I believe that time is our most precious resource. Once it is spent, it cannot ever be recovered or replaced. A minute of laziness and sloth-like behavior may cost 10 minutes of productivity, so time even has a multiplier effect. Wasted time costs not only production but impacts those around us as well.
Project Management Schedules
As project managers, we spend a lot of time planning schedules. We first lay out the required tasks necessary to complete the project. Then, we sequence activities so that any dependencies between and among tasks are captured. For example, you must mix soap and hot water before washing the dishes. Further, you cannot logically dry the dishes until after they are washed. These requirements are called “mandatory dependencies”. They are necessary and exclusive in order for the project to be completed.
Every task in a project also requires a human resource to complete it. Robots are getting very good, but we still need people to program and trouble deaf shoot the robots! As project managers develop a schedule, the tasks must be assigned to resources.
As a first pass, the project manager should assign tasks to a resource function. For instance, infrastructure tasks on a construction project are assigned to civil engineers. As you refine the planning process, the project manager will assign a specific resource to each task. Perhaps Joe Smith is assigned to the construction project.
If Joe is a highly experienced civil engineer, you may assume he can complete the slab design in 40 hours. However, if you sign Sam Snead, a relatively junior engineer, to the same task, it might instead take 60 hours and an additional resource to check Sam’s work. in either case, though, it is unlikely the work will be completed in under two weeks of time passing on the calendar.
Task effort is the amount of time that a project manager estimates an average resource to complete the task (maybe 50 hours in our example). Task duration, on the other hand, is the time spent between when the task starts and when it ends. If the civil engineer starts on one July to design the concrete slab and works on it a few hours per week, the project manager may expect a finished product on 31 July. In this situation, task duration is 30 days.
Product Development and Schedules
New product development (NPD) represents a special set of projects and programs that convert a nascent idea to a commercial product. Time, schedule, and resources involve internal staff as well as external customers. Concept and prototype testing often takes longer than a typical project manager estimates. External relationships are more complicated to manage, and often require contracts and legal agreements to protect the firm’s intellectual property during product development.
How Can You Shorten an NPD Project Schedule?
One of the most important levers to adjust for time-to-market is the type of process you deploy. Waterfall, or staged-and-gated, processes are frequently used in firms with low levels of trust, high degrees of risk-aversion, and complex levels of hierarchy. Agile processes, like Scrum, are used for software development where experimentation is favored over quality or accuracy of product delivery. Firms using Agile processes are often less focused on achieving a specific scope of work versus releasing products rapidly.
Hybrid waterfall-Agile processes drive the best time-to-market for new product development projects. In NPD processes like WAGILE, components of both waterfall and Agile are combined. WAGILE uses stages for work and gates for decisions. Yet the Agile principles of customer testing and iteration are at the forefront during each phase of development work.
Time and Schedule
Time is valuable. Project schedules are planned to accomplish the most work in the shortest amount of time. Effective schedules adapt to the resources assigned to tasks as well as the scope of work.