Friday, March 7, 2008

Managing Schedule Changes

A schedule management plan is an outline of how schedule changes will be managed. The schedule management plan can be either formal or informal, depending on the nature of the organization. The level of detail the project stakeholders require will determine whether the plan is detailed or broadly-based.

A schedule management plan is an important input to schedule control and can be used as a guide for your entire project. Project managers use a schedule management plan:
  • to summarize how schedule changes will be managed
  • to direct the management team on change processes
  • to ensure that WBS responsibility assignments are controlled
  • to make schedule changes traceable
The schedule management plan is just one of the components of the overall project management plan. Other management components include: scope, cost, risk, quality, and communications plans. To adequately assess the schedule impact of actual or proposed changes in all areas of the project, you will want to integrate the schedule management plan with the risk, quality, scope, and cost management plans.

One of the primary reasons for using schedule management plans is to determine how to manage schedule variances. During the project's planning stage, companies determine the acceptable range of variance from the schedule plan. The allowable deviation may be dependent on factors such as a project's life-cycle and accuracy of the original estimate.

For true variances to be realized, input from the risk, scope, quality, and cost control processes are essential. Once the information is incorporated into the plan, it is important to continually track "actual" against "planned" progress.

When it comes to decisions about how variances should be managed, there are four basic options to choose from:
  • Dismissal - Dismissing the variance is appropriate when the variance is within the allowable range as stated in the schedule management plan. In this case, no corrective action is required, so the variance can be dismissed.
  • Functional modification - Functional modification is called for when the variance is small and within the allowable range, but has the potential to become more problematic in the future.
  • Replanning - Replanning is required if the variance is large enough to fall outside the allowable range. Replanning involves reviewing project requirements and redefining project goals. In replanning, less critical activities may be sacrificed to meet time and budget constraints.
  • Redesign product - Redesigning the product is required if the variance is way out of range. This is the worst case scenario. In this case, the product description will need to be reconfigured which may result in lower grade performance.
As an input to project schedule control, a schedule management plan is an important component of project management. A schedule management plan helps you manage schedule changes, identify the level of variance, and determine appropriate corrective actions.

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