What Is Project Time Management?

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Project time management is one of the 10 PMP Knowledge Areas for project managers. It’s the discipline of project management that looks at controlling the amount of time it takes to do the work.

This article looks at the project time management knowledge area from A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition. There are other ways of looking at project scheduling but if you are working towards your PMP® certification then the PMBOK® Guide approach is the one you’ll be following and it’s good practice for all project managers too.

Project Time Management Processes

Project time management in the PMBOK® Guide is made up of 7 processes. The project time management processes are:

  1. Plan schedule management
  2. Define activities
  3. Sequence activities
  4. Estimate activity resources
  5. Estimate activity durations
  6. Develop schedule
  7. Control schedule.

Let’s take a deeper look into each of those.

Plan Schedule Management Process

This is where you establish all the policies, procedures and documentation required for managing your project schedule from your first plan, ongoing development, execution and then controlling the schedule.

The output of doing this planning is to produce a schedule management plan. However, in real life you probably won’t have a separate plan to manage your schedule. Much of what you work out here will end up in your project management plan (find out how to write a project management plan here) and that’s perfectly adequate.

Define Activities Process

This process identifies and documents what you need to do in order to produce the project’s deliverables.

In other words, it identifies the project tasks. You’ll use the scope statement that you put together during the scope management activities to help you breakdown the work into individual tasks.

The main output of working through this is that you’ll end up with a defined list of project tasks. That’s useful as it’s the main input to the next process.

Sequence Activities Process

Using your task list, now you have to put them in the right order. At the end of this process you’ll have a view of the relationships between project tasks. This process helps you put your project work in the right order so that you can make efficient use of the project’s resources and deliver as quickly as possible.

The PMBOK® Guide talks about producing a network diagram as the output of this process, but that’s rarely necessary, and certainly nothing that you’d have to do by hand. If you want to do network diagramming for some reason, then use your project management software to do it. Ultimately, though, a list of dependencies and potential start and end dates for tasks will be just as good and less time consuming.

Estimate Activity Resources Process

When you know what you are going to do, the next step is to work out what resources you need in order to achieve that. The Estimate Activity Resources process helps with that. In this process you’ll work out what human resources, equipment and supplies you need, plus the quantity you need of each.

Estimate Activity Durations Process

This is where the hard work of calculating how long each task is going to take happens.

During this process you’ll work out how long it’s going to take to do each activity, using the resources that you have identified.

Don’t forget to take into account resource availability and holidays with your activity durations. Just because a task only takes 8 hours doesn’t mean it will be finished by the morning.

Develop Schedule Process

Finally, you can now put together your project schedule. With all the information gathered from the above processes, it should be easy.

Having said that, developing the schedule is one of the more complicated processes in the PMBOK® Guide. There are 13 inputs (everything above plus risks, scope and elements relating to the project context). The schedule itself is only one of the outputs, but the others are (in my view) less important. After all, you’ve gone through all of this in order to get the schedule which is a critical document for managing your project’s performance.

Your schedule doesn’t have to be a Gantt chart. Here are 5 alternatives to Gantt charts for you to consider.

Control Schedule Process

Finally, the Control Schedule process gives you the tools you need to monitor and update your project schedule, making sure that changes are managed appropriately and that you keep control of the timings of your project.

Preparing your project schedule and tracking it afterwards are large pieces of work but it’s worth it to know that you have a schedule that you can be confident in.