This knowledge area is primarily concerned with resources, activities and scheduling. As project managers we always want to be in control of the schedule and not the other way around.
Using the scope baseline we build the schedule from the ground up.
The key input to the knowledge area is the Work Breakdown Structure or WBS.There are six processes in this knowledge area. Five of these are in the planning process group and one is in the monitoring and control group.
Based on the scope baseline and the WBS, we break each work package into all the activities needed to deliver the particular package. This is also called activity decomposition and involves breaking down the package into activities that may involve multiple groups of people. From here we can now derive an activity list that can be used by the next three planning processes.
We will use the activity list derived from the last process and put all activities into the correct sequence. Some activities may depend on another activity being finished and that’s what we deal with in this process.
We typically create diagrams to visualize how each activity needs to fit into the bigger picture.
As we are building the sequence we can insert lead and lag time as needed. Lead is simply letting an activity start ahead of another activity. An example related to IT could be that we developed software that needs to be tested but we are able to provide a preliminary version of the software for testing before it is completely done. That way we can speed up time.
Lag is waiting time between activities. An example of lag time could be shipping time between two activities. It takes a few days to get something needed for the new activity to start.
For each activity we also have to determine how many resources we need to complete the activity. This is important to be able to do cost estimating later on.
Here we look at each activity and find out how long they will take with the resources allocated. This gives us an estimate of the total number of hours needed including inventory items and/or fixed assets.
Based on all the previous planning processes in this group we are now able to create the project schedule, and that becomes the time baseline for the project.
The project schedule will typically be shown as a Gantt chart but can also include a Milestone Chart and other charts used to support the project time baseline.
This is the only process that is not regarding planning. It is a monitoring and control process where we compare the work results to the plan and ensure they line up. Like with many other project management processes we have to be proactive when controlling the schedule and not sit around and wait for problems.
In order to calculate how the project is progressing we can use earned value management to determine if we are ahead or behind schedule (see EVM article).
You may say that creating the time baseline is a lot of work and I agree it can be cumbersome and tedious to create the schedule but there is no getting around it. We simply have to do it. Fortunately there are software programs (like Microsoft Project) that can assist you with all the time management processes and can save you a lot of time but also give you a lot of control. Project Management software also allows you to do what-if scenarios and calculate the impact in minutes instead of having to manually redo the schedule to accommodate the new situations.