Project Scheduling SoftwareEverything you Need to Know
What is Project Scheduling Software?
Project scheduling software is one of the most common project management tools in use today. This scheduling software helps project managers prioritize and sequence tasks as well as allocate resources and assign dates for deliverables. Project scheduling software is scalable, allowing for planning to take place on a strategic, high level or very detailed and sophisticated level.
Project scheduling software can also help maintain project budgets, establish dependent relationships between tasks, and estimating activity duration.
Scheduling software helps to define workflow and keep the project team focused on the task at hand. It can also significantly reduce wasted time by ensuring the team is adhering to the critical path.
What is included in a project's schedule?
• Start date
• Dependencies between tasks
• Resource allocation
• End date
These five components represent key stages of the project and denote what progress is made to the ultimate goal.
The five phases of project management
A discussion about the advantages of project scheduling software is not complete without looking at what are actually steps of project management. Scheduling software like Gantt charts touch each phase of the project, and it is critical to understand how the two of them fit together.
In this initial phase, the purpose of the project is established. A common, achievable goal is set based on the specific needs of the business. It is common practice for a full project brief to be developed, which will outline the needs, timeline, and cost of the project. This is the first information that will be put into the project scheduling software.
The second phase is where we establish the project roadmap. This plan must take into account scope, breakdown of work, various tasks, cost, milestones, organization, communication structures, and risk management. Many of these variables are data that will be input to the Gantt chart.
In this phase, the project manager switches roles from strategy to guidance. The plan is put into place, and every level of the team is mobilized for action. This is often the bulk of where time is spent in the project and where the scheduling software really helps the most.
Project Monitoring and Control
The fourth phase focuses on measurement. Will the project proceed as it should? There are four basic questions that should guide this phase: - Is the objective moving forward, is it achievable? - Are tasks being completed on time? - For tasks that are completed, are they completed with integrity and purpose? - Is the budget within controls? Scheduling software can lend great insight to all of these questions. .
This is where the cleanup work begins. Project managers schedule meetings to understand how and why a project was either a success or a failure. This phase is critical for teams seeking to improve on the next go around.
How a project scheduling software can help you
There are an unlimited number of ways that a good project scheduling software can be of benefit to an organization. While there isn't a silver bullet for project management, a good scheduling software is likely to be as close as we'll get!
- Present timelines and target dates visually for simple, effective communication
- Make the best use of the team and individuals' time
- Highlight project milestones and deliverables to keep those dates in front of mind
- Tasks and resources can be paired and tracked for the duration of the project
- Project managers can identify where resources should be bolstered and where they can be reduced
- The project schedule can be viewed in various segments of time. This allows for a long term view of the project right down to the close up of current activities.
- Monitor budget by keeping track of expended resources and ensuring timely completion of the project
- Identify overlaps in tasks and see where there might be opportunities to implement efficiencies.
- Estimate milestone and project completion dates with a high level of accuracy
Using project scheduling software to collaborate remotely
Over the past decades, remote work and long-distance collaboration have become increasingly important. This trend toward virtual workspaces was in full force even before the COVID-19 pandemic that necessarily sent it into overdrive in early 2020.
Project scheduling software is uniquely equipped to help project teams navigate the remote work and distance collaboration environment. With web-based login capability, team members and stakeholders can log in from wherever they are and catch up on progress. Resources can be tracked, tasks updated, and timely updates can be provided to stakeholders.
While it is difficult to replace face to face collaboration with the entire team at the same site, that method of project management may not be feasible going forward. As the business world continues to globalize at a startling rate, project managers need the resources to adapt. A robust project scheduling software will facilitate an organized and informed remote workforce.
Industries that use project scheduling software
Regardless of what industry a team is working in, every project can benefit from project scheduling software. Why is project scheduling software able to be used across all business sectors? The answer is simple: all projects need to be organized, efficient, and well managed. Industries that make use of project scheduling software include:
Outside of the industry, individuals can use project scheduling software to organize their own lives. Home renovations, wedding planning, vacation planning, and self-improvement are just a handful of examples where this technology can be used outside of the industry.
Gantt charts for project scheduling
Gantt charts are one of the oldest and most rigorously tested project scheduling tools. The Gantt chart was named after Henry Gantt, who was instrumental in its development in the early 1900s. The approach was revolutionary as it provided a visual method for scheduling and tracking tasks and dependencies within a project.
