It goes without saying that project planning and scheduling require specialized skill and knowledge. If you’ve ever tried to embark on these tasks without the right tools, you already know what an uphill battle this type of endeavor can be. You need to have a toolbelt of proven strategies and tactics that can help you move from one phase of your project to the next, reducing risks and increasing communication along the way.

On paper, this sounds simple enough, but in the real world, project planning and scheduling can be a nightmare if you aren’t using a software that’s designed to help you master your tasks. Project planning, by nature, is filled with many variables. However, when you employ the right strategies and tools, you’ll help navigate away from poorly planned resources, unexpected activities, and overall risks that can harm the budget and timeline you’re working with.

If you want to improve your project planning and management skills, here are some takeaways you should consider when your next project rolls around:

1. Know Your Priorities

It’s important to head off delays before they even happen. As a project manager, you also need to keep your budget in line with future projections. When you’re planning your project, you might choose to look at time, money, or both elements. The differences usually come down to the owner of the project and which factors he or she considers more important. If there isn’t a specific end date, the owner of the project might be more focused on the money being spent to complete the undertaking.

Often, cost and schedule are weighed equally. Even in these circumstances, there’s usually tension between time and money, and one often gains greater priority over the other. Priorities may shift throughout the duration of a project, but when you have a plan in place, and you know the budget and schedule priorities, you can better plan the rest of the project.

2. Lay the Groundwork for the Schedule via the Initial Plan

You need to fully understand your project’s scope before you can create a plan. You don’t want to fall into a typical pitfall of going overbudget or over time, which can easily happen if the scope of your work isn’t clear from the very beginning. The best way to scope out your project is to study all the contract documents and specs related to the overall big picture. Check out project drawings and make sure they’re tracking with the contract documents to ensure you can define the scope as clearly as possible.

It’s also important to name your resources. In doing so, you’ll be able to work at a high level, rather than at the schedule level. When you’ve named your resources, you’ll know who your project partners are, which subcontractors and vendors you’re using, and who the main contractor staff members are.

One final note: you need to reconcile the resources of the scope from a budgeting perspective. This means you need to incorporate a schedule of values that shows the budget for each of the major categories within your project. You should be able to correlate the project owner’s vision with the reality of what it will cost to start and complete the project. It’s vital to ensure there’s enough money for the entire project based on the scope so you can actually ensure the people performing the work have enough money to get paid.

3. Set the Schedule as a Priority

Any project, no matter the industry, should be guided by a schedule that includes an anticipated end date with milestones in between. When you’re managing a project, these milestones are pivotal to ensuring you’ve planned well and helping to ensure there aren’t unrealistic expectations on the timeline, which can ultimately impact the budget, too.

Be sure to assign resources, materials, and equipment to individual tasks that make up the project activities as a whole. This balancing act is far easier if you use a tool like Crows Nest Software to guide the way. It’ll help you understand the costs of your materials, equipment, and labor while simultaneously helping you juggle the timeline you’re looking at as you work to get your project to completion. Our scheduling software removes much of the manual work associated with producing accurate timelines, leaving you with the ability to quickly assign, adjust, and reassign tasks until you achieve the optimal mix. 

4. Know Your Software

Get acquainted with your project management software, and be sure to shop around for a great solution; never just settle on the first option you come to. You need a scheduling and budget software that gives you more than just the ability to plug in numbers. You need to understand what the software is doing and why it’s giving you the output that it is. When you have an understanding of the factors determining your project timeline, you’ll be better able to modify tasks and assign details as needed. From there, you can create reports that speak to your stakeholders’ needs and provide you with the information you need to fulfill your project’s expectations.

5. Work with Crows Nest

Crows Nest offers end-to-end project management software that was built to make your life easier. Get a demo by contacting us today!