How can a project timeline impact an organization’s bottom line?
A recent survey found that only 29% of companies complete a majority of their projects on time, and just 43% do so within budget. So what sets the successful companies apart from the tardy ones? Simply put, they create an accurate and efficient project timeline.
In this article, we’ll define the project timeline, layout how to easily create a project timeline with accurate project scope and key elements, and shortcuts to making a project timeline using the right project management tools.
What is a project timeline?
A project timeline is any tool, feature, or diagram that helps your team understand the project schedule from starting point to finish.
There is a myriad of reasons to use a timeline view to manage your project plan timeline.
For example, project management timelines can:
- Provide a simple visual for teams to conceptualize and discuss project progress against project milestones
- Offer a realistic view of the project that makes it easier to assess bottlenecks, obstacles, resource management, and adjust for setbacks
- Help prioritize all ongoing specific tasks at any part of the project
- Make it easier to spread tasks across an amount of time and avoid overworking any one team member
5 steps to creating a project timeline
Now that we’re on the same page for defining a project timeline, it’s time to get down to the business of creating one so your project timeline management will be that much smoother. Naturally, a big part of creating a timeline for a project is the planning phase. Proper planning maximizes efficiency because it forces you to factor in budget, resources, capacity, and start and end dates. Ultimately, the planning process allows you to maximize your output and mitigate risks.
Here are the steps to follow to create an efficient project or program timeline:
1. Iron out the project’s goals and contingency plans
In the initiation phase, you determine project deliverables and identify which team members are in charge of what, making it easier to set a project timeline that’s both realistic and prioritized. You’d also probably write up a Statement of Work (SOW) that clearly describes all the activities and deliverables alongside a time commitment for the project. Contingencies are vital to the process since there are bound to be obstacles along the way, so it’s best to figure out when they may occur, and possible solutions in case bottlenecks do arise. The initiation phase sets the tone for the entire project. If you’ve already completed that step, it’ll make creating the timeline of projects much easier.
2. Break down the project deliverables into smaller tasks
Projects are often large, complex, and intimidating. To build momentum, it’s best to break anything daunting into manageable tasks and different time periods. Here’s where a Work Breakdown Structure, or WBS, comes in handy.
A WBS is a system of organization for project management and project planning. Its chief use is breaking down large and complex goals into manageable objectives. In essence, a WBS is a checklist of sorts. One that ensures everything gets done and accounts for dependencies between tasks and estimation of effort. Here’s what this can look like on project management software like monday.com:
3. Ensure each task has a due date and proper estimation
It’s not enough to break down the project into smaller tasks. You also have to accurately estimate the budget and timeline for each one to know whether it’s feasible or not.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Do you have the budget to make it happen?
- Does your team have the skills to pull it off?
- Does your team have the bandwidth?
Once you answer these questions, you can then begin to set due dates. This is where the project timeline begins to take shape. You can plan around the tasks and your available resources. Project timeline software makes this a lot easier since you can do it in real-time. In monday.com, here’s where you’d start creating a basic board to track all the tasks and milestones that make up your project management timeline. It’s as easy as clicking the blue cross icon and clicking Blank Board.
From there, you choose column types so you can assign people to each task and status column. That way, you will know exactly where everything stands. You can then create task dependencies to show how tasks affect one another. It’s that perspective that makes it easier for everyone to do their job and for project managers to ensure the project is on track.
4. Build out a chart for your project timeline
There’s one column on monday.com that will help you visualize your project timeline—the timeline column. With it, you get a miniature view of how long your team has to complete the corresponding item or project. More importantly, it’s the final piece you need to convert a classic board into a full-fledged project timeline.
As you can see from the screenshot above, the timeline view gives a broad overview of each individual task and how long each took to complete. Incomplete tasks will show an estimated future timeline. You can see a breakdown of progress over several days, weeks, months, or even years. Adding the calendar view is simple. You just need some combination of the date, timeline, or week columns on your calendar. Then it’s as simple as adding the calendar view from the main table.
5. Share the visual with the team
Like the projects themselves, the project timeline is constantly evolving. Priorities shift, obstacles pop up, and some things take longer than expected. Think of your project timeline as a “living document” that’s easily accessible and ideally kept up-to-date at all times. When the first draft is complete, it’s wise to conduct a standup meeting to ensure everyone understands the process and is on board with the overall project plan. Sharing with stakeholders is equally important. They should have full visibility into the project’s progress.
Make it easy to stick to your project timeline with monday.com
When it comes to creating a project management timeline the whole team will love, monday.com is your ally. Our suite of project management timeline views like Gantt charts and timeline views provide full transparency, so everyone knows what’s at stake and what to work on. You can easily visualize goals with a dynamic interface and track all stages of your projects along with integrated task management. Here’s a view of the project timeline template in action.
All important dates are within reach since you can set exact dates for projects and easily reschedule tasks when necessary. Last but not least, you gain clear insights with in-depth reporting and can easily export the template to Excel for further analysis.
That’s just the beginning. monday.com is jam-packed with useful features, including:
- 30+ customizable column types to make the complex simple and create the perfect workflow.
- 8+ data visualizations, including the timeline and Gantt views we went over in this article.
- Automation recipes that prevent human error, save you time, and ultimately keep your team focused on what’s most important.
- 40+ integrations so your systems are fully aligned. You’ll spend less time and energy on manual data entry.
- Extensive communication tools that give your team and stakeholders real-time updates throughout the entire project.
With monday.com, everyone’s job is easier. You can track multiple projects and keep up with every important milestone through one user-friendly interface.
Create your project timeline in minutes
The use cases for monday.com project timelines include:
- Construction management
- Product management
- Sales management
- Agile project management
- Marketing campaign management
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The use cases are immense, and so are the possibilities. Our project timeline views provide clean, simple, and organized views of your entire project. Are you ready to try out monday.com? With a 14-day free trial, you can be well on your way to project timeline management success in no time, no credit card required!