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Project timeline: everything you need to know

Akanksha SrivastavaLast Updated: October 6, 2022

In project management, planning a project’s timeline is the deciding factor of whether or not it is going to be a success. Here is why.

The project timeline gives an overview of deliverables in order of their priority. It can help you map your tasks based on when they are required. In other words, it’s like a checklist that defines the sequence of actions where a new task can only commence when the previous one is completed.

But how do you create an effective roadmap for a project? Well, several factors come into action here, but firstly, you should know the key elements it consists of, which are-

  • The total number of tasks required in the project along with their start and due dates.
  • People who will be performing those tasks.
  • Risk factors and other task dependencies

What are the benefits of having a timeline in project management?

To help you understand the significance of planning a project timeline, here are some of the advantages it offers in project management.

Drives clear and concise communication

A well-defined project timeline improves intra- and inter-team communication.

80% of employees do rework the same tasks due to poor communication

Keeps the focus on the big picture

The project timeline allows all stakeholders to have a bird-eye view of the project.

Keeps everyone on the same page

Team works on laptops and holds meeting
Business vector illustration of a group of young people in casual wear working together

It ensures all team members are aligned and working towards the same goal.

Discovers potential dependencies

A well-thought-out project timeline prevents any bottlenecks along the way that might hinder the progress of a project.

Boosts resilience

If a project timeline is effective, it can do wonders for the team’s motivation because they know that even if there are hold-ups, it is already thought through, and they have an action plan set in place to move ahead. There is no stuck situation likely to happen.

Provides real-time updates on events

The purpose of planning is to be able to track progress, and the project timeline does exactly that. It helps all stakeholders to keep real-time track of all events happening in a project.

How to create a project timeline?

Before you start planning a project timeline, here are the things you must analyze and have complete information about.

a) Understand the project scope

Project scope is the outline of a project. It defines the milestones and deliverables that you need to complete in a project. You should determine and document what your project requires, what’s its purpose, and what needs to be done.

It is of utmost importance to get the project scope right because this is when you set a boundary to the services you agree to offer your customers. You are allowed to re-negotiate the terms for anything that they demand beyond the scope of the project.

Pro tip: Try to break down the main objective into smaller targets that cumulatively help you reach the final goal. 

b) Establish a work structure

WBS or work breakdown structure is a significant part of planning a project timeline. It forms the scope baseline where you define the sub-deliverables of the project and the resources and action plan required to accomplish them.

c) Determine the touch time needed for each task

You cannot continue to work on a task forever; you need to have a start and end date to complete it.

Determining touch time for each task can help you define the duration of a project. It should be kept in mind that your action plan won’t always go as planned. In that case, you will need a buffer time to catch up. You must include that when you determine the duration required for each task.

Mapping dependencies can also help at this step. You can create a diagram or flowchart to present this in the timeline. It helps you and your team to have clarity at every step.

d) Analyze resource availability

Having adequate resources is a prerequisite to completing any project, let alone doing it within the timeline.

Whenever you are planning a project timeline, make sure that you diligently analyze the resources you are going to need. You don’t want to land in a situation where you are stuck because you don’t have the required resources, for example, the workforce or number of employees needed, and now you are just waiting for them to become available.

e) Create milestones

Having milestones in the project timeline helps you track your project better. For example, if you are behind on completing any of the tasks and you know you won’t be able to meet the timeline at any stage. You will have the time to make adjustments and revisit your action plan well in advance. No setbacks will take you by surprise or have you stuck.

How can project timeline management software help?

Project timeline software is the ultimate project planning timeline tool. Project managers use this tool to create timelines, Gantt charts, and schedules. You can also monitor the progress of your project at each step without any time lag.

Modern project timeline tools provide pre-built project planning timeline templates. It also allows you to create a graphical presentation of tasks and milestones along with their due dates so, your team knows how far along they are in completing them.

Here are some of the benefits of project planning timeline software:

  • Visually appealing timelines
  • Fast process, saves a lot of time
  • Centralized data repository for storing project-critical data and documents
  • Easy search, accessibility, and sharing of information at any time
  • Instant visibility of team’s work and progress
  • One-stop solutions for viewing, analyzing, and prioritizing team tasks
  • Balanced workload and work delegation
  • Effective resource management
  • Smart solution for achieving an accountable and focused team

What are the best practices you must follow?

As a project manager, here are the practices you must follow to reap the maximum benefits of the project timeline.

Stay up to date

Make your timeline interactive. It will encourage your team to add comments and suggestions and contribute to the project. It also makes them feel involved and appreciated. You should also keep adding project updates on a regular basis to keep it real-time. It is essential to keep transparency within the team.

Follow the critical path method

Follow the critical path method while designing a timeline where you analyze the risk before they happen. It will prepare you for unforeseen setbacks.

Work forward

Work on WBS and create smaller milestones. This way, you are less likely to face failure and rework. And, you will have time to adjust your plans before your project timeline is irreversible affected.

Conclusion

In this article, we discussed everything you need to know about project timelines. But how do you think the planning of project timelines should be done? Will it yield better results if it is more visual than textual?

The answer is yes!

The easiest way to achieve that and stay ahead in planning project timelines is by leveraging tools available in the market. Our software, Flow, is a modern project planning software that will meet all your needs in terms of task and timeline management, team communication, tool integrations, and much more. Visit our page to know more about the features. We would be happy to connect.

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