Effective planning is one activity present in most projects, and no planning is complete without a project management timeline. A project timeline is a visual representation of activities and tasks placed in a chronological order that allows stakeholders to view the entirety of a project at a glance. The timeline provides a much-needed, high-level understanding of a project, keeping everybody on the same page throughout the project stages.
Project timelines are critical! They shape the entire project, act as a great visibility tool, help you accommodate dependencies and risks, boost communication, assess resource bandwidth and workload. Today, we will talk about how you can create an effective project timeline, provide visible goals, foster teamwork, ensure timely deliverables, keep stakeholders happy and ensure project success.
Create Project Scope Statement:
Often project managers jump on to create timelines without clearly identifying the overall scope of the project, stakeholders involved, deliverables, etc. One of the primary steps in creating a project timeline is drafting the scope statement. The statement highlights the tasks and activities, classifies them into milestones, determines how much time each task needs, and how many resources should be onboarded to execute the project.
While initiating a project for a client, the scope statement should feature client objectives, a list of high-level tasks, resources involved, estimations & a detailed plan divided into sprints, milestones for tracking & delivery purpose. Hence, the scope statement acts as a roadmap that highlights purpose, goals, milestones, cost, resources concerning the project.
Map Out Dependencies:
Blockers, constraints, and bottlenecks, we all have heard these terms when working in a team. Every project involves tasks & events that are either dependent on a previous completion of an activity or on which another activity is dependent! It can be as simple as waiting for the design team to craft the final design so that you can start developing. Hence, we can say that dependencies are pervasive in almost every industry vertical, be it technical or non-technical. If not mitigated well, dependencies can lead to inundated backlogs, destabilized project velocity & not up-to-mark deliverables.
While creating a timeline, project managers must map out dependencies, typically in categories such as Casual Dependencies, Resource-Based Dependencies, Cross-Team Dependencies, Preferential Dependencies, etc. You can consider using visuals and charts to bring out dependencies and contain them to the surface for others. Managers may then excogitate the dependencies by calling out a meeting involving all the stakeholders and discussing challenges and risks associated with the project.
Do a Risk Assessment:
Now that we have identified the project dependencies, it is time for a risk assessment. Managers and other stakeholders can identify a project's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with the help of risk assessment methodologies such as SWOT. The timeline should accommodate the risks involved to ensure the project's success. teams must identify the potential risks and capture how the risks can be mitigated or avoided.
When planning for success, the team must establish a list of internal & external risks pertaining to the project. The risk plan typically talks about identified risks, potential impact, probability of their occurrence, and proposed action in the event of such occurrence. Risks not only increase the project cost but also disrupt the schedule and derail a project from progress. Hence, while creating the timeline, project managers must account for the risk assessment.
Estimate Duration of Tasks:
A successful project timeline involves well-thought and discussed timeframes. A manager must determine the time each task will likely take. For example, a milestone typically involves several high-level tasks related to designing, analysis, development, functional & acceptance testing. Not to forget, the same set of resources are used to execute different tasks. Hence, a timeline should talk about task estimates such that resources are utilized without overwhelming them.
To decide on the timeframes, managers must get in touch with team members and gather the intel. Once you have the number of resources and man-hours locked, you can move ahead and decide on timeframes for each milestone. Most importantly, one should not underestimate or overestimate the team’s capacity. The last thing people need is an unreasonable time frame to work.
Split The Project Into Sprints & Milestones:
For teams of all sizes, milestones lay the foundation of successful project management and delivery. A milestone is typically divided into a couple of sprints that drive a project's trajectory while providing measurable and achievable markers for the management. Managers can leverage intuitive timeline templates for their projects and precisely define coherent and digestible context, enforce deadlines, and most importantly, track the progress from time to time.
In simpler terms, one can think of milestones as a map that tells you where to go and how much time it should take. From a stakeholder's perspective, milestones play an imperative role in communicating the progress, identifying understanding gaps & ensuring productivity at all times. These also act as checkpoints ensuring all the parties are on the same page and heading in the right direction.
Create The Timeline:
Now that you have all the information to boil down multiple tasks into a single place, it is time we create a realistic and accountable view of project duration. When it comes to providing a clear project plan and highlighting all tasks, actions, and events, presenters can leverage ready-to-use timeline templates from SlideModel.com. A timeline template can help you present a lot of data at glance & provide a clear idea about almost every aspect of the project. You can also showcase the mapped dependencies and priorities of different tasks.
With the help of ingrained dependencies in the timeline template, managers can illustrate how a delay in one particular task can affect the entire project. By leveraging appealing charts & graphs, you can also showcase how much workload a specific team member will have throughout the project. This ensures an equal and accountable distribution of tasks and prevents overburdening a team member. Hence, managers can avoid project burnouts most of the time.
Once you have created the project’s timeline, it’s advised to share the same with all the stakeholders and gather their feedback. It is important for team leads and managers to ensure that all the parties agree to the listed activities, understand the associated risks and ownerships, and agree with the delivery sprints and milestones. It is the regular feedback that helps managers identify common denominators between responsibilities, conflicting deadlines, and deliverables.
One should note that communication is an imperative common thread that binds all aspects of a project and its effective management. At the end of the day, a timeline is as good as the journey it reflects. As that planned journey or schedule changes, and it will, our project timeline must also accommodate the same. Hence, keeping the stakeholders updated on the progress, fielding any questions or requests, and gathering feedback are all essential parts of a project timeline.
The End Line
A project timeline not only reveals a clear path to execution but also keeps the big picture in focus at all times. Every project needs an entire team of specialists for a successful delivery. With a compelling project timeline, managers can bring together the stakeholders and ensure the healthy participation of everybody.
Plus, the management and clients can easily discover the bottlenecks and take steps to mitigate the same. If done right, a project timeline can draw a line between a successful project that gets delivered as scheduled & a project slogging on mismanaged deliverables with not-so-happy stakeholders. Therefore, create an ideal project timeline today and keep your teams engaged and clients satisfied!