseline.

Tools and Techniques for Schedule Control

The schedule is monitored by progress reporting and performance measurements and is controlled using the schedule control system.

Progress reporting - Progress reports and current schedule status are key items to monitor the schedule. They can include finished activities, the percent of in-progress activities that have been completed, and remaining durations for unfinished activities.

Schedule change control system - This is the system you use to receive, evaluate, and process schedule changes. It can include forms, procedures, approval committees, and tracking systems.

Performance measurement and analysis - The following tools and techniques can be used to measure and analyze the schedule performance of the project:
Performance measurement techniques - These techniques are used to calculate the schedule variance and schedule performance index. The schedule variance discussed there is in terms of cost, but you can also perform a barebones schedule variance analysis based on the start and end dates of the schedule activities.
Variance analysis - Performing a barebones schedule variance analysis is crucial to schedule monitoring because it reveals the deviation of the actual start and finish dates from the planned start and finish dates of schedule activities. It might suggest corrective actions to be taken to keep the project on the track.
Schedule comparison bar charts - Bar charts can be used to facilitate the schedule variance analysis. You can draw two bars corresponding to one schedule activity, one bar shows the actual progress, and the other bar shows the expected progress according to the baseline. This is a great tool to visually display where the schedule has progressed as planned and where it has slipped.

Project management software - You can use project management software for scheduling to track planned start/finish dates versus actual dates for schedule activities. This software also enables you to predict the effects of project schedule changes. These are important pieces of information for monitoring and controlling the schedule.

Output of Schedule Control

Schedule performance measurements and recommendations for actions based on the measurements and progress reports are the important output items of the schedule control process.

Performance measurements - The results from schedule performance measurements, such as the schedule variance (SV) and schedule performance index (SPI), should be documented and communicated to stakeholders. These measurements might trigger recommendations for corrective actions and change requests.

Recommended corrective actions - The goal of schedule-related corrective actions is to bring the future schedule performance in line with the schedule baseline—that is, the approved version of the planned schedule. To achieve that, the following actions can be taken:
• Expedite the execution to ensure that schedule activities are completed on time or with minimal delay.
• Perform a root cause analysis to identify the causes of the schedule variance.
• Make plans to recover from the schedule delay.

Updates - The following updates can result from the schedule control process:
Schedule updates - Schedule changes can happen at the activity level (the start/end date of an activity has changed) or at the project level (the start/end date of the project has changed). A schedule change at the project level is called a schedule revision. For example, when the project scope is expanded, the project end date might have to be changed to allow the extra work. All significant schedule changes must be reported to the stakeholders.
Activity updates - The schedule changes and the project progress will cause changes in the activity list and in the list of activity attributes. These changes must be documented.
Project management plan - The schedule management plan, a component of the project management plan, is updated to reflect the changes that occur during the schedule control process.
Organizational process assets - The lessons learned from the schedule control process can be documented to the historical database. Examples are:
o The causes of schedule variance
o The reasons for choosing the corrective actions that were taken
o The effectiveness of the corrective actions
Future projects can make use of this information.

Change requests - The schedule performance analysis and progress report review can result in requests for changes to the project schedule baseline. These changes must be processed through the integrated change control process for approval. As with any other change, you must think through whether a change to the schedule baseline has any other effect across the project. If it does, you might need to update the corresponding component of the project management plan accordingly.

Prev: Controlling Scope

Next: Controlling Cost

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