Planning to Refine Project Schedule
Determine Project Phasing: When planning for phased project implementation, specific phases should have an independent and substantial benefit, even if no additional components are acquired. Describe the phases planned for this project and what each phase will deliver, or explain why phasing is not appropriate.
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Develop a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): The WBS provides the capability to break the scope into manageable activities, assign responsibility to deliver the project scope, and establish methods to structure the project scope into a form that improves visibility for management. The WBS also requires that the scope of the overall project be documented.
A WBS is a hierarchical representation of the products and services to be delivered on a project. Elements of scope are decomposed to a level that provides a clear understanding of what is to be delivered for purposes of planning, controlling and managing project scope. In its entirety, a WBS represents the total scope of a project.
A WBS is neither a schedule nor an organizational representation of the project; instead, it is a definition of what is to be delivered. Once the scope is clearly understood, the Project Manager must determine who will deliver it and how it will be delivered. This is the one planning tool that must be used to ensure project success on any size project.
Identify Activities and Activity Sequences Based On Project Scope and Deliverables
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The WBS reflects activities associated with overall project management, requirements, design, implementation, transition management, testing, training, installation and maintenance. The Project Manager is responsible for defining all top-level tasks associated with a project and then further decomposing them as planning continues.
WBS tasks are developed by determining what tasks need to be done to accomplish the project objective. The choice of WBS is subjective and reflects the preferences and judgment of the Project Manager. As levels of the WBS become lower, the scope, complexity and cost of each subtask become smaller and more accurate. The lowest-level tasks, or work packages, are independent, manageable units that are planned, budgeted, scheduled and controlled individually.
One of the most important parts of the Project Planning process is the definition of activities that will be undertaken as part of the project. Activity sequencing involves dividing the project into smaller, more-manageable components (activities) and then specifying the order of completion. Much of this has already been done within the process of creating the WBS. No matter how the WBS has been broken down, by the time the Project Manager gets to the activity level, the activities should represent the same level of effort or duration.
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Estimate Activity Duration, Work Effort, and Resource Requirements
There is no simple formula to define how detailed a work breakdown needs to be. There are, however, some helpful guidelines for completion:
- Break down the work until accurate estimates of cost and resources needed to perform the task are provided.
- Ensure that clearly defined starting and ending events are identified for the task. These may be the production of a deliverable or the occurrence of an event.
- Verify that the lowest-level tasks can be performed within a reasonable period of time. Each project must define “reasonable.” If the time period to complete a task is too long, an accurate project status in the Managing (Execution and Controlling) phase may not be possible. An industry-standard rule of thumb is to make work packages that can be completed within time frames of two weeks (80 effort hours).
- Verify that people assigned to the project are all assigned a WBS task.
Determine Activity Dependencies: The WBS denotes a hierarchy of task relationships. Subtask completion eventually rolls up into task completion, which ultimately results in project completion. There can, however, also be relationships between tasks that are not within the outlined hierarchy (perhaps from other projects). These relationships need to be noted. If the tasks are not organized efficiently, it becomes difficult to schedule and allocate resources to the tasks.
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Develop Project Schedule: Following the definition of project activities, the activities are associated with time to create a project schedule. The project schedule provides a graphical representation of predicted tasks, milestones, dependencies, resource requirements, task duration and deadlines. The project’s master schedule links all tasks on a common time scale. The project schedule should be detailed enough to show each work breakdown structure task to be performed, name of the person responsible for completing the task, start and end date of each task, and expected duration of the task.