The United States military retained Gantt's services during the first World War as a consultant for implementing his project scheduling tool to analyze and track munition ordering and supplies.
These early charts were made from paper, and small changes in resources, schedules, and milestones would require considerable re-working of the actual physical schedule. Over decades of technological advances and first-hand experience with the Gantt process, project scheduling software has developed into a robust, easy to manage tool. It is notable that Gantt charts have stood the test of time across innumerable industries as an effective project management tool.
How a Gantt chart works
Gantt charts are a simple and effective tool for project management. They operate on the simple premise that tasks and time are tracked on the vertical and horizontal axes with bars representing the duration of tasks. Tasks are listed on the vertical axis and include the name of the task and the resources allocated to them. The horizontal axis tracks the time frame for completion. Tasks that are dependent upon one another can be denoted by arrows connecting them. This ensures that tasks can be prioritized based on what other tasks are waiting on them.
Gantt charts have the advantage of simplicity
As a project scheduling tool, Gantt charts are simple, visual, and easy to understand. This helps set them apart from many other project management software resources. This is not to say they are rudimentary or limited - quite the opposite. One of the greatest strengths of Gantt charts is that they can convey a lot of information visually at just a glance. Timelines and tasks to be completed are easily identified by anyone at any level on the team.
Desktop vs online Gantt charts
There are two options when considering a Gantt chart for your project scheduling needs: desktop software versus online. Desktop Gantt chart software often has the same user functionality as the online versions with one distinct difference. The desktop charts are much less collaborative. These tools are designed for scenarios where a single person, often the project manager, has sole discretion for input and control over the plan. Sometimes, this level of control is required by a project team. More and more often, though, the trend is moving toward collaborative efforts from a variety of remote teams. This makes the online Gantt chart - with the ability for anyone to login anytime and anywhere - the ideal choice for the modern workplace.
Drag and DropPlan Street's Gantt chart Drag and Drop feature makes changing charts simple. Entering into timeline view allows for easy modifications to tasks, duration, and resources with the simple drag of a mouse. To make the process even more streamlined, any adjustments that impact other tasks will automatically adjust those tasks and timelines.
Auto SchedulingAutomatic recalculation of task duration, work hours, and dependencies is simple with PlanStreet's Gantt chart. This automation reduces the workload of the project manager and allows for focus on other, more important tasks.
Manage multiple project plansUsers have the ability to manage not only multiple projects simultaneously with PlanStreet; they can have multiple teams assigned to a single project. Project managers from these various teams can log in to the same project plan and update their respective portions of the project schedule. All changes are tracked by date and contributor in the event that a manager needs to reverse them.
BaselineThe ability to compare the original project plan with a real-time snapshot of where the project is can be a valuable tool for any project manager. This capability helps to understand why tasks are on schedule, completed ahead of time, or are behind. Comparisons of the original plan to real-time progress also provide invaluable information when the project is completed, and the debriefing takes place.
Financial TrackingStaying on budget is one of the primary responsibilities of a project manager. The Gantt chart will track and control expenses and can even calculate a project cost as tasks and time allotments are altered.
MilestonesGantt charts track milestones. These are flagpoles along the path of the project and are reason to celebrate when achieved. These important deadlines are items that should be in front of mind. PlanStreet ensures these are tracked and clear.
Critical PathPlanStreet's Gantt chart utilizes a critical path check functionality to guide project managers and alert them to essential tasks. Projects are multi-layered with numerous tasks, and dependencies require vigilance of the critical path. The overall quality and efficiency of the project plan is improved when the project manager is mindful of the critical path.
Resource PlanningA critical component of project management is managing resources and their workload. PlanStreet's Gantt chart software allows users to manage their resources and updates project schedules accordingly.
Task LinkingDependent tasks are easily managed by PlanStreet users. Utilizing the timeline view, users can drag and drop definitions of what should happen before another task is started or completed.
RACI ChartPlanStreet displays its RACI chart as a list view within the Gantt chart. Here, project managers can review assigned roles and responsibilities for each task, phase, and milestone for each project.
Schedule your project. Schedule success.
Project scheduling software is an essential tool for project managers. There is no better way to ensure organization and efficiency at every level of the project. These tools will greatly reduce the stress of tracking impending milestone deadlines, overdue tasks, budgets, and resources allocation. The advantages of this software have expanded dramatically over the past decades and will inevitably grow even more powerful with future technology advances.
PlanStreet's project scheduling software will take your management practices to the next level.