Building out a project schedule is a lot of work, and even the most comprehensive work breakdown structures sometimes miss out a few items here and there. That’s why we have pulled together this list of six topics that frequently get left out of scope. The tasks still need to be done, and if they aren’t on the schedule you can almost guarantee they’ll need to be done at the busiest possible time when resources are already at full capacity!
In our experience, the activities that are overlooked most often are those to do with the effort of running the project. Your subject matter experts know what tasks they have to do to complete the project deliverables and get a good quality solution for the client. But the overhead of managing that work sometimes falls through the cracks and doesn’t make it into the schedule estimates or work plans.
Are you ready to review your schedule and see if these six things are included? Let’s take a look at the most commonly-overlooked activities missing from project schedules.
1. Project board, steering group or committee meetings
‘Big’ project meetings typically take some time to prepare for. You’ll need to gather the latest project status reports and perhaps pull some earned value management metrics to share with the key stakeholders.
You don’t have to put meeting dates as milestones on your project schedule, but some teams find it focuses the mind and ensures they plan the time to prepare for the meeting in advance. There are also normally follow-up actions to do afterwards depending on what tasks are documented in the minutes.
2. Team onboarding
If you know you are going to be introducing new team members or a new supplier at some point in the project, schedule the tasks associated with that. It is worth the effort to put time aside to make sure any new members of the project team understand their role, the roles of others and that they have a proper induction to the work.
Tip: Team ‘off-boarding’ also takes up time. If you have colleagues who are leaving the project team in a planned way, for example because their contribution has come to an end before the project closes out, or because they are leaving the organization for a period of time, such as maternity leave, make sure you have a plan in place and time put aside to receive a handover from them.
3. Compliance tasks
What needs to happen on the project specifically to keep the work in compliance with internal and external regulations? There’s a risk that the team is so focused on ticking the boxes with relation to compliance of deliverables that some other critical activities are overlooked.
Take the time to consider the full range of compliance-related work that needs to happen on the project, from health and safety to internal audits, mandatory training to hosting inspection site visits.
4. Project closure and handover
Many project plans end with the main deliverable being finished… but that isn’t the end of the project. Customer acceptance is definitely part of project close out, but there are a lot of other tasks to be done at the end of a project too.
Use the PMO process specific to your organization for closing out a project, and if there isn’t a mandated approach, then consider tasks like:
- Closing out procurements, ending contracts and paying final invoices
- Helping team members transition to new projects
- Providing references
- Filing or updating documentation
- Holding an internal lessons learned review and acting on the findings
- Asking for testimonials from clients and writing a case study for your website.
There might be other tasks to do during the closure phase too, so think about what you need to do to be able to move away from the project completely and on to another initiative.
You’ve probably got some comms work on your schedule already, especially as it relates to ensuring the client gets the information they need at appropriate times. However, project communications planning can go further than that and include elements of change management too, such as preparing user guides, handbooks and training materials as comms artefacts to leave with the client.
You may also want to do some external communications activity such as working with a press agency to get publicity for your work, or supporting your client with their comms tasks. That could involve making someone available for a press interview or doing media training.
6. Project ‘operations’
Long projects involve an element of ‘keeping the lights on’, operational work as well as doing the delivery. For example, you may be using project management software that needs an upgrade midway through your project. That work might be managed by the IT team or a different project, but it’s still going to affect you.
Put those dates on your project schedule, along with any tasks to do with migrating data, testing or training for the team.
You might not have visibility of all these tasks when you first start putting the schedule together. However, as you get more information and detail about the work, maintain your schedule by adding in the additional activity. This will help you manage the resource availability and make sure individuals aren’t overloaded with any extra tasks as they arise.
A comprehensive project schedule is a step in the right direction to making sure your work delivers on time and to the client’s satisfaction. If schedule maintenance feels like a time-consuming effort, did you know you could outsource it? You don’t have to add maintaining the schedule to your ever-increasing list of things to do! Focus on what you do best and let us use our years of experience in building project schedules to help make sure nothing is missed out of your plan.