If you’ve landed here because you are interested in what a project scheduler does all day, then you’re in the right place! It is a unique job, because it is a highly specialized skill providing a niche service.
Project management is a broad career path. Many project professionals stay in ‘general’ project management, but others choose to specialize in one of the areas that are in high demand, like scheduling or risk management. Your project might benefit from having specialists like these on the team.
If you are considering hiring a project scheduler, then read on to find out how to make the best use of their skill set on your projects.
What is the role of a scheduler in project management?
A project scheduler is a core project management role because they – unsurprisingly – schedule the work for the rest of the team. They have a deep understanding of task dependencies, timeline creation, milestones, resourcing, constraints and more.
Sometimes, the project manager fulfils this role as the project does not warrant having a specialist scheduler on the team. However, if you work in oil and gas, construction, engineering or public sector and government projects, the scale of the work often means a dedicated scheduler is a huge asset. Cross-project dependencies in a program all have to be managed as well.
A good project schedule lets the team look ahead as well as capture the detail of what has already happened. The scheduler is constantly updating and revising the schedule to reflect the current state of play and to forecast future performance. They are instrumental in spotting the early warning signs that a project is going to be delayed or miss a milestone. When that information is shared, the project manager, scheduler and the rest of the team can work together to make the adjustments required.
What does a scheduler do on a project?
A professional scheduler does more than simply type tasks into a Gantt chart. They maintain the Master Schedule. The scheduler is responsible for establishing and maintaining the performance measurement baseline for the schedule. They understand and use scheduling techniques like:
- Critical path scheduling
- Network development
- Forward and backward passes
- Forensic schedule analysis and delay analysis
- Float management
- Resource allocation and loading
- Vertical and horizontal integration.
The scheduler’s work creates a lot of data for progress reporting. Large scale projects that use dedicated project schedulers often also use earned value management systems for tracking project performance. The scheduler’s inputs feed the earned value analysis and provide the team with fact-based data for decision-making. These metrics are used to analyze cost, schedule and technical performance.
Schedulers fulfil a different function to planners. Read more about the difference between schedulers and planners.
Scheduling for compliance
Projects that have a contractual requirement to comply with ANSI-748 Earned Value requirements need to comply with a DCMA 14-point assessment. Project plans need to be built in line with the guidance to ensure the work is compliant.
Schedules also need to take risk into consideration, so your scheduler should also understand the impact of risk and the proposed management plans.
Hiring a project scheduler
Hiring a project scheduler frees up the project manager to undertake other tasks on the project or program, leaving the work of running the schedule to someone else. Make sure the candidates you are considering have done some advanced scheduling training (or you are prepared to fund that for them). PMI has a Scheduling certification, and that is also something to look out for as it shows an interest in the field and confirms domain expertise. However, practical experience is also a consideration.
They should also know how to work with Primavera P6 or EPPM and have knowledge of the tools you use within the EVMS.
That is quite a lot to look for in a candidate, and if you can’t find a suitable person to join the team, there are a couple of other options. Some companies ‘grow their own’ and take on junior staff members to train. These could be recent project management graduates or enthusiastic project controls personnel who want to specialize. Alternatively, they could be functional experts who want to make the move into project management and see scheduling as the way to do that.
However, that approach takes time as they will need to study, learn and gain experience. If you want someone to manage your program schedule and need them to start straight away, another option is hiring expert schedulers to boost your existing team.
Benefits of contract schedulers
Contract schedulers integrate with your existing project and program team, taking responsibility for the scheduling aspects of the work.
This provides support for smaller businesses that cannot spin up a compliant Primavera P6 environment in time to meet their contractual responsibilities. An expert scheduler can get up to speed quickly. They will turn your project scope into a WBS dictionary and a schedule, ensuring it complies with any mandated contract requirements.
Expert schedulers can bolster your existing team if you have a skills gap, you lack the time to recruit and train a full-time team member, or you just need to get moving fast. Adding a consultant to the team can be a relief as you’ll be confident knowing that:
- You can focus on delivering a good service to the client
- Reporting and scheduling are transparent and accurate
- Project performance data is robust
- Someone else is ‘driving’ the software to a high standard.
Contract schedulers provide a turnkey solution that covers building the schedule, maintenance, reporting and analysis. We provide that service for customers on a regular basis, so get in touch if you are looking to add some expertise to your team.
Whatever route you choose to fill the scheduling function on your program, a good scheduler will help the team deliver a better project for your client and contribute to a more successful outcome for everyone involved.