It’s no secret that projects of all sizes include many stages and even more tasks and deliverables. If so much as a single element is delayed, it can lead to a cascade of setbacks, like missed deadlines and unhappy clients.
How do you manage project calendars while effectively managing your resources, so you don’t have to call in last-minute favors?
The answer is simple: with a project schedule.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the makeup of a project schedule and why you need one. We’ll also walk you through creating a project schedule, and give you an adaptable template for any use case.
What is a project schedule?
A project schedule is a planning tool that outlines all the individual tasks the project requires, the allocated resources needed, and all the necessary start and end dates.
A project schedule documents everything related to a project’s timeline:
- Tasks: a detailed activity list of the tasks and subtasks that must be completed to deliver a project successfully.
- Deadlines: expected due dates for individual activities. They keep the entire project on schedule.
- Milestones: pivotal points in a project plan. These can be used to monitor project progress or highlight important events.
Depending on the platform, a schedule might show other essential aspects of the project:
- Deliverables: products or services that are delivered to the client.
- Resources: required assets for a project. Examples include people, equipment, project management tools, etc.
- Requirements: required standards to complete a project, such as certifications or security clearances.
- Budgets: used to estimate the total cost of a project, including labor, material procurement, etc.
- Stakeholders: the primary players involved in the project ie team members, clients, and investors.
Project scheduling software like monday.com helps you plan and manage every part of schedule management from one place. All items are synced in real-time, providing accurate visibility.
Here’s a project schedule example on monday.com:
Next, let’s look at the crucial role that project schedules and project scheduling tools play in project management.
Why is a project schedule important?
Fyre Festival, a luxury music festival in the Bahamas, was a complete failure from a project management perspective — headliners dropped out days before, fans were stranded at the airport, and luxury “villas” turned out to be regular tents (many weren’t even assembled!).
Let’s take a closer look at how a project schedule can keep things on the right track (and prevent work breakdown structure (WBS) disasters from happening).
1) To stay on schedule
Just 35% of organizations mostly or always complete projects on time. A project schedule provides a complete breakdown of timelines for the task list and the resources needed to complete them and sets teams up for success.
A Gantt chart is one way to organize this.
Here’s an example of a Gantt chart on monday.com:
A Gantt chart provides a high-level view of your projects and task management from start to finish. You can assign tasks, collaborate in real-time, and adjust the project plan as needed.
Kanban boards can also support project tasks and timelines through columns and cards that visualize and break down a project’s workflow into actionable pieces.
Each column signifies a process in the workflow and provides context for the cards within it.
Here is an example of a monday.com Kanban board:
2) Remain under budget
Projects can quickly exceed budget for any reason—unplanned changes, scope creep, delays, etc. Only 43% of organizations mostly or always deliver projects on budget.
A project schedule helps you estimate the time and resources you need to deliver a project, so you can plan accordingly.
3) Identify and prepare for bottlenecksA project schedule can help you identify bottlenecks. If you see that tasks are overdue, you can catch issues early on and adjust timelines or resources. With project management software, you can set deadlines and receive notifications if anything gets delayed.
Here’s how you can set deadlines on monday.com:
By catching potential issues early, you can take steps to address them before they lead to further delays.
How do you create a project schedule?
Putting together a project schedule isn’t always easy, especially for larger projects. You can get started with some fundamental steps.
1. Define the project scope
A project scope details exactly what a client will receive (and what they will not). This is where you’ll define project deliverables, tasks, technical requirements, and acceptance criteria.
The purpose of a project scope is to ensure everyone on the team has a clear understanding of what the project entails. A project scope also sets clear expectations for the client as well as limits the kind of requests they can make.
For example, let’s say you’re developing a mobile app for a client. You will have to consider if it will be built for Android or iOS devices and which software versions it will be compatible with. A project scope answers these questions and more.
2. List the project tasks
A project schedule is often used in conjunction with a work breakdown structure — a system of breaking down a large project into small and manageable steps.
Let’s use the example of developing a mobile app again. You can break that project down into the following tasks:
- Create a mock-up
- Create a UI/UX design
- Build the back end
- Design the graphics
- Conduct usability tests
- Submit to the App Store
Use a project management platform like monday.com to track and organize your tasks from one place.
3. Identify task dependencies
Task dependencies occur when a task depends on another.
A common task dependency is finish-to-start, which means that a task must be completed before another can start. For example, workers build a car’s frame before an engine can be put into it.
Identifying task dependencies is crucial for building your project schedule. It also allows you to calculate the critical path — the longest sequence of activities from start to finish.
Here’s how you can set task dependencies in monday.com:
Setting dependencies allows you to view the relationship between tasks. You can then switch to a Gantt chart for a bird’s eye view of all project tasks and their timelines.
From here, you get real-time updates as the project progresses.
4. Set project milestones
A project milestone is a key checkpoint along a project’s timeline. Keeping track of these milestones is a great way to monitor progress.
Examples of project milestones can include:
- Releasing product samples
- Obtaining patent approvals
- Reaching the testing phase
- Getting funding from an investor
Look through your project schedule and identify any key moments where you can add a project milestone. Indicate their importance by sharing them with all team members, so everyone on the team can see them.
5. Assign the tasks
The next step to creating your project schedule is to assign tasks and ensure your team knows their responsibilities.
Here’s what assigning tasks looks like on monday.com:
You can also select multiple people or even entire teams. Whoever is selected will receive a notification when you assign a task.
6. Monitor, evaluate, and adjust the project schedule
In a perfect world, your projects would run smoothly without any hiccups. Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan, so it’s important to monitor the project schedule.
Dashboards on monday.com give you a high-level view of everything going on in one place.
From here, you can keep track of project timelines and identify potential bottlenecks. If anything starts to fall behind, you can evaluate and adjust the schedule.
Keep a detailed project log as any insights you gain can also be applied to future projects.
Create your ideal schedule on monday.com
Scheduling is one of the more difficult aspects of a project.
Project schedules allow you to track tasks and monitor progress. But creating them with calendars or spreadsheets isn’t exactly practical—they make it difficult to manage individual phases and they can lead to miscommunication when things aren’t updated.
monday.com is a highly flexible Work OS that makes it easier to create project schedules. You can add tasks, track timelines, collaborate in real-time, and share files from one centralized workspace.
Here’s a project planning template that you can use to create a project schedule. The template is fully customizable, so you can adapt it to fit any workflow.
Sounds too good to be true? Try it out yourself (no credit card required), the first two weeks are on us!