What is Project Time Management?
Project Time management is the act or process of exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific project activities, especially to increase efficiency or productivity. Project Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks and goals. This set encompasses a wide scope of activities, and these include planning, allocating, setting goals, delegation, analysis of time spent, monitoring, organizing, scheduling, and prioritizing.
Project Time Management Processes
Project Time Management includes the processes required to manage timely completion of the project.
Figure above provides an overview of the Project Time Management processes, which are as follows:
Define Activities—The process of identifying the specific actions to be performed to produce the project deliverables.
Sequence Activities—The process of identifying and documenting relationships among the project activities.
Estimate Activity Resources—The process of estimating the type and quantities of material, people, equipment, or supplies required to perform each activity.
Estimate Activity Durations—The process of approximating the number of work periods needed to complete individual activities with estimated resources.
Develop Schedule—The process of analyzing activity sequences, durations, resource requirements, and schedule constraints to create the project schedule.
Control Schedule—The process of monitoring the status of the project to update project progress and managing changes to the schedule baseline.
These processes interact with each other and with processes in the other Knowledge Areas. Each process can involve effort from one group or person, based on the needs of the project. Each process occurs at least once in every project and occurs in one or more of the project phases, if the project is divided into phases. Although the processes are presented here as discrete components with well-defined interfaces, in practice they can overlap and interact in ways not detailed here.
Best Practices for Project Time Management
1. Use Timeboxes to Manage Work
Set a start- and end date for a collection of activities, and don’t allow changes to those dates. Timeboxes keep people focused on what’s most important. Don’t lose time to perfectionism.
2. What-if Scenario Analysis
This is an analysis of the question “What if the situation represented by scenario ‘X’ happens?” What-if scenario analysis is used to review various scenarios to bring the schedule into alignment with the plan. It can be used to assess the feasibility of the project schedule under adverse conditions, and in preparing contingency and response plans to overcome or mitigate the impact of unexpected situations.
3. Don’t Add Slack to Task Estimates
Don’t use scheduling and buffering of tasks. Add one buffer to the end of the timebox/project. All safety margins for tasks will be used (“Parkinson’s Law” and “Student’s Syndrom'”).
4. Expert judgment
Expert judgment, guided by historical information, can provide duration estimate information or recommended maximum activity durations from prior similar projects.
5. Reduce Cycle Time
Iterative cycles should be as short as possible. Speed up the learning feedback loop, and decrease the time-to-market.
6. Keep the Pipeline Short and Thin
Limit the amount of work-in-progress, and the number of people working in sequence. Improve response times, speed up throughput.
7. Bottom-Up Estimating
When an activity cannot be estimated with a reasonable degree of confidence, the work within the activity is decomposed into more detail. The resource needs are estimated. These estimates are then aggregated into a total quantity for each of the activity’s resources. Activities may or may
not have dependencies between them that can affect the application and use of resources. If there are dependencies, this pattern of resource usage is reflected and documented in the estimated requirements of the activity.
8. Limit Task Switching
Prevent unnecessary task switching between projects, and prevent interruptions. Tasks get completed faster on average, and the human brain is bad at task switching.
9. Prevent Sustained Overtime
Disregard (sustained) overtime as a way to accellerate progress. Lost productivity, poor quality and bad motivation among team members.
10. Separate Urgency from Importance
Urgent tasks and important tasks should not be done at the same time. The important stuff will usually not get done, costing you more time in the long run.
11. Project management Software
Project management software has the capability to help plan, organize, and manage resource pools and develop resource estimates. Depending on the sophistication of the software, resource breakdown structures, resource availability, resource rates and various resource calendars can be defined to assist in optimizing resource utilization.
12. Variance Analysis
Schedule performance measurements (SV, SPI) are used to assess the magnitude of variation to the original schedule baseline. The total float variance is also an essential planning component to evaluate project time performance. Important aspects of project schedule control include determining the cause and degree of variance relative to the schedule baseline and deciding whether corrective or preventive action is required.
Project Time Management is one of the nine knowledge areas of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). It deals with the definition of activities (what are we going to do), the sequencing of the activities (in what order are we going to do them), and the development and control of the schedule (when are we going to perform those activities).