To meet project objectives, the project manager creates a master schedule, assigns resources, and uses and replaces those resources. The purpose of the master schedule is to ensure that resources are available when needed, activities are completed in the correct order, and the project objective is achieved efficiently.
One of the most effective tools for project managers to achieve these goals is the project master schedule.
Definition: A master schedule is a summary level schedule for a project that shows all project deliverables, work breakdown structure components, and key milestones.
The master schedule differs from the baseline schedule. A schedule baseline is a performance baseline, and any modification to this project document necessitates a change request and approval from the project sponsor or top management.
Only a schedule baseline or a schedule baseline and master schedule can be used in a project. A master schedule is sometimes all that is needed for smaller projects. It is contingent on the circumstances and requirements.
Let’s take a closer look at how to make the master schedule.
Developing the Project Master Schedule
A product of the planning process is the master schedule. All project operations, deliverables, and critical milestones are graphically represented in this diagram.
As the project proceeds and changes in scope, timing, or logic occur, the master schedule is dynamic and updated.
Effective project control would be impossible without the master schedule. Because project managers are unfamiliar with the tasks and their dependencies, guiding the team would be challenging. Monitoring progress and comparing the results to the master schedule are essential for project control.
You can’t access the project status if there isn’t a master schedule. The budget will be exceeded if tasks are not finished within the time range provided by the master schedule.
An effective schedule possesses the following characteristics:
- It should be detailed enough to provide a basis for measurement and control of the project’s progress.
- It should highlight critical tasks.
- It should be flexible to easily modify planning if required.
- It should be realistic in timelines.
Steps Required to Create a Master Schedule
Seven steps are required in a proper sequence to create a master schedule:
- Defining the project objectives.
- Breaking down the work.
- Sequencing the project activities.
- Estimating the activity durations and costs.
- Reconciling the master schedule with time constraints.
- Reconciling the master schedule with resource constraints.
- Reviewing the master schedule.
#1. Defining Project Objectives
The project manager ensures that the project is completed according to the client’s specifications.
To begin, project managers transform project goals into measurable terms. A project objective is a statement that describes the project’s intended outcome. Deliverables will be assessed throughout the project life cycle to ensure that they are within the project scope and meet the project objectives.
A project objective should be:
- Attainable: The objectives should be achievable.
- Definitive: The objectives must be clearly defined.
- Quantifiable: Measurable objectives are mandatory for performance measurement and comparison.
- Specific Duration: The objective must be achieved within a specified duration.
#2. Breaking Down the Work
Project managers define the scope of work and create the work breakdown structure after identifying the project objectives. The work breakdown structure (WBS) is a list of tasks that must be done in order to satisfy the project’s goals. WBS can also be used to track the progress of a project.
Work packages are at the bottom of the WBS hierarchy. These work packages are divided into tasks, which are subsequently divided into activity levels. This guarantees that no important activities are overlooked.
#3. Sequencing the Project Activities
The correlation between activities is visible once the WBS is prepared. This tool locates project management dependencies, allowing you to conveniently sequence the operations.
A Gantt chart may be sufficient for simple tasks. The time scale is shown in this graph, but the interrelationships between the activities are not shown.
A precedence network analysis approach can be used to highlight interdependencies (typically for medium to complicated projects). The two best-known project network diagramming techniques are CPM (Critical Path Method) and PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique).
#4. Estimating Activity Duration and Costs
Estimate the activity duration and time delay between predecessor and successor activities after the activities have been identified and the sequence has been determined.
Time constraints and resource limits are not considered at this point. These will be considered in the following steps.
#5. Reconciling the Schedule with Time Constraints
Determine the time limitations that may affect the master schedule after calculating the cost and resource requirements of the activity. This can be verified using a technique called precedence network analysis, which examines all paths. If necessary, you can adjust the project path or use schedule compression techniques to compress the timetable.
#6. Reconciling the Schedule with Resources Constraints
After the project’s time restrictions have been met, resource allocation can be addressed. If necessary, you can utilize the Resource Leveling or Resource Smoothing techniques.
Resource allocation is simple if the organization has sufficient resources. Each activity can be begun as quickly as possible, according to the sequencing constraints of the network diagram.
However, in companies with limited resources, the project manager must control resource demand without causing the project to be delayed. They alter the schedule to account for the resource constraints, adjusting duration, float, total float, and so on.
The project will be delayed if any activity is delayed beyond the float.
The budget must be balanced with the projected costs. To stay within budget, it may be necessary to extend the time of some activities or eliminate others.
#7. Reviewing the Schedule
When the master schedule is finished, the project manager should check to see if it is feasible. All assumptions that have been put into the timetable must be reviewed by the project manager. For example, you may have expected that critical equipment for a given task would be available.
The project manager should keep in mind that planning is an iterative process, and the timetable should be flexible enough to accommodate any unexpected delays.
Master Schedule Example
Below is an example of one of the school’s master schedules.
PD= Physical Activity L=Learning, which has a Work breakdown structure further.
Weekly Presentations and conferences are key milestones.
PD1= Gym, music; PD2=Dance, music; PD3=Stagecraft, Basketball; PD4=Karate, Guitar; PD5=Cricket, Chess
L1=English; L2=Science; L3=Social; L4=Computers
Master Schedule Vs Milestone Schedule
A project master schedule is a tool for early communication among stakeholders that displays main deliverables, key milestones, and a summary of work breakdown structure activities.
A project milestone schedule is also an early communication tool among stakeholders that summarizes complex schedules comprising many tasks and identifies just significant milestones in the project. Milestones have a set date, but there is no time limit (e.g., kickoff meeting, project phase, first delivery).
In comparison to the milestone schedule, the master schedule is more thorough. You can track the schedule’s performance at the WBS level using the master schedule.
Application of the Master Schedule
The master schedule is a plan for evaluating the work’s completion. This is applicable to any industry. The master schedule is most commonly utilized in the manufacturing business, where it’s referred to as the Master Production Schedule (MPS). This schedule document will specify how much is to be produced over a specific time period and will aid in adjusting demand variations, preventing stockouts, and performing effective cost control, all of which will improve efficiency.
The planning stage of a project is crucial. During this stage, the project manager establishes the framework for management control, specifies the project objectives, determines the activities required to complete the project, estimates the resources and project length, and defines the project objectives.
The project master schedule is an important planning and control tool for the project manager. It is vital to adopt a disciplined method in order to develop an effective project master schedule that will ultimately lead to the project’s success.