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Software Project Scheduling - Software is One Facet of Project Scheduling

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Information keyed into the software used for project scheduling comes from planning the project using the input from key players and the advice of experts. A project is defined when a new state is desired and work must be completed to create a definable product. All the tasks that must be performed are defined outside the software. Software used for project scheduling does not manage the project, but it does alert the project manager when tasks have been omitted or remain unfinished, and deadlines are about to slip. Every project manager knows that project management happens long before the project is entered into the software. Software designed for project scheduling must be set up appropriately, input with well-documented information, maintained daily, and be used realistically within its design limitations.

Three finite categories, time, resources, and manpower, constrain every project, and the scheduling is directly related to the management of these constraints. Part of setting up the software to manage the project schedule is to define the scope of the project, which means defining exactly what tasks are included and what tasks fall outside the project scope. Time estimates for each task must be performed independently while dependent tasks must be documented and scheduled behind the prerequisite tasks. When special skills are needed to complete any task, certain people with those skills must be assigned to the task to prevent over-scheduling.

Only when this information has been gathered can the software input begin. Typing the information into the software chosen for the project scheduling should not require extensive periods of time because of the preparation efforts. Any spontaneous additions while typing the tasks into the software will result in scope creep that will change the internal milestones and postpone the final completion date. Based on tasks and the dependencies associated with their completion, the software will set dates for deliverables. When requirements associated with politics are imposed on the schedule, one of the constraints will have to be altered. Work that must be completed in less elapsed time will require more manpower.

During the course of the project, updates concerning task status must be obtained from the people performing the work and input into the software. The updates should be performed by the project manager because of the knowledge required to make adjustments. When work completion slips past due dates, some resistance will be encountered. Every person must be made aware of the importance of asking for assistance if they are starting to fall behind schedule. The success of the project depends on daily progress in every task that is active on the schedule. Proficiency with the software will improve the speed of the updates for the project manager, and minutes per day should be all that is needed to keep the plan up to date.

Project scheduling software has limitations because it was never meant to manage the project in place of a human being. The purpose of the software is to track the progress of task completion against elapsed time. Reports can provide information concerning tasks that are behind schedule, but only an experienced project manager can make the best adjustments in work assignments to put the project back on track. Elapsed time marches on, and a project plan that goes more than a day without updates will become unusable very quickly. Updates are required to measure actual progress against the plan. The information provided by the software must be used every day to manage the project in the immediate term and in the coming weeks to allocate, acquire, and manage resources for successful completion.

Software was never meant to take the place of people in the workplace. Computer tools are only as effective as the people who input the information and use the resulting reports to make adjustments between the assigned tasks as the project is being completed. Working within the three categories of constraints, time, resources, and manpower, the project manager can be aware of obstacles and acquire necessary adjustments within each of the categories to ensure project success. With experience, projects are completed on time and within budget while participants gain valuable skills and enjoy the sense of satisfaction that comes with success as a team.

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