Keeping Your Project Timeline Realistic

Joe Hoover: The next item around projects we’d like to discuss is creating a realistic project timeline and activity durations checklist. Usually, that starts in the planning phase with a formal project plan & project schedule, which is one of those normal deliverables that are part of the planning phase. It's very important to discuss people and their availability, just as it's relevant that the project schedule is aggressive only in the sense that you want to get through the implementation as quickly as possible.

You don't want it get to a point where it's unreasonable, that there's not contingency in it. Some organizations do better going through the implementation as quickly as possible, while other organizations do better stretching it out. The reasons for being better at one over the other could be due to resource commitments and resource conflicts. The important component here is to remember that the project timeline has to be doable and attainable. When it's not, it creates unnecessary stress and burden on the project teams for both the vendor and the organization.

Barbie Hunley:  Absolutely, and this is an issue I’ve seen go both ways. I've watched clients set way too aggressive of a timeline, and I've also seen them bringing resources in and over forecasting their activities. For both of those, what we need is that executive support and that leadership on the client side to make sure that we aren't overextending our people. Additionally, we have to ensure realistic expectations are being set and that we're driving towards this goal together.

Consider if you need to bring someone in to backfill this person, or even if the project itself needs an extra four weeks because that's going to be how long it's going to take. It's not fun, but at least that scenario allows us to figure out if there is somewhere we can steal some time or re-configure the project’s approach. Realistic expectations much be set in order for a project to run smoothly and for a team to have confidence in their work. That project plan should be revisited weekly so that these current processes that we're going through are up to date, not just set and forgotten about.

